The "Speak the Blues" Poetry and Jazz Concert last night at the Fresno Art Museum was a great success---an innovative and inspiring collaboration arranged by poet Julie Kim Garcia and Music Director/Resident Artist for the museum, Armen Nalbandian.
The concept---six poets read one poem each about the blues (each poet wrote the poem for this occasion). Nalbandian, an incredibly gifted pianist and creative spirit, composed an original jazz composition for each poem, based on his interpretation and feel after reading the poem. During the event, in the beautiful Bonner Auditorium, first a poet would read, and then the Armen Nalbandian Ensemble would play the song Nalbandian wrote for the poem--a musical rendition, if you will. To say it was moving would be an understatement.
The poets and musicians---Corrinne Clegg Hales, who read a wonderful poem called "Late Summer Blues"; Mike Maniquiz, who read a moving poem about his mother called "Stroke"; Lee Herrick (that would be me...I read a new poem called "Salvation"); Juana Echeveste, who read a fine poem called "Brown Blues"; event organizer Julie Kim Garcia, who read a powerful poem called "Blues"; and Chrissy Anderson-Zavala, who read two poems, including a moving one accompanied by Nalbandian himself on piano. The ensemble was Nalbandian, Brian Hamada (drums), Joe Lewis (cornet), and Kevin Hill on stand-up bass. Boy, could these guys play. Mike and Connie and I were saying how much we enjoyed the poems---and how fascinating it was to hear the music after the poem, how Nalbandian composed the music based on the mood but also the rhythms of the poem. Each song was around seven to ten minutes---amazing jazz based on amazing poems.
What a cool night. The evening also featured Mr. Leonard, host of the jazz program on Thursday nights on KFSR 90.7 f.m., who sponsored the event. Visit their website to find out more about their great programs, and tune in for the broadcast of the "Speak the Blues" event, sometime soon. As if all of this weren't already awesome enough, the ensemble played two more amazing songs by Thelonius Monk and Jellyroll Morton. This was a great night---thank you Julie, all the poets, all the musicians, and Mr. Armen Nalbandian. I could have listened all night. Bravo.
Pictured: Top photo. Back row, from left to right: Mike Maniquiz, Kevin Hill, Armen Nalbandian, Joe Lewis, Brian Hamada, Juana Echeveste, Lee Herrick. Front row, from left to right: Corrinne Clegg Hales, Julie Kim Garcia, Chrissy Anderson-Zavala.
Bottom photo: The Armen Nalbandian Ensemble gets down.