Musicians Praise Sound Off

Stephen Bett is in the process of soliciting quotes for book promotional purposes and/or back cover blurbs for his book of poems, Sound Off: a book of jazz. So far, 18 well known musicians have responded to a request to offer comments concerning the poems written about their work:

Using poetry to describe music seems like such a cool concept -the two are so connected.

—Mike Stern

I’m honored to be part in some strange ways of your poem collection!

—Ada Rovatti

Jazz and Poetry, extracting the essence of my shapes, sounds and colors, voiced into a rhythmic motion. What a great honor.”

—Marc Mommaas

I’m honored that you have written a poem inspired by my music. Really…And I like your words a lot…thank you so much!

—Jakob Bro

Your poem moved me; thank you for that. You have a good ear.. good luck with your book!

—Omer Klein

The poem has a real nice flow and I’m honored that my music inspired it! All best and I wish you lots of success with your book.

—Brad Mehldau

I’m flattered and honoured to be included in so eclectic and creative a book, especially one in part devoted to one of my favorite (and often under-appreciated) subjects - Jazz!

—D.D. Jackson

i am touched by your words and feel honored to be included in your book!

—Anat Fort

we appreciate you including Burnt Sugar in your upcoming release. wishing you all the best,

—Greg & Jared
Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber

Thanks so much for your interest and enthusiasm for the band! We’re definitely very flattered.

—the Bad Plus

Thank you for listening. Thank you for writing.

—Ketil Bjørnstad

Thanks so much for sending me the information about Sound Off. I’m flattered you saw fit to include me. Best of luck with the book!

(Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society)

I’m extremely honored to have been a subject for one of your poems.

—Cuong Vu

What an honor to read and, indeed, feel this response to my music. It inspires me to make some more!

—Stephan Crump

thank you for your mail. We need poetry, we need poets. I like to find poetry everywhere and Poets are the only one reference to me in every kind of expressive channels (literature, music, painting, dance or whatever). So, thank you again to share with me your poem and to spend some times into my music. Please let me know when the book will be issued.

—Stefano Battaglia

Thanks so much for including us in your book. So glad that it is coming out soon. We would love a copy when it is out. Thanks again for including us.

—Samantha (Reptet)

I am ‘taking turn’ to thank you between ‘easy dates’ not always so easy, happy that my music found a resonance in your poetry. With my best wishes for the success of your book.

—Jean Luc Ponty

I wish you all the best with your project and continued inspiration that you can put words to.

—Charles Lloyd

I recently received a package from the prolific Canadian poet Stephen Bett. I knew nothing about him, but it was obvious by what he sent that he was just that. Among the books was SOUND OFF: a book of jazz (Thistledown Press, 2013). I was astounded by the range of voices in the work as well as the musicians he covered, many of whom, like Ketil Bjørnstad and Mathias Eick, I have never encountered. From the poems of two others of that ilk, Tord Gustavsen and Tigran Hamasyan in that order:

“Does anyone play with more…unadorned beauty? Unaffected sensitivity? Transcendent clarity? / …one simply pays attention… …caught in the throat / exquisite / ahhh / utterly / rapt.”

Just that “ahhh” toward the end immediately pulls one in, making the reader a witness to the sound and therefore an automatic listener somewhere inside the mind/ear.

On Hamasyan: “…pacey & lyrical / on & off / the beat…’Da kid’s got punching talent (if he can lose the swing).

And I’m pretty sure I know what swing he’s referring to. The book is divided into four delightful sections, Sides 1-4, with the subheadings, “opens us up,” “bring it…,” “not zen,” and “live alone” each with a variety of known and lesser known musicians (many from Europe) in each section. From Zorn (“Zip it / don’t unzip”) to Miles, to John Abercrombie to The Bad Plus (“…so bad they’re good …they could jazz anyone anywhere…”). Too many to name. Many I could never imagine reading poems about. Most a page long and easy to breeze through, like a good quick solo, this breezy 115-pager pays tribute (at times a bit nasty-like) to nearly 70 musicians with humor, humility, and at times an elegant simplicity. These little gems are like poem-reviews