"Speak-Spake-Spoke" presents Kirpal Gordon in a wonderful series of collaborative adventures that challenge listeners to absorb an unending flow of inventive spoken words and sophisticated references shared by a group of improvising jazz musicians led by the warm and sincere playing of Claire Daly on baritone sax and flute.
The eleven tracks on this CD are created from a magical cloth woven from threads of Kirpal's psyche and those of his musical alter egos. Listeners will be pleased. There is much variety, wit, and soul searching, much of it immediately accessible to even the most inexperienced listener of jazz and/or spoken word art.
There is also a deep underlying series of philosophical statements and visions that require listeners to spend additional time exploring the meaning of Gordon's spiritual messages. There is much satisfaction to be gained by listening to this CD but there is more than meets the eye and ear after just one hearing.
The opening track highlights Kirpal Gordon's original rhyming scheme and inventive referential freedom. With a funk feel musical background, KP offers a prelude of potential discoveries in "dream time," a phrase spoken by a two-person chorus, punctuating the surroundings of what's to come in this homage to the Cisco Kid. With a quote from poet Jordan Jones's "Cycle," Kirpal then leaps into the main tale of our hero.
After a fine flute solo by Claire Daly, KP tells us: "The Cisco Kid we find him in the woodwinds. His medicine's an antidote to Armageddon. He urges a shaman's stamina for all skins. That's why he sends heart mends to love's shut-ins." The Cisco Kid was one of my personal favorite characters of my childhood, along with the Lone Ranger, Superman, and the Green Hornet. Antidotes to Armageddon indeed.
"Eros in Sanskrit" hit my musical funny bone and reinforced my feeling that Kirpal steps outside the carton on more than on occasion in this album. Over the original Tommy Dorsey opening of "Song of India," complete with tom tom solo and unison instrumental section playing, KP recites an excerpt from the "Iso Upanishad." I'm assuming the spoken words are in Sanskrit but I couldn't swear to it. In any event, the juxtaposition of cultures seemed hilarious to me. Then KP unravels his spoken English meditation while Warren Smith whips his high-hat cymbals and the "band" plays the famous 1940s melody and swing arrangement in the background. After a wonderful trombone solo by the rambunctious Art Baron and a raunchy tenor sax solo by Tim Price, KP returns to remind us that whatever is hidden in our own divine natures, it is "yearning to sing & get sung over & over & over again." Amen.
There are many more tracks that listeners will find appealing, including Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue," a duet with KP and Dave Hofstra on bass, or the New Orleans funeral dirge called "Out There Prayer" featuring the band with Dave Hofstra on tuba, playing a mournful rendition of "The House of the Rising Sun," or "Blue Rilke" and "Equinox," one paying homage to the poet and the other to legendary John Coltrane. But I have two personal favorites that I recommend most highly to others.
The jazz ballad often gives performers an opportunity to express feelings less accessible at faster tempos. "Origins in the Key of Sea" is no exception. After a brief Eli Yamin piano solo introduction, Gordon takes us on a water-based exploration visiting various tributaries along the way and their classically recognizable inhabitants. The story is not a simple one and highlights for me how a jazz improviser can create a series of connections related to an original melody. The underlying "theme" of this track is the song "Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most," played in the background while KP blows the first chorus of his solo. He then takes a rest and Eli Yamin gives us a lovely romantic piano solo for the first part of the song followed by Claire Daily's luscious baritone sax creation, reminding me once again why she is one of my favorite players on that instrument. Kirpal returns to help us finish the trip and reveal to us what he believes "can really hang you up the most."
"If Bird Lives" is a hard core bebop swinger. Based on George Gershwin's 32-bar standard "I Got Rhythm," Warren Smith gives us an eight-bar drum solo prelude to James Zollar's statement of the famous theme in the background while Kirpal and his chorus take us through a classic jazz history lesson in a fast and furious development of ideas and referential humor that pays the highest tribute to the jazz process. The uninitiated might not catch all the tidbits KP offers up on his platter of verbal goodies but will have no problem relating to the essential elements of energy and joy in this performance. Zollar continues the feast of tasty morsels with a fine trumpet solo and exchange of four-bar ideas with Smith's inventive solo drumming followed by KP and the gang bringing some just deserts to the table in a flavorful finale accompanied by a soufflé of Zollar's trumpet quotes of classic bebop melodies and a final restatement of Gershwin's compositional contribution to this pot boiling collaboration. "Speak, Spake, Spoke." Game, set, and match.