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Spring 2005, vol 3 no 1

Renku ~ Jazz-ku: Notes

Composed via mail during the course of 1996 and 1997, the Jazz-ku was the brainchild of Arizona Zipper and Bob Richardson, two artists who shared a love of Ella Fitzgerald's scat style with the wish to find relief from turbulence in their respective personal lives.

Bob Richardson was a jazz drummer who had worked out of Montreal for a number of years. Arizona Zipper had first encountered renku in 1980 when he and Cor ven den Heuvel went over to Eric Amann's House one night during the Haiku Canada Conference for a bit of recreational writing. In the intervening years Zipper had studied the genre somewhat and now Zipper and Richardson were resolved to try an experimental fusion of music and poetry.

Both wanted to do a piece based on Jazz; Zipper mailed the hokku to Bob to start things moving. Bob Richardson was reluctant to think of the piece as a "scat" as he didn't think the underlying structure was free enough ... Zipper having suggested that they follow the 5-7-5 7-7 syllabic pattern. Bob thought this idea was too confining though he stuck with it, initially at least. Later the variations were to make themselves more forcefully felt. Indeed, one of the most fascinating aspects of this piece is to see precisely how, where and when the cadence does undergo major fundamental change. No less instructive are the subsequent choices made by the artists in respect of the initial form of the poem.

The Jazz-ku was performed by Arizona Zipper and Raffael de Gruttola at the Deer Tree Summer Theatre in Harrison, Maine in the Summer of 1999, Zipper playing an African rain stick as a background accompaniment. The piece was delivered unrehearsed and without preamble to a packed house. It received a standing ovation. Zipper and Richardson performed it a capella in July of 2000 as part of the Second Alternative Poetry Conference at Lesley College in Boston. Again it was received with great applause.

It is believed that a tape of the Lesley College performance may still be in existence. Zipper and de Gruttola are reliably reported to be willing to organize a performance at a venue near you. As for Bob Richardson ... he was last seen heading somewhere warm in his VW bus. Should anybody answering this general description be heard to utter the following:

aaaaROOM FAFLOOM floomp floi
zhi zhi zhi zhi aaa rAARR ZOOOOM
... floof floink fluuf ZYOI zooooph


the reader is advised to respond with:

ma hoot
ma toot ma poot
be beep

~ John Carley, Raffael de Gruttola. February 2005


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