Ron Carter and Danny Simmons Release “The Brown Beatnik Tomes – Live at BRIC House”
Jazz legend Ron Carter has teamed up with abstract painter and poet Danny Simmons for a new album called The Brown Beatnik Tomes – Live at BRIC House. The album features Simmons performing readings from his 2014 book of poems and paintings, The Brown Beatnik Tomes, with Carter accompanying him on bass. Simmons came up with the idea to integrate black culture and community into the style of the Beat Poets.
“I was trying to imagine myself as a Beat Generation poet in the ’50s,” says Simmons, “and how my concerns would be a bit different from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s or Allen Ginsberg’s. In a way, the beatniks romanticized black people. They were hip, but they didn’t really see the plight. That scene largely was about the Negro experience but didn’t have the Negro in it.”
Carter’s playing weaves into the words to create a seamless expression. Though it sounds effortless from the outside, his approach to crafting his parts took time.
“The first thing I had to do was see the words. When you think of musicians playing with poets, most people think they just play,” Carter told KMW. “For me, it’s important to understand the speed of the word, what words the poet emphasizes. Once he reads it for me, I can make my music fit his tone of voice. I don’t think of poetry as poetry, per se; for me it’s lyrics to a song. It’s my job to find the right melody at that moment that makes those lyrics be even more valuable to the listener as well as us.”
Hear Simmons and Carter in “For A Pistol”:
The album also includes a couple of instrumental tunes with Carter joined by his trio of pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone. Notably, “Here’s to Oscar” is a trio tribute to the bebop bass icon Oscar Pettiford.
The Brown Beatnik Tomes – Live at BRIC House Track List:
- For A Pistol
- The Final Stand of Two Dick Willie
- Feeling It Coming On
- Here’s to Oscar
- Where Do I Begin
- There Will Never Be Another You
- The Jigaboo Waltz
- The Brown Beatnik Tomes