So there I was// Bookhouse Trio

So there I was. . . Barbette, (likely): Glass of wine, (likely): in conversation with my collaborators (likely, in this case SuperGroup) and there was live music (also likely, in this case people I didn’t know, but have heard their names. )

Great sentence btws. I nearly write for a living and that is the best that I can come up with as exposition.

So, I’m sititng there in conversation and I hear. . . a clarinet? Wait, what?! Never, oh Ever have I been so excited to hear such glorious wind being tossed over reed. Paul Fonfara (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet), Chris Hepola (Drums) and Josh Granowski (Bass) comprise what is known as the Bookhouse Trio. I stopped talking (which is difficult for me to do) and made the side comment, “Huh, Monk’s Epistrophy!”. It was as though I had tripped on a diamond.


“Bookhouse started as a instrumental/jazz side project from a band called Painted Saints, which is Fonfara’s group where he  is singer/songwriter/coordinator. We play in many groups separately as well. We started out playing more standard jazz material with Bookhouse at first, eventually arranging themes from Twin Peaks as I got into the tv show.  We are also really into Thelonious Monk, as we play many of his tunes, as well as arrangements of portishead, fela kuti, and popular themes from the movies,  like ‘rosemary’s baby’ and ‘midnight cowboy’.We are finishing up recording our renditions of Twin Peaks material next  month, with tentative plans to press a small run and make a release show out of it, maybe as early as the fall if we’re lucky.”

This is pleasing music to 2speakease’s ear and if I’m lucky enough to be kept in the loop of upcoming shows I’ll be sure to post it.


CAS spotlight! Q&A w/Lisa Brimmer

The University of Saint Thomas’ College of Arts and Sciences featured me in a a Q & A with my former professor and friend Leslie Adrienne Miller this Spring.


Please check out my interview HERE.

Douglas Kearney//Dangerous Culture

Douglas Kearney

Tai Coleman, Andrea Jenkins, Douglas Kearney, Bao Phi

Saturday 11.6.10

THE LOFT LITERARY CENTER/1011 Washington Ave S # 200
Minneapolis, MN

House lights come down and the audience settles and local artist and the events curator, Bao Phi takes the stage. The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota plays host to the Equilibrium [EQ] Spoken Word Reading Series that is devoted to artists and audiences of color. Recent acclaim comes not without want: The EQ series and Bao Phi recently garnered a 2010 Minnesota Nonprofit Award for Anti Racism Initiative.

The energy in the room is not only positive, upbeat but intelligent. As with many EQ shows Minneapolis’ literati of color can be found and approached easily. They’re everywhere: like hipsters at a farmers market. Come one, come all:  Phi brings in notorious national acts and pairs them with local established and emerging talent. This creates an evening of conversation and congregation. On a bill that includes local artists Tai Coleman and Andrea Jenkins, multi-genre artist and educator Douglas Kearney also take the stage.

Andrea Jenkins

Andrea Jenkins, co-curator of the successful S.A.S.E. Carol Connoly GLBT Reading Series at MPLS’ Intermedia Arts,  is as enigmatic  of a poet as she is  personal. The first time I saw Jenkins, years ago, I remember being struck by how she can assembles images from her past in ways that make me think she remembers better than I ever will. That she knows where she came from better than I’ll ever manage.

Reminding us that the work isn’t over, Tai Coleman’s presence left me thinking about power and access to power. The honor we pay to our friends, family and enemies in their renderings in our work. Coleman speaks in the language of freedom. She is copiously published and with just cause. Coleman and Douglas Kearney were fellows in tandem at Cave Canem, the national “home for Black Poetry”.

Tai Coleman

The quality of the evening continued with Kearney’s prolific performance. The poet can write, the poet can also perform. Phi set the audience up for the following: dangerous culture. “They want our egg rolls but they don’t want our internment camps.” Phi said. And it’s true. Kearney’s work is playful, but it isn’t easy. By no means.

Kearney’s active and enigmatic performances stem directly from his use of active language and engaged form. Leafing through the pages of Kearney’s The Black Automaton we see an artist engaged with his historical past and social present. With animated storytelling and set up Kearney engages his audience as he re-imagines members of the Black Power Movement writing letters as comic cultural lions in correspondence in the series The Voltron Communiquès.

Though there is wordplay, though there is humor, Kearney makes the apocalyptic moment personal. There are moments in the poems I have thoughts of a Black Hero’s Dillema. Or a Black poet’s dilemma. It lies somewhere between activist, social critic, storyteller. It lies somewhere in the inability to see oneself through the constant searching and sorting. It is as much about collective history as it is personal history and it’s seen in the works Baraka, Reed, Baldwin, Knight, Major and many others and here, with Kearney, it is incredibly available however raging.

Douglas Kearney and Bao Phi

Bao Phi took the stage with Kearney on a collaborative piece that mimicked a train with all the impetus of a bullet. Phi and Kearney “meet at the crossroads of a convenience store” of misrepresentations, cultural stereotypes and social myths. They arrive with a full understanding of the fingers that point at them and choose the carving of poems as their chosen method of counterattack. Peg that as a success in my book. This Cadillac of collaboration sometimes inspired laughter from the audience when there should be none. The outlet of humor didn’t dull anything. The knife still cut.

