I had five definite poems in mind to record, “Koto Suite” with Saco Yasuma on bamboo sax, “Pullman Porter” with Tyehimba Jess on harmonica, “Duchess”, which is a Mark Taylor composition that I wrote the poem for; “Shade of the Cedar Tree” with Christian McBride on acoustic bass; and “Bluesman/Truth” be told with Eddie Allen on trumpet. And all kinds of wonderful improv collaborations came about just from those five poems. The rest just flowed from there.
We recorded 14 tracks in 8 hours. Risky with no rehearsal? Maybe. But, since it worked in a live setting, it never occurred to me that it might not work in a recording studio. Plus, I was in the studio with musicians who are excellent listeners and can move effortlessly within and across the different genres of jazz, blues, gospel, etc...
Your work, creation of your Rituals work has set precedence. For poetic arts and poetic expression — was this your original intentions or did it just turned out this way?
I was not trying to set precedence. I was trying to do my first CD and dealing with the challenges of being an independent artist. I was awarded a poetry fellowship by the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2009; I wanted to make the best CD I could afford with the grant money I received. I was fortunate that all the musicians believed in the project and worked to make my vision a reality, and I was blessed to have the production expertise of Michael T.A. Thompson to walk me through this process of recording, editing, mixing and mastering, package design, etc… And after all was said and done, the sum was greater than its parts.
You are indeed gifted to improvisational works as I read more into the background regarding your work. Do you consider yourself to be a natural?
I just do what I do... I never thought about whether or not I was or was not a natural. I’ve had musicians tell me that I have a well developed internal rhythm, which goes a long way to enabling me to do what I do when I’m performing my poems. So if having that internal rhythm makes me a natural, then I guess I’m a natural.
Have you considered singing professionally?
No, not really. Although I have had a few people tell me that I should consider it.
I feel that Rituals in the Marrow: Recipe for a Jam Session accomplished exactly what you intended with the CD. A mixture of artists, all together, creating something magical — delicious. It took all these ingredients (yourself, musicians, poetry) to make it all work. Is this how you came up with the title for your CD and last featured poem? Was the New Orleans second line sound for Rituals intentional?