Testimony: A Tribute to Charlie Parker

Wesleyan Univ. 2013. 152p. bibliog. ISBN 9780819574299. $30 w/CD; ebk. ISBN 9780819574138. POETRY
OrangeReviewStarThis career-spanning selection of Komunyakaa's (The Chameleon Couch) jazz-inspired poetry showcases the title piece, a libretto by composer Sandy Evans set to music by the Australian Broadcast Company (included here on two CDs). "Testimony" is a flowing, poly-voiced mosaic of lyrical narratives evoking events in saxophonist Charlie Parker's life. An iconic artist able to listen "with his whole body," Parker (1920–55) absorbed the disparate sounds of his world and translated them into music: "A train whistle/ in the distance, gun shot/ through the ceiling, a wood warbler/ back in the Ozarks at Lake Taneycomo, he'd harmonize/ them all." In addition to the poems, this volume provides interviews, commentaries, and bibliographies that offer insight on the creative interactions between the poet's words and the music they inspired.
VERDICT Uniquely tuned to the emotional physicality of jazz, Komunyakaa understands the inherent poetry of sound ("high heels at daybreak/ is the saddest refrain"), presenting a rich reading and listening experience for poetry fans and jazz enthusiasts alike.
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