Ken Nordine: Word Jazz; The Complete 1950s Recordings (Chrome Dreams/Triton)

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Ken Nordine: Looks Like It' Going to Rain
Ken Nordine: Word Jazz; The Complete 1950s Recordings (Chrome Dreams/Triton)

Ken Nordine's voice -- assured, resonant, clear -- was his passport into radio where he worked as an announcer and narrator.

But he was also of the Jazz Generation and in the Fifties he anticipated the Beats by blending poetry and music and then creating his Word Jazz recordings in which he would recite poems, unusual prose-poems and stories full of whimsy and often slightly disturbing suggestions of characters or places out of synch with the world.

Nordine -- 90 at the time of this writing in late 2010 -- describes Word Jazz as "a thought, followed by a thought, followed by a thought, ad infinitum; a kind of wonder-wandering".

More than that however, Nordine's thoughts were provocative: Sound Museum on this double disc collection anticipates actual sound installations in museums in the past two decades, but also refers to the sedation of those who don't quite fit in. And the sound pieces (attributed to various "artists") are interesting of themselves.

With engineer Jim Cunningham and various jazz musicians, Nordine would create fascinating sonic tapestries for his spoken word pieces.

And as with Wayne and Schuster who had a comedy routine I Was a TV Addict (this was a concern in the Fifties) so Nordine interviews Cunningham who is The Vidiot, a man hooked on watching television.

But in the larger context of Word Jazz, a social concern like that was rather mundane. Nordine's work became increasingly surreal and abstract and his radio show like Now Nordine in the Seventies (a half hour show almost beyond rational explanation, see here) is a classic.KEN_NORDINE_Word_Jazz_AL

His admirers include Tom Waits, various psychedlic rock bands, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman (who collaborated with Nordine in the early Nineties), David Bowie . . .

This double disc collects 29 pieces from his albums Word Jazz, Son of Word Jazz and Next.

And there are classics here too: the dystopian story What Time Is It, the somewhat silly My Baby, a piece about love-geometry (Miss Cone), Outer Space, eating in the middle of the night, Down the Drain which hints at a consciousness changng drug experience . . .

And all of these pieces have emotional twists and curves of logic.

Ken Nordine. One of a kind. 

Warning: once hooked . . . 

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