Jazz Icon Ron Carter Joins Poet Danny Simmons for 'The Brown Beatnik Tomes'

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Mark Lee Blackshear
             

"For a Pistol" is the first single from the Blue Note live album coming June 7.

Remixing a chapter out of history that resonates just as loudly now.

That’s what happened on an autumn night inside Brooklyn’s BRIC House when bassist extraordinaire Ron Carter (Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, A Tribe Called Quest) and Tony-winning Def Poetry Jam co-founder/painter Danny Simmons merged their considerable talents to yield The Brown Beatnik Tomes — Live at BRIC House. The new album’s selections are drawn from Simmons’ 2014 book of poems and paintings The Brown Beatnik Tomes.

Prefacing the live album’s June 7 release via Blue Note is the powerful first single and album opener “For a Pistol.” Out today (April 26), the track embraces the activist spirit of late writer/poet Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), an influential voice in African-American history and culture.

Simmons recalls the idea for his book came from trying to imagine himself as a Beat Generation poet in the ‘50s like Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. “In a way,” Simmons notes in Blue Note's press release, “the beatniks romanticized black people. They were hip, but they didn’t really see the plight. That scene largely was about the Negro experience but didn’t have the Negro in it.” Of recording the live album with the legendary Carter — the Guinness-certified most-recorded jazz bassist in history with more than 2,200 sessions —Simmons notes, “Basically, I let him do his thing and I followed.”

In his 20s during the Beat era, Carter was busy working in the black community at that time. “I was playing with people like [folk singer] Leon Bibb,” says the bassist. “A similar thing was happening [in the black community], and my music was trying to support that.” Carter, who turns 82 on May 4, is joined by his trio mates pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone on two instrumental tracks from The Brown Beatnik Tomes. One of those is “Here’s to Oscar,” a tribute to bebop bassist Oscar Pettiford.

The complete track list for The Brown Beatnik Tomes — Live at BRIC House:

1. For a Pistol

2. The Final Stand of Two Dick Willie

3. Feeling It Coming On

4. Tender

5. Here’s to Oscar

6. Where Do I Begin (featuring Def Jam alum Liza Jessie Peterson)

7. There Will Never Be Another You

8. The Jigaboo Waltz

9. The Brown Beatnik Tomes

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