Seeing as how April is National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month, there will be countless celebrations of poetry and jazz all across the country. But how many times will one event honor the confluence of both art forms?
At least one such event will take place in Taos on Saturday (April 16) at Taos Mesa Brewing, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west.
That’s when the Taos Jazz Bebop Society presents “Poetry & Jazz.” The evening will combine jazz music from the Greg Abate Quartet (who some may remember from their performance with Pete Amahl last December) and poetry from well-known poets Jimmy Santiago Baca, Steve Rose, Paul E. Nelson, Annie McNaughton and Amalio Madueño.
The evening will also feature a tribute to Lord Buckley — the Beat Generation comic and spoken word performer — performed by his daughter, Lady Laurie Buckley, and Lee Boek. Lord Buckley often performed alongside and on the same bills as famous jazz musicians of the 1950s.
“I’ve been a fan of Lord Buckley and stand-up comics my whole life,” Eric Gladstone, Taos Jazz Bebop Society board member, said. “He was an inspiration for Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory and Robin Williams, among others.”
After celebrating jazz and poetry last year in April with a tribute to the late Peter Rabbit, the society decided to make the event an annual part of the Taos calendar.
“A friend of mine in L.A., Lee Boek, had done re-creations of Lord Buckley’s work,” Gladstone said. “It seemed like the right fit to honor his innovation of poetry and jazz.”
Not only has Boek studied and re-created some of Buckley’s routines for his work with the Public Improvisational Theater and other story shares around Los Angeles, but he also befriended Buckley’s daughter.
“A mutual friend of ours brought Laurie to the gig,” says Boek about meeting Beat royalty. Since then, Lady Laurie Buckley and Boek have both been working hard to make sure the legacy of Lord Buckley is recognized by the next generation.
“He’s the last unsung hero of the Beat era,” Laurie Buckley says. “I’m telling more and more Lord Buckley stories and keeping in its realm. It’s wonderful to bring the family side of the story to life.”
For “Poetry & Jazz,” Boek will perform as emcee and also perform Lord Buckley’s rendition of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, in which Lord Buckley reimagined the great speech in the Beat hipster’s semantic.
Laurie Buckley will share stories about her father and what it was like to be raised as jazz royalty, with Charlie Parker hanging out “over her crib” when she was a baby.
While the main event begins at 7 p.m., poetry fans are invited to come to the brewery at 4 p.m. for the “Young Poets of Taos” event, also sponsored by the Taos Jazz Bebop Society. Gladstone says “Young Poets” will feature readings by students from Taos High School and Taos Academy, lasting until 6 p.m.
The first half of the main event’s program will feature poetry from Baca, a New Mexican poet who has been honored with the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award and numerous other literary achievements. A runaway at age 13, Baca spent five years in prison before turning his life around in part due to his passion for poetry. He founded Cedar Tree Inc., a nonprofit foundation that helps to provide others with opportunities for education and a better quality of life.
As part of the festivities, a screening of the documentary film “A Place to Stand,” which is about Baca’s struggles and success, is planned today (April 14), 7 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Tickets are $10 at the door. High school students will be admitted free.
While Baca and the other poets read on Saturday night, the Greg Abate Quartet will supply subtle jazz improvisations. The band will perform full numbers in between readings.
After Baca, Nelson will take the stage. Hailing from Seattle, Nelson is a poet, interviewer, teacher and speaker who is a founding director the Cascadia Poetry Festival.
Steve Rose, once an emcee for the famous Poetry Circus that was an annual event in Taos for many years, will follow Nelson, with the jazz musicians still in accompaniment.
Then Laurie Buckley and Boek will present their tribute to Lord Buckley. Laurie Buckley spent 40 years in Las Vegas, Nevada, working in the entertainment business as a publicist, radio personality and activist. She worked seven years the Street Readiness program of the Nevada State Prison at Indian Springs. She is currently working on a documentary about Las Vegas showgirls. She also serves as a consultant on a documentary about her father, titled “Too Hip For The Room.”
“It’s evolved and evolved, and it’s a pleasure to see it come to a point where we are close to the debut of a wonderful tale to be told,” Laurie Buckley says about the documentary. “He was not only interesting because of his amazing possession of words. He made you laugh, and he made you think.”
Laurie Buckley and Boek agree that Lord Buckley was more than just a comedian.
“Most performers of spoken word know who Lord Buckley was,” Boek says. “Part of the reason I wanted to re-create his bits was to let other people know all about him.”
After the Lord Buckley tribute, the band will play a set before being joined by Madueño, another Taos Poetry Circus alum and one of our most notable poets, and Annie MacNaughton, who is well known in Taos for her role as a co-founder of SOMOS and her involvement with Poetry Circus.
“It’s really a love of poetry and jazz,” Gladstone says, adding that the match between Lord Buckley and the “Poetry & Jazz” event is a perfect fit.
Or, as Laurie Buckley says, “What could be more beautiful to hang in a room full of poets and lovers?”