The first Jazz and Poetry Night of the year slammed home in the Dittmar Gallery on Monday evening.
Hosted by the Jazz Club and the Slam Society, the intimate affair resonated with a range of sounds, interspersing solo-filled jazz pieces with passionate performances of Northwestern slam poets.
The theme of the night? I’ll unofficially declare it to be “don’t hold back.”
The jazz members refused to stay within the lines with their improvised melodies, and the poets utilized drawn-out silences, ragged breaths, and strategic emphasis to make more than just their words count.
The audience demonstrated its approval through snaps, claps and head bobs.
Qunsia Daniel kept the audience guessing about who she swooned over, until in the last line of her piece, she revealed her love of Christ.
Bea Cordelia Sullivan-Knoff, an activist and playwright who maintains the blog Transposing Pearls, performed not one, but three individual poems that made the audience both hoot wildly and feel shivers run down their spine.
Four other poets performed.
As the jazz pieces progressed, the players seemed to forget the audience altogether, until, when met with applause, they looked up in apparent surprise.
After the show, I interviewed Thaddeus Tukes, a junior who has played the vibraphone for eleven years, who also co-organized the event. I asked him what he thought about the explicit combination of jazz and poetry.
“I really like the vibe that we had tonight,” he said, and added that in the future it would be great to see more interaction between the poets and the musicians.
“That would be the ultimate goal, the dream.”
Then I asked how improv works, when there’s a group of five or so on stage. “As a jazz musician, you have a mental notebook of songs that everyone knows,” he replied. “We didn’t memorize all of these notes. That would be crazy. But at the same time, it still takes a lot of training and practice.”
About the quaint but well-lit venue itself, Tukes considered it decidedly underappreciated.
“This gallery is really dope,” he said. “I’s still kind of intimate. I think it’s a perfect setting for jazz.” He remarked on how so few people even seem to go inside.
“Y’all have this beautiful resource that you don’t even use,” he said.
I totally agree. For my first jazz event and live poetry slam, I had a great time. Maybe next time I’ll be up there speaking.
I’ll be looking for you in the audience.
Check out a video created by North By Northwestern!