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jazz, free-jazz and improvised music

mark weber and kazzrie jaxen at outpost performance space

Poet Mark Weber writes, “I always say I published my first poem when I was 15. But that sounds like I published the first poem I ever wrote. It was probably my twenty-third poem. Came out in the high school newspaper where I was indentured in Southern California, just outside Los Angeles. I’ve written 10,492 poems since then. I’ll read a dozen of them this night with accompaniment from my cherished friend Kazzrie. Most of my life, I’ve been entangled in music and writing. I was the kid at high school walking around with a John Coltrane album under his arm. I wrote the Los Angeles column for CODA jazz magazine 1976-1986. Didn’t really hit my stride as a writer of poems till I was 28. It’s been an interesting field of endeavor, all these years. I’m writing a book about the Los Angeles jazz scene 1950-1970s–you can turn on the radio at noon every Thursday on KUNM to hear what I’m investigating.” Improvising pianist, teacher, and composer, Kazzrie Jaxen is known for her exuberant intensity, originality, virtuosity, and ability to transport an audience. Her music ranges from free improvisation to jazz standards, and from original songs to vibrational journeys into the dreamtime. Jaxen has recorded for the Jazz Records and New Artists labels and has performed at Carnegie Recital Hall, The Greenwich Village Jazz Festival, The Blue Note, Birdland, and many other venues. Mark Weber says it like this, “….she is beyond compare… a transcendent jazz pianist… adept in the mystical art of swing, that elusive phenomenon that makes jazz JAZZ. She is capable of transforming a piano into a hurricane…Lennie Tristano had many students and Kazzrie is one of the shining lights that has brought his vision into the 21st century.” This is her first performance in New Mexico.

Thursday, October 21, 7:30pm – Mark Weber & Kazzrie Jaxen. Sponsored by Sole Comfort and Podiatry Associates of New Mexico. $15/$10 Members & Students. Available in advance, by phone or in person, at the Outpost Performance Space (268-0044)

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Mark Weber | Photo by by Jim Gale |October 21, 2o10

Doing My Thing Oct 21

Dear Friends,

If you’re like me and the mere mention of a poetry reading makes you want to head for the hills, then, I certainly won’t hold it against you if you decide to stay home Oct 21 and balance your checkbook, instead.

After all, you’ve put that off for months.

Time to catch up.

For those of you who don’t have checkbooks, let me say that I promise not to trot out the latest small dramas of my life in rhyming quatrains (remember how much our 5th grade teacher Mrs Gillingsteinham loved that?)

Still and all, it’s been five years since I’ve presented my work in public in New Mexico. And bringing Kazzrie Jaxen from New York to the stage with me is special.

What is poetry?

Poetry is words supercharged with that type of electricity like when you grab a Van de Graaf generator and your hair stands on end. Usually the inception of a poem began with an instant of heightened awareness. We all have them. Poets are the deranged
individuals that insist on writing them down and reading them to captive audiences. Poets wear capes and big floppy hats with a peacock feather and a pince-nez, watch fob, emerald ring from a guru in Katmandu.

Poets are those crazies that grab onto the electromagnetic cyclotron energy generators and hold on for dear life, sparks flying out the ends of their hair, eye sockets gone white, their tongue flapping like a cobra, skin crawling with neon caterpillars.

Alas, the evening is not going to be all poetry, there is so much more. There will be a public demonstration of poetic suicide, we’ll have mother’s own kitchen oven on stage and a volunteer (not me!) from the audience (preferably a poet) will be gassed. Have you ever noticed how many (American) poets have offed themselves? What’s up with that? Sara Teasdale, Vachel Lindsay, Hart Crane, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Lew Welch, Charles Bukowski, John Berryman, etc.

We all know poetry tends toward the self-indulgent and angst-ridden but come on! This is taking it a bit too far. A tradition I suppose.

So, skip the oven, I was merely thinking out loud.

Maybe a blood letting? . . . .

Then, we’ll have Mrs Gillinghamstein come up and teach me, again, all about iambic pentameter and A-B-A-B rhymes schemes. . . ha ha ha.

Kazzrie Jaxen | Photo by  Jim Gale |  October 21, 2010

Let me start over:

Alas, the evening is not going to be all about poetry, at least not poetry of the written word. This evening is mostly about introducing Kazzrie Jaxen to New Mexico and vice versa.

First set will be a sequence of ten poems — shorties — interspersed with piano miniatures from Kazzrie. The SECOND SET will be all Kazzrie! Though, I think she said something about me reading one or two poems with her somewhere amidst this. If you are accustomed to living in the cosmic world with ethereal presences then it’ll all seem quite normal. However, if you’re like me and spend your time squeezing lemons then the concert is going to be a little scary.

Kazzrie has a natural infectious exuberance and she not only re-harmonizes the standards of the jazz repertory but she has re-harmonized her whole body. She’s got the boogie in her left hand and the solar winds in her right.

She’s easily one of the great jazz pianists of our time.

