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Archive for February, 2011

A TRIBUTE TO NILS PETERSON | San José State University, Friday, March 18, 2011, 7 pm

Sunday, February 27th, 2011




The beautiful woman gone
leaving the shop to young men making
their way in the January world
with cell phones and computers –

and me.

Outside, a sunny day.
too warm for the season.

A phone rings – a barista calls out
“Tall vanilla soy latte.”
Strange talk to one who grew up
with a nickel cup of joe.

There are fewer and fewer
native speakers of one’s born language.

You learn to live with translations.

Nils Peterson


The SJSU Department of English and Comparative Literature, the Creative Writing Program, and the Poets and Writers Coalition will sponsor a special program, “A Tribute to Nils Peterson,” Santa Clara County poet laureate, at 7 p.m. March 18 in the Student Union Barrett Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

“The program, organized in affiliation with the Arts Council Silicon Valley and co-sponsored by Poetry Center San Jose, will feature readings and tributes to Nils Peterson by former California Poet Laureate Al Young and by a group of Peterson’s former students and literary colleagues, many of whom are distinguished writers and poets and teachers active in the Bay Area,” said SJSU Professor and Creative Writing Program Director Alan Soldofsky.

Peterson’s two-year term as Santa Clara County’s first poet laureate will come to a close in April 2011. He is professor emeritus at SJSU where he taught from 1963 to 1999.  He was coordinator of the creative writing emphasis for more than 20 years, and served as coordinator of the creative arts and chair of the Humanities Department.

AL YOUNG  |  Photo © Rafael Alvarado

Click here for additional information about this upcoming SJSU event


AFRICAN RHYTHMS: The Autobiography of Randy Weston

Sunday, February 20th, 2011


Duke University Press
352 pages
51 black & white photographs
a John Hope Franklin Center Book
ISBN # 978-0-6233-4784

Buy from Motema for $21.75 USD

When Randy Weston plays,
a combination of strength and gentleness,
virility and velvet emerges from the keys in an ebb and flow of sound
seemingly as natural as the waves of the sea

— Langston Hughes

Read Langston Hughes’ liner notes for Randy Weston’s 1960 album, Uhuru Afrika

Randy Weston talks about his autobiography at AllAboutJazz

Randy Weston’s African Rhythms live at the Brooklyn Museum | Courtesy of Brian Pace | The Pace Report

The pianist, composer, and bandleader Randy Weston is one of the world’s most influential jazz musicians and a remarkable storyteller whose career has spanned five continents and more than six decades. Packed with fascinating anecdotes, African Rhythms is Weston’s life story, as told by him to the music journalist Willard Jenkins. It encompasses Weston’s childhood in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood—where his parents and other members of their generation imbued him with pride in his African heritage—and his introduction to jazz and early years as a musician in the artistic ferment of mid-twentieth-century New York. His music has taken him around the world: he has performed in eighteen African countries, in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, in the Canterbury Cathedral, and at the grand opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina: The New Library of Alexandria. Africa is at the core of Weston’s music and spirituality. He has traversed the continent on a continuous quest to learn about its musical traditions, produced its first major jazz festival, and lived for years in Morocco, where he opened a popular jazz club, the African Rhythms Club, in Tangier.

Weston’s narrative is replete with tales of the people he has met and befriended, and with whom he has worked. He describes his unique partnerships with Langston Hughes, the musician and arranger Melba Liston, and the jazz scholar Marshall Stearns, as well as his friendships and collaborations with Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, the novelist Paul Bowles, the Cuban percussionist Candido Camero, the Ghanaian jazz artist Kofi Ghanaba, the Gnawa musicians of Morocco, and many others. With African Rhythms, an international jazz virtuoso continues to create cultural history.

Hi-Fly at the official Randy Weston website

Randy Weston discography


GEORGE SHEARING ~ August 13, 1919 – February 14, 2011

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011



Courtesy Paul Roth’s Music Liner Notes

The George Shearing Quintet at Birdland, circa 1952: Shearing, piano; Don Elliott, vibraphone; Chuck Wayne, guitar, John Levy, bass; Denzel DeCosta Best, drums. At one point, Shearing invited vibist Milt Jackson to join the group. Jackson declined when Shearing asked him to silence the instrument’s sustain pedal. (Terry Gibbs’ vibes are set up and good to go, but Gibbs himself is missing).

Listen to the quintet play drummer Denzel DeCosta Best’s “Move,” now a bebop classic

Archival photos

The same Shearing Quintet with vibist Marjorie Hyams. Was the very look of Shearing’s combo ahead of its time, or what?

