The Friday Morning Listen: Jack Kerouac – Blues and Haikus (1959)

There are have been some strange coincidences lately. I’m not the kind of person to attach any significance to such things but still, it does make you shake your head.

So the first came in the form of an email reply from my cousin. I sent him an email in March of 2011, asking about a business idea he was toying with. My cousin is perhaps more reclusive than me and for some reason, it took him over two and a half years to reply. Last month, the reply arrived. To be specific, the date was November 22. I had been getting some writing done and had just switched browser tabs to see that a few emails had come in. The tab I had just moved away from had me logged into the SomethingElse admin page, as I had just scheduled the November 23rd edition of my weekly Pat Metheny feature, (Cross the) Heartland.

What’s the big deal? Go ahead and read that entry. In it I talk about the album American Garage being my introduction to Pat Metheny. And the person who played me that album was my cousin Andy, from whom I’d just received that email reply. It probably arrived in my inbox as I was typing that piece. Very strange.

This morning, because the first (and hopefully only) head cold of the season has shown up, I decided to lay low, drink a lot of fluids (not the bourbon I joked about on the Internet), and do some reading. I stood in front of one of the bookcases and pulled down a collection of short stories by T.C. Boyle. I flip to the table of contents and there it is, a story called “Beat.” It turns out to be about a kid who goes to visit his literary hero out on Long Island. What follows is an evening of drunken debauchery, peppered with lots of silly beat lingo. Kerouac was quite opened-hearted with this fan, though in the end we have Jack being the (expected?) boozed-up mama’s boy. Interesting, but not the best thing I’ve ever read by Boyle.

Toward the middle of the day, after two naps and some tea, I put the Boyle back on the shelf and see a volume with the title “Jazz and its Discontents.” It’s a book of reviews by writer Francis Davis, purchased at a used book store in Brattleboro, Vermont many years ago…and then completely forgotten. I again page through the table of contents and in the final section see an entry titled “Talking Kerouac.” This turns out to be a review of a box set of Kerouac readings (some with musical accompaniment) called The Jack Kerouac Collection. Yeah, I do own this box set. Strange.

One of the albums in the set was for Verve label and featured Jack doing solo readings. The other two records came out on the Hanover label — Poetry for the Beat Generation, with Steve Allen on piano; and Blues and Haikus, with saxophonists Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. I haven’t listened to any of these recordings in years, but it seems that today I probably should. And maybe I’ll send my cousin Andy an email while I’m at it.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.