At age ten she was playing recitals of Bach, Scarlatti, Chopin, Beethoven, Prokovieff. By age 20 she was studying with jazz mystic Lennie Tristano and absorbing a comprehensive understanding of the language of jazz. By age 30 she had fully realized her own voice within the world of art and jazz.

ALSO, Arlen Asher & John Trentacosta have asked me to guest on The Jazz Experience radio show KSFR, this coming Monday, October 17, to discuss Kazzrie’s music. This extraordinary radio show airs every Monday morning 9-12noon. ( I’ll be on the second hour.) KSFR 101.1FM and streaming on the web > KSFR.org.

ALSO, Kazzrie herself will be on my KUNM Thursday radio show Oct 21 @ noon — this will be the pledge drive show and I’ll also have my dear friends Senor Tom Guralnick and Senorita Robin Seydel assisting me in this search for pecuniary equivalencies. Whew, did I say that? What’s in this tea anyway?

Yours in poetry & tea,

Mark


Kazzrie Jaxen | Photo by Dana Duke


listen to Kazzrie Jaxen | From Abyss To Abyss from her recording For the Beauty of the Earth which can be found by clicking the CD cover on the left…or please go here if you are interested in the down-loadable MP3 version.

7 Comments

  1. hey mark

    what a beautiful show
    & more a primal call and response
    than just trading fours, as if you were
    trading instead whole moments of awareness

    thank you
    -sahib

    10/22/2010 11:57:36 A.M. Mountain Daylight Time

  2. MARK WEBER & KAZZRIE JAXEN

    Outpost Performance Space
    Albuquerque
    October 21

    one look and you can tell
    that i should have been a beachcomber
    collecting driftwood & building huts
    i invented the tiki torch & surf jazz

    we need to invent new gods
    we need gods that we can enjoy
    we have to throw away the old gods
    we can start with buddhist gods
    they don’t mind
    they never existed anyway

    our language is whatever we invent
    old forms may or may not be useful
    the marketplace glutted with received knowledge
    somewhere outside of town will always be our homeland

    we can make music with whatever can be pounded on
    drums have always been invented
    the flute & the twanging string
    mayans blew on giant conch shells
    as did also tibet & maori
    nobody can take away our ability to whistle

    by beating & bleating we dispell our angst
    by the use of our hands we invent our world
    by the sincerity of our beautiful songs
    we sail into the depths of the ocean

  3. What Kazzrie does with a voice and piano keys cuts a window out of what appears to be a panel of light, so the listener and observer discovers the light beyond the light. “How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky” is her perfect lyrical extension, because how infinite is the li-i-i-i-ght. She is a magical creature who understands poetry, and in musical dialogue with Mark Weber’s soft rumbling spiritual contemplations, there was nothing ordinary about what they unfurled together, in the moment, with all of us seated in a trance at The Outpost.

  4. I only just recently became aware of Kazzrie, hearing a few of her recordings on the radio and online. Heading out to catch her live for the first time, in October 2010 at the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, I thought I knew what I was getting into. As it turned out, I got way more than my high expectations. In the first half of the program, KJ improvised on the piano in a kind of call-and-response duet with poet Mark Weber, and nothing I’d previously heard prepared me for the fluidity and wit of her playing, which had a sort of light-hearted Satie-esque profundity. The second half of the program was primarily KJ on solo piano, doing originals and standards. Again, nothing I had previously heard prepared me for how willingly that old Steinway submitted itself to her, or for the sounds that she coaxed and hammered out of that collection of wood, metal, felt, and ivory. Now, this is a piano that’s entertained me hundreds of times, but KJ got eloquent sounds from it that I’d never heard it give up before. Finally, there’s her voice on “How Deep Is the Ocean.” Her arrangement, delivered at a breathtakingly slow tempo, leaves her emotionally exposed as she dives to the bottom of that song. Not a breath stirred when she was done. No one wanted to break the spell and return to everyday life. She’s a keeper.

  5. The first night Kazzrie stayed here I awoke at my usual 7 a.m. and went to make tea in the kitchen and through the window I see her in the backyard under the giant mulberry tree slow dancing with shadows, flecked with golden light, moving in slow motion, arms swimming in air swirling at half speed, performing a sort of mesmeric dance, hands and fingers curling as the arms writhe and swirl into the six directions, a yogic dance she calls qigong. Eyes closed. It’s a body thing, a deep dive into energy and energy organization, energy magic. Angelic.

    That’s the way she plays piano — saving precious energy, putting the energy toward real uses, complete outcomes, visions, transcendence. Is there anything more important?

    It’s all something that comes from out of Lennie Tristano — all of these bhikkus under his tutelage and legacy are onto the deeper things music can convey. They have bigger fish to fry. Fish way beyond a torpid wind.

    It is all lotus beginnings.

    She flew into Albuquerque the Tuesday before our Thursday performance. It was such a pleasure working on this performance with her. We had only secured the date six weeks prior when a cancellation opened up a spot for us on the Outpost fall season. She began preparing immediately. And when she arrived she only lightly played the piano here at the house and the one at the Outpost in the days in advance. That is, she played plenty piano, but she saved the best for the performance. She stayed in our upstairs aerie and went to bed early every night so as not to disrupt energy balances. She ate modestly and specifically. She doesn’t partake in gossip or idle chatter. She displays none of the usual jazz baggage about hanging out and staying up late and sleeping till noon, nor tip toeing perilously close to jeopardizing the performance by invoking the ghosts of meaningless pasts.

    She is not weird, only sensible. Laughs often and enjoys people. Tom Guralnick paid her the biggest compliment you could bestow upon a yogi when he told me she has no ego. She’s fun to be around. We did yoga together!

  6. The choice of words —
    to use only the ones that illustrate your point, that aim in the direction you intend to explain — without encumbrances of ego ( ie. resentments, aggression, insecurities, hubris, etc) —

    It’s tricky.

    The idea that words are virus-like invasion of the mind doesn’t lack plausibility. Words are almost always one phase/stage removed from the actual thing — they only refer to the thing. Words are like representational painting, they stand outside experiential perceptions. Unlike action paintings that bring the moment — pow ! — right into the Now. Words might be a byproduct of what made us so self-conscious. Self-conscious in the sense that we “think” too much. Neurotic. Presuming there was a time, long ago, when we were pure action, pure existence unencumbered by all the machinery of the mind. The brain chatter, philosophies, artifice, semantics, speed, nostalgias for past and present, the rent and the birth of anxiety and all concomitant structures and entanglements the mind has ensnared us.

    But maybe words can be used against themselves and their evil intentions? maybe to unlock the mind, to shock the brain into spontaniety. To open the door back into the days of original soup.

    Personally, I like words, and language. I’d hate to see them exposed for their collusion in our present predicament of anxiety. Maybe we can salvage a few words and keep them for sentimental reasons? Or, is that the disease talking?

    As it is a writer must wrestle with nuances and shadings, tenses, all the various meanings inherent in a word, as well as all the past meanings that it drags along in the shadows as it transforms itself. Penumbras. Some words, like father and mother, are quite possibly 500,000 years old, and these ancient words have ghosts.

    I should have been a painter. Painting is so much more primal than writing.In fact, I was a painter in my youth and then words infected me. I’m what they call a writer. A pitiable condition to find oneself.

    Unless words can be used to trigger epiphanies, to find a mystical alignment of syllables, nonsensical arrangement of words that’ll trick the mind, to circumnavigate its tyranny.

    It becomes more apparent that the entire world is illusion, created by words, ruled by anxiety. How do we reconcile ourselves to life and time? Is it necessary that we do?

    Is time a by-product of matter?
    And matter exists because of light?

    It occurs to me that I am returning to one of my earliest aspirations as a poet, and that is to write metaphysical poetry. Devotional poetry. Incantations. When you’re a kid you tend to take on the big questions in your poetry until one day you discover that the big
    issues are more easily addressed in everyday slice-of-life subject matter, that you can say a lot about God and what it all means by talking about the red wheelbarrow in the rain next to the chicken coop. Narrative poetry is where I lived for decades, it’s a very useful and vital form.

    Even so, I am now drawn to a more direct relationship with reverence of life and the use of words.

    I regard the collaboration with Kazzrie in concert at the Outpost as a manifestation of gentleness. Tenderness. Ouietude. Almost as a political statement (as Connie continues to point out, how there is political intent inherent even in my self-proclaimed non-political poetry). Gentleness is my platform. As we entered into the swirling energy of all past ceremonies that have taken place on that magical stage — the ghosts of Steve Lacy, Kenny Davern, Dennis Irwin, Todd Moore, Tony DeNicola, Leroy Jenkins, were closing in.

    As it says on the wall inside Cheops: to speak the names of the dead is to have them live again. Xanadu. Zimbabwe. Santa Cruz. Babylon. Shangri-La. Smoke incantations with ghost words. The piano a wave of pure lyrical energy, ghosted itself with memories, lovely remembrances, recombinations.

    The idea of transcendence has a very clear definition for me. It is not an abstraction. I can feel it nearby, close, just behind the veil. Floating in the dust motes of that shaft of morning sunlight through the window. Wafting in those distant church bells echoing down the ages.

    “As long as it’s real,” is the lesson Connie repeats to me, as an injunction, whenever self-doubt threatens to overcome my perceptions.

    Kazzrie feels strongly that the music of this performance be protected. This artifact is not meant for everyone. In that regard, it’s like Philip Glass music or Evan Parker’s solo saxophone music, it’s not meant for everyone, but the one’s who get it, Get it. We are releasing a 60-minute selection for CD to be called A MILLION SHIMMERING FISH, but, it is only meant for fellow seekers to hear, who’ll know what we were attempting and understand that we were endeavoring to break down some walls.

    It’s probably why I like jazz so much.

    Ultimately, we must let it all go.

    The world seems to be calling for a conciliatory music

    Music that absolves us, recognizes our weaknesses, our imperfections, forgives us, honors us in our plight, our daily journey

    A music that is rotating ever-onward inevitable

    A music that envelops us.

  7. Although I was not at this particular concert, I can hear the thunder in my mind.

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