This is what Phi had warned us about: Dangerous Culture.

While Kearney had his moments of danger he also had his strikingly tender and sensitive moments. No one trick pony here. With an incredible command of diction, rhetoric and wordplay he keeps telling you, with a pedagogic intensity that affords audience members big bites of the black experience. Lyricism and musicality in the spoken word can sometimes bring an undue levity to serious subject matter and vice versa. So is not the case with Kearney who is playing with some big dogs in his most recent publication The Black Automaton. To this reviewer, this is some of the most exciting, articulate and poignant work I’ve seen in some time. This is not the last we’ll hear from Kearney.

Review by Lisa Brimmer

Photographs by Simrat Kang


This is what happens

when you don’t go home enough. Your mother must resort to googling you and finding a review of my show with the Fantastic Merlins from July!


Hooray Linda!



two things

Cafe Maude is my new favorite thing in the world. After an incredible dinner there last week, seeing that the Zacc Harris Quartet, James Buckley Trio, Firebell and Enormous Quartet, and my most recent awareness of their late night happy hour. I have to give them a plug and shout out on my webspace.

Second thing: upcoming review of Douglas Kearney‘s EQ show at the Loft Literary Center for Jassed. com  As a poet I have to give him a solid 10 out of 10. Brother sold me. I’m also giving him a hook up/link on my blog.

Any friend of Bao Phi’s is a friend of mine.


That’s Hip pronounced Miles to everyone else Review of Miles: The Autobiography with Quincy Troupe



Monster of montage

Photo credit: Joel Simon/Stanford Lively Arts

Review of Dave Douglas/Keystone/Bill Morrison’s collaborative project Spark of Being commissioned by Stanford University and Walker Art Center is a retelling of the Frankenstien myth.

My review is on check it out here: Monster of montage.

Performance in Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center, October 7, 2010 at the McGuire Theater.

Upcoming show October 24th at the Highline Ballroom in NYC. If you are in NYC and able to attend, you best be there! Any respectable jazzhead would.

Met up with Lulu’s in Ephraim, WI.

To see the blog post follow here to the “Lulu’s Playblog”.

It was really great seeing them and bouncing around some new ideas to be worked on this August and early fall. I also really needed some time to just breathe and the landscape around Door County was very inspiring. Got to spend some time in Sturgeon Bay, writing a little and reflecting a little more.

On to the next one.

Konch Magazine Publication!

The spring edition of Ishmael Reed’s Konch Magazine is now published to his website. This is very exciting considering the inclusion of Givens Griots Valerie Deus, Shannon Gibney, Lisa Brimmer, Colnese Hendon, Stephani Maari Booker, Deborah A. Torraine and Arleta Little.

Check it out!

Turf Club Tuesdays

Tuesday, March 16

I caught up with some folks at the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge for a dirty martini and some jazz.

OFF THE MAP, (another Brandon Wozniak affair with drummer Jay Epstein and Bryan Nichols on keys) and FANTASTIC MERLINS

It was a real great set up. Wozniak sounded brilliant and delicious as always. Epstein was a fit to be heard- skill, technique- he is a master. Now Nichols, and I wrote a bit about this in my notebook while at the show… there is something about him that reminded me of someone much younger, with a knowledge much older.

There is a poem  I was reminded of by Etheridge Knight called Green Grass and Yellow Balloons. From the middle so you get a sense.

” green grass

and yellow balloons

floating in the sky

you sang of. and sadness too.

softly you sang

your words warming me

and the sea rose in me

and your song sent me spinning

and i thought of e e cummings

mud puddles and colored marbles

and what the fuck was i doing

in this new / england / state–

then your eyes seemed sadder to me

and your words seemed warmer to me

and the sea rose higher in me

and suddenly

i was 4 and you were 40″

The thing I was wondering about was about artists. (and not myself, really).  I wonder if there is just something they know that maybe they’ve always known. A friend says it is something about playing honestly. The Fantastic Merlins for instance, he really enjoyed a few Clown Lounge Tuesdays ago when he was in town, saying that Nathan Hanson-saxophone- had a very honest approach.

My question: is it honesty?

I once dated somewhat of a Roy Hargrove/Monk/Rollins wannabe.

He might have been honest too. But that didn’t make his music any more informative than if he had been lying to us with his axe. Maybe that would have been better. Give them something.

I’m not saying he knew nothing. But he didn’t know what any of the musicians I saw Tuesday knew. They knew and they told me.

A few things:

Nichols has a show coming up with the Zacc Harris Quartet (where Harris, Nichols are joined by Chris Bates and JT Bates) at the Clown Lounge next Tuesday- Jazz starts at 10. I really enjoy their stuff- Nichols knows his way around a keyboard and he doesn’t mind showing you the place. I’m eager to hear more of him and more of his compositions.

Wozniak and the Atlantis Quartet have an upcoming show at the Artist’s Quarter on 3/26 and 3/27. Both shows start at 9pm. $10 cover.

Hanson told me about his affiliation with Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar in DT Saint Paul– Fantastic Merlins play every Friday, music starts at 8 pm, no cover and shows are all ages.