6 tracks, 54 minutes. The poetry of jazz and the jazz of poetry. Penny Rimbaud's How? by Crass Agenda, recorded live and unrehearsed at the Vortex, is a big slab of hardcore "beat cafe" experience, a long poem in response to Allen Ginsberg's famous Howl.
The intoxicating combination of jazz and spoken word as part of the American beatnik counter-cultural movement of the 1950s is here resonantly reanimated for the 21st century. Penny Rimbaud from the Crass Agenda, a loose collective of musicians, performance artists and poets formed in 2003 by the leaders of the seminal anarcho-punk outfit Crass that split in 1984, has written HOW?, giving a twenty-first century voice to mystical beat poet Allen Ginsberg's most politically epic poem written in 1955 'Howl'.
In this new work, Rimbaud says he has 'attempted to confront the innate madness of 'The New World Order'
, which he believes is 'a madness of an order that even Ginsberg could not have forseen in his wildest nightmares'.
On this live recording at the late lamented Vortex Jazz Club in Stoke Newington in November 2003 as part of the London Jazz Festival, some key figures including Babel's own vocalist Christine Tobin, from London's energetic contemporary jazz improv scene provide the musical setting to Rimbaud's provocative readings. With the musicians hearing the lyrics only a few hours before the live recording, this was an expressively spontaneous performance typical of Crass Agenda's regular, highly successful gigs at the Vortex with a loose network of jazz musicians, dancers, poets and film-makers since the beginning of 2003. These proved stimulating, colourful evenings where the carefully 'dressed' stage by Gee Vaucher (also the sleeve designer for Babel) created the basis for a 2004 version of a "happening". In order to further their aim to 'push musical and political limits', these agit-punk innovators have been playing with some of London's finest contemporary jazz improvisers.
Written in four parts, 'HOW?' significantly opens with Christine Tobin's haunting a capella rendition of the depression era folk song 'Brother Can You Spare a Dime' also covered by Christine on her Babel album 'Deep Song' from 2000. From then on the recording is a raw, electrified landscape of free jazz responding only to the candid word power inherent in Rimbaud's eloquent poetical fervour. track listing
- Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
- How. Part One.
- How. Part Two.
- How. Part Three.
- How. Part Four.
Stuff People Said "I saw the best minds of my generation gagged by the opiate of capital; fallen angels busting for a budgetary fix, established Christs nailed to cash or crucifix," declaims Rimbaud against a spontaneous underscore of saxes, basses, trumpet and drums."
- Christine Tobin - voice
- Penny Rimbaud - voice
- Louise Elliott - tenor sax & flute
- Ed Jones - tenor sax & bass clarinet
- Mika Myllari - trumpet
- Davide Mantovani - upright bass
- Ricardo Dos Santos - upright bass
- Paul Clarvis - drums
- John Walters - The Guardian