blackbirdonline journalFall 2015  Vol. 16 No. 2

The Poetry of Jazz

The late Philip Levine, Pulitzer Prize winner and former US Poet Laureate, and Benjamin Boone, the award-winning saxophonist and composer, were both professors at California State University, Fresno, where they embarked on several projects combining poetry and music, including Boone’s 2015 orchestral work Waterless Music.

The two worked for several years on what would become The Poetry of Jazz, a two-volume set from Origin Records. The first volume features fourteen poems by Levine, which he performed, accompanied musically by Boone and with guest appearances by Tom Harrell (trumpet), Branford Marsalis (tenor saxophone), Greg Osby (alto saxophone), and Chris Potter (tenor saxophone). That album was voted the number three Jazz Album of the Year in the 2018 Downbeat magazine readers’ poll.

In an essay titled “Body Swayed to Music: Levine among the Musicians” in this issue of Blackbird, the poet and saxophonist T.R. Hummer reviews the first volume of The Poetry of Jazz, introduced in the trailer on this page. Volume two is scheduled for release in 2019; it completes the project with an additional fourteen poems by Levine and three instrumental compositions by Boone.  end