Meehan, Griffin, Chisholm: Small Holes in the Silence (Rattle)

 |   |  1 min read

Meehan, Griffin, Chisholm: Dreams, Yellow Lions (words by Alistair Campbell)
Meehan, Griffin, Chisholm: Small Holes in the Silence (Rattle)

Music and poetry have a long association, even if we might just start with Jack Kerouacreading On the Road to the accompaniment of Steve Allen's piano in the late Fifties. Then there were the Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron and others.

The raw poetry of these writers was largely inspired by jazz and, in its lyrical rhythms, rode the rolling freedom which jazz -- notably bebop -- offered. A number of rap artists have been similarly inspired.

In those instances the words owed a debt to jazz, but many other projects find pre-exisitng poems set to music.

This collection of New Zealand poems set to music -- by jazz composer/ pianist Norman Meehan, sung by Hannah Griffin and with Hayden Chisholm on saxophone -- starts from the obverse position of the tradition: the words of James K Baxter, Hone Tuwhare, Bill Manhire, Alistair Campbell, Eileen Duggan and David Mitchell came first.

So that requires a very different art and although Meehan, Manhire, Griffin and others have trod this path on previous Rattle releases, this one brings everything home much more successfully.

Manhire's Death of a Poet opens with a beautifully spare solo by Chisholm which seems to echo the sound of a Zen flute, and it sets the reflective (almost folk) mood perfectly for Griffin's clear and empathetic delivery of the lyrics which end, "the great world makes its changes and yet remains the same; and poets' verses will unwind the tangle in the brain".

Throughout Meehan's compositions and piano playing are in equal accord with the voice and lyrics, in that regard Tuwhare's Rain (from which the album takes its title) is an object lesson in how a lyrical ballad can be crafted from the spare words on a page.

Even a cursory glance at the words of Manhire's on the page in Warehouse Curtains show a song in the making: the consistently of line length, words and sounds which fold back on themselves. The clever multiple tracking of Griffin's voice and her pacing push it close to Joni Mitchell around her Hissing of Summer Lawns period.

Yellow Room (by Mitchell) nudge the comparison even further.

Griffin also brings a soulful quality when required (as on Campbell's Blue Rain).

Although those aforementioned previous albums from this source have been acclaimed they never seemed quite as successful as their champions proclaimed.

This one however -- where the layers and subtleties become clear only on repeated listenings -- really brings music and lyric together in unforced and understated harmony.

Small Holes in the Silence will be launched on Monday October 19 during Auckland Jazz Festival. Entrance to the venue is Stanbeth House, at 28 Customs St East. For more on the festival events go here.

AucklandJazzFestival_festbanner

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

ROY HARGROVE INTERVIEWED (1990): Young man with a horn

ROY HARGROVE INTERVIEWED (1990): Young man with a horn

Roy Hargrove’s youth is the reason he doesn’t have too much to say for himself. At 20, Hargrove simply may not have all that much to talk about. After all, what can he have done?... > Read more

MILES DAVIS IN CONCERT REVIEWED 1988 : The Prince claims the crown

MILES DAVIS IN CONCERT REVIEWED 1988 : The Prince claims the crown

For even the most devout Miles Davis follower, it was difficult to anticipate what the legendary trumpeter would pull out for his one-only Auckland concert. Recent albums weren’t helpful... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JAMES REESE EUROPE: Taking dance music to war

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JAMES REESE EUROPE: Taking dance music to war

When the 39-year old conductor/composer James Reese Europe was stabbed by one of his drummers, Herbert Wright, and subsequently died, it cut short an already remarkable career and one which seemed... > Read more

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Original Album Classics

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Original Album Classics

Over the decades, jazz critics and followers have waxed and waned over the late Dave Brubeck's place in cosmos: there is one school which will never forgive the fact he, a buttoned-down and... > Read more