Jazz and poetry, a combination that was peculiar to the 1950s, has been little heard from in recent years, but if Duquesne University poet Samuel Hazo and reed player Eric Kloss keep at it, the hybrid might sprout anew. In a performance at The Barns at Wolf Trap last night, Hazo's image-filled and world-traveling verse, the fluid alto and the soprano saxophones of Kloss, and the orchestrations of guitarist Joe Negri were blended so that the five musicians were allowed space to move around the centerpiece of the poet.
Hazo recited his poems in a direct and almost conversational manner, accompanying them with a minimum of gesture. He wisely let the beauty of his language and the strength of his thought provide the drama. The format was varied, with the poet alone on some poems and the musicians offering only introductions or codas. On other pieces they played underneath his words.
Movement, both in time and space, characterized many of the poems, and the ephemeral was often juxtaposed with the eternal. "Flying Down the Dream" had the poet in flight "like Ulysses viewing Ithaca from heaven" as the drummer rocked the aircraft and Negri's guitar issued fretful sighs. These were not crude sound effects but artful and subtle commentary. Employing jazz standards and several originals by Kloss, the quintet often stretched out and really cooked. Bobby Negri was on keyboards, both acoustic and electric, Dave La Rocca was on electric bass, and Lenny Rogers was at the drums.
The performance will be repeated this evening.