One of the unsung heroes of the recent Spoken Word Revolution, writer-bassist Vernon Frazer has fused poetry and music since 1985, when he first recited his work to pre-recorded bass tracks. After releasing Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike in 1988, Frazer formed his own working unit, the Vernon Frazer Poetry Band, which ahs performed throughout New England. Its roster has included: Thomas Chapin, the acclaimed saxophonist who served as Lionel Hampton's musical director before launching his innovative trio; Mario Pavone, the award-winning bassist whose ensembles have included saxophonists Joshua Redman, Dewey Redman and Craig Harris; trombonist Steve Davis, currently a member of Jackie McLean's ensemble; bassist Joe Fonda, whose credits include Chico Hamilton and Anthony Braxton collaborator; and many other talented, if less renowned musicians.
The musicians on SLAM! include saxophonist Rich McGhee, known for his work with the Hartford area reggae band Cool Runnings and the Philadelphia pianist and Wesleyan University professor Fred Simmons. Classically trained violinist Steve Scholz has performed in Hartford free form and bluegrass ensembles. Percussionist Brian Johnson had served as drummer in the seminal alternative rock band Billie and the Buttons, as well as performing New Music with oboist Joseph Celli and giving his own highly original solo percussion performances. Vernon Frazer, a former student of poet James Scully, pianist Ran Blake and bassist Bertram Turetzky used his training in writing, jazz and classical music to form an ensemble whose intuitive interaction synthesized its members' diverse backgrounds into a unified ensemble approach to mixing literary and musical media.
Demon Dance, the recording's opening piece, is both a tribute to the uplifting if discordant music of the John Coltrane groups that featured Pharaoh Sanders and a cry of triumph over Hodgkins Disease, a form of Cancer that Frazer struggled with in the years before successful treatments became commonplace.
Pilgrimage to the Big Sur Inn slows the frenetic pace of Demon Dance to a leisurely pace as Frazer recounts a comically disappointing visit to a California legend over Scholz's baroque violin line.
B-Movie Lover, a solo recitation, summarizes with a haiku's sparseness the foolishness of a couple still bonded although their relationship has ended.
Corny Tune, a Rich McGhee composition, brightens the mood with its two-beat bounce and its playful nod to soprano saxophone legend Sidney Bechet.
The Sane is Frazer's Tourettic challenge to the condescending attitudes many people display toward people who function outside the psychological mainstream.
Dinosaurs lampoons white-collar professionals who pass off their ego-driven urges to power as innovations.
Up No Head (Take One) is a free form improvisation which Brian Johnson devised as a warm-up piece for the Poetry Band.
The Geometry of Intimacy draws a decidedly non-Euclidian angle on the relation between lovemaking and sex fantasies.
Dream Haiku summarizes a lifelong family conflict in seventeen syllables.
The Translator-Poet at Forty offers an acidic portrait of an aging idealist. Steve Scholz contributes a highly melodic violin solo and Rich McGhee's soprano adds a Spanish-tinged bite to the satiric piece.
The Solo Percussionist at Thirtysomething is a riotous Brian Johnson send-up of people pursuing upward mobility in their careers and their personal lives.
The Dream of Her tells a tale of lost love against a haunting background.
Two-Wolf Nightmare turns its own haunting mood into a harrowing experience as Frazer recounts the nightmare that helped him rediscover his writing abilities while recovering from Cancer.
Up No Head (Take Two) offers momentary respite from the dream sequence.
A Nightmare describes a fear of jealousy Frazer dreams of when his fiancÚ goes to her high school reunion.
Before Dawn evokes the quietly brooding mood one feels after staying up late or waking up early.
A Sporting Affair explains a relationship gone sour in terms of one lover's preference for boxing and the other's for wrestling. Brian Johnson doubles as boxer and wrestler behind Frazer's recitation of mock-defeat.
Inspiration is a performance piece that sends itself up with its trendy self- reference. The free improvisation that follows the poem comes to an abrupt stop when Frazer explains the philosophy behind his fusion of poetry and music. The musicians protest becomes pandemonium before poetic order is restored.
The Vernon Frazer Poetry Band gained a reputation for exciting audiences with its impassioned mix of poetry and improvised music wherever it performed. SLAM! captures the excitement. Let its rapture capture you.
POET AND SONG WRITER
VERNON FRAZER is the author of two collections of poetry, a SLICK SET OF WHEELS and DEMON DANCE. He has recorded his poetry with musical accompaniment on the vinyl release SEX QUEEN OF THE BERLIN TURNPIKE (featuring Thomas Chapin, Mario Pavone and Joe Fonda), and the cassette SLAM! (The Vernon Frazer Jazz Poety Band). Frazer appeared with John Zorn as guest artist on Chapin's CD release, MENAGERIE DREAMS His next recording, a duet of poetry and music featjuring Thoams Chapin, will be the Compact Disc SONG OF BAOBAB (Echolalia Press Jazz,1996). He has performed his work at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and the Knitting Factory.
Although he was not diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until he turned 48, writer-musician Vernon Frazer has lived the lifestyle of many people with Tourette as they struggle to find a place for themselves in the mainstream of society or at its margins. Like other people with Tourette Syndrome, Frazer has walked many streets, roads, even alleys in his search for a niche. Frazer found his home in his writing, which describes his many paths with poems that shift from the satiric to the sympathetic in their uncompromising perceptions.
A SLICK SET OF WHEELS, Frazer's first collection of poetry, reads like the "Sales Pitch of an Honest Real Estate Agent," one of the poems that comprise this collection.
Frazer offers an unflinching send-up of a California legend, an aging poet who sacrifices his creativity to political extremism, and a petty bureaucrat so enamored of his power and self-image that he nearly destroys himself in his efforts to maintain them.
He turns a more compassionate eye to "The Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike," an exotic dancer whose on-stage abandon conceals the pathos of her personal life. "July 4, 1986" represents Frazer's protest against the money wasted on celebrating the Statue of Liberty in a country where people starve under the Statue's banner of promise.
Frazer, who is a Cancer Survivor, writes with compassion about a five-year old girl dying of Cancer he encounters while he sits sleepless through an airport layover, hoping to reach home before his mother dies from her Cancer.
After lampooning pretentious poets at public readings, Frazer turns his laser scalpel on himself in "A Tale of Two Decades," when he finds himself on the wrong side of the generation gap.
Frazer's relentless search through particulars uncovers more than its share of universals as he describes the inner conflicts and contradictions of people who seek places for themselves, only to settle for the illusion of belonging.
| SITE MAP | MISSION STATEMENT ||