Lester Young’s “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” performed by the 1950 Shearing Quintet
||| Den? där har jag också – George Shearing var väldigt bra under 40- och 50-talet – sedan? blev det lite väl mycket easylistening. 😀 |||

© Bettmann/CORBIS

George Shearing at rehearsal with the Hollywood Symphony, 1958


Sir George Shearing

Courtesy photo

Sir George and wife Ellie Lee in Massachusetts

Excerpt from Lee Mergner’s JazzTimes obituary

Jazz Pianist George Shearing Dies

English-born pianist and composer of “Lullaby of Birdland” was 91 years old

By Lee Mergner

George Shearing, the British jazz pianist and composer who wrote the bebop standard “Lullaby of Birdland,” died on Monday, February 14 in New York City, where he had resided for many years. The cause of death was heart failure. He was 91.

The writer Alyn Shipton, who helped Shearing write his memoirs, said that Shearing had a remarkable memory. “He could reproduce whole records from memory, accurately catching the nuances of Fats, Tatum, Bud Powell and Erroll Garner among others,” said Shipton. “But his real talent was, firstly to conceptualize the ‘Shearing Sound’ – transferring the Glenn Miller orchestral voicings to piano, vibes and guitar, and secondly to apply an instantaneous musical wit and imagination to everything he did. One of his favorite party tricks which I saw him do many times was to play the Irish folk song ‘Kerry Dance’ and weave into it the ‘Kyrie’ from Bach’s B Minor mass. George particularly liked that because it was a verbal pun on Kyrie and Kerry and a musical pun on mixing genres. He loved puns and wordplay and his conversation was peppered with them.”

>>> To read Lee Mergner’s obituary of George Shearing in its entirety, click here to go to JazzTimes >>>

Read the excellent Shearing bio and appreciation at Paul Roth’s Music Liner Notes

George Shearing on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, 2009

The official George Shearing website


PARIS REVIEW INTERVIEWS | Writers at Work Series now accessible online

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011



Writers at Work

The Paris Review, the great literary journal — co-founded by George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, William Pène du Bois, Thomas Guinzburg, Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, John P. C. Train, and Blair Fuller, among other now-legendary writers and editors — unveiled last week a new web site and a big archive of interviews with famous literary figures. Spanning five decades, the interviews often talk about the “how” of literature (to borrow a phrase from Salman Rushdie) – that is, how writers go about writing. Rummaging through the archive, you will encounter conversations with T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, Ernest Hemingway, Simone de BeauvoirSaul Bellow, Jorge Luis BorgesNorman Mailer, Mary McCarthyVladimir Nabokov, John Steinbeck, Joan Didion, Kurt Vonnegut, Eudora WeltyRaymond Carver, Russell Banks, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Paul Auster, Jonathan Franzen, et al. And, amazingly, this list only scratches the surface of what’s available.
— Dan Colman (Open Culture)

These interviews are separately available in book format: The Paris Review Interviews Volumes 1-4

Paris Review | Spring 1955

“The Negro novelist draws his blackness too tightly around him when he sits down to write—that’s what the anti-protest critics believe—but perhaps the white reader draws his whiteness around himself when he sits down to read”
— Ralph Ellison on the Art of Fiction

Paris Review | Summer 1955 | 75 cents or 200 francs

© The Paris Review



Sunday, February 6th, 2011



— for Robert Hass

Dr. Eve Sweetser’s session in the Cross-Cultural Poetics series:
Early Welsh Metrics
~ “Metaphors and Metonyms for the Heroic Society” ~ UC Berkeley 3/19/2009

Celtic = old fash
Keltic = correct

Germans pushed Celts south
Romans pushed them onto islands

Celtic inscriptions in Italy, Spain, France

Curses dropped into wells for lower gods
Blessings burnt & sent up to higher gods

Sweetser charms w/ her love of subject

Imagined proto-bard

13th C = paleography (copied ms.)

Celts elegize defeat & even
love a poem of defeat claimed by the Scots
(odd becuz Scots = enemy)

Question of metrics
How syllabics work
Old Welsh we’re looking now at stress-metric lines

Accentual vs. quantitative verse
Accentual counts stresses,
incl phrasal stress vs. lexical stress

Celts obsessed with three-ness

“Wine-fed, mead-fed, feast-poison” ref to battle time
expected of men who received the mead or wine

(Euro obsession w/ war & dying)

Sweetser: “Hard to sep metaphor fr metonomy”
— waiter id’s diner to chef as “the BLT” —
“the BLT wants a coke” = metonymic

(Al’s POV: Washington & Paris enslave & kidnap Haiti) —
Sweetser: “But to call someone ‘honeybun’ or ‘sugar’ = metaphorical”

Cattle as wealth
Upward & downward responsibilities

Welsh verse doesn’t tell you what
metaphor refers to; Anglo-Saxon does —
The “hall” = example;
the “self” another

Cross-linguistic metaphor systems

The stack of bks went up = metonymyic frame:

Milk in glass

Metonymy is abt correlation
Metaphor is abt diff frames

Kulchur frames

© 2011 Al Young

Photo: John Ohala

Professor Eve Sweetser | 2007