Other Voices

Raymond MacDonald | Aoife Mannix


When it came time to listen to the playbacks for the session that became “Blues And Haikus,” producer Bob Thiele found Jack Kerouac curled up and weeping in a corner of the studio. Since his accompanists, saxophonists Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, packed up their horns and left before the engineer cued up the rewound tape, both Kerouac and Thiele reckoned that they hadn’t really listened to anything that had just been played, and the jazz-loving poet was heart-broken. For consolation, producer and poet repaired to some dive on 8th Avenue; after Kerouac started busting bottles on the pavement, Thiele poured him into a cab and sent him home.


A fifty years after the fact spin of this early encounter between improvised music and poetry doesn’t bear out the notion that Sims and Cohn weren’t listening. They may or may not have tuned in to the words, but their rejoinders to Kerouac’s Thunderbird-fueled delivery played deftly both with and against the rhythms of his speech and the spirit of his delivery. In any case, the story well conveys Kerouac’s vulnerability. Vulnerability of a different sort also figures significantly on “Other Voices.” Neither Irish poet Aoife Mannix nor Scottish saxophonist and pianist Raymond MacDonald report breaking any bottles in the street whilst making this record, although in “I Will Survive” she does confess to having been put comatose into a taxi. But even her confessions of mistakes made are part of a vulnerability that is less tortured, more resilient than Kerouac’s.

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