Monday, July 21, 2008

Inspiring Sunday: Art, Poetry and Music

Sundays are rarely lively for me, arriving, as they do, at the end of my musician's schedule work week. I make it through my weekly church gig by depending on the talent of the singers I get to accompany (most of them, anyway) and the company of two great musician friends.

Yesterday's inspiration came from a couple of events that I was fortunate enough to attend later in the day. First, I was invited to a poetry reading at the Woman Made Gallery, 685 N. Milwaukee here in Chicago. The gallery itself is a wonder - two spacious floors filled with an amazing exhibition entitled Drawing On Experience. If that wasn't enough, I was privileged to hear the work of what must be some of the best contemporary poets, including Ellen Wade Beals, Mary Kathleen Hawley, Allison Joseph, Lauren Levato, Patricia McMillen, Judith Valente and Nina Corwin. I feel quite sheepish that I had previously been unaware of their work, as well as the existence of the gallery. I am now, in the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, experienced.

Last night I visited the newly reopened Jazz Showcase, now located at Printer's Row in the South Loop area. I have been a patron of this world-renowned venue since I moved to Chicago in the mid-70s. I heard one of my favorite contemporary musicians, guitarist/composer John Abercrombie. Mr. Abercrombie has distinguished himself as a writer, improviser and band leader in an era that has seen the ascension of some other great guitarists. As one of the inheritors of Jim Hall's lyricism, he has gone his own way as a stylist quite distinct from Metheny, Scofield, Towner and Frisell.

In recent years I have foolishly denied myself the pleasure of hearing world class jazz played live, a sin I hope to rectify in the next phase of my life. My excuses for this are as indefensible as they have been intractable. I've also been in the dark about the local visual art and poetry scenes for the last couple of decades (at least). Since I rail against ignorance and credulity in other areas of life, I'm going to have to spend some time in my personal penalty box for being so out of it, culturally.

Yesterday I witnessed creation. People are making art, poetry and music that matters - viscerally, intellectually, spiritually. My eyes and ears have been reopened, much to my surprise. And it feels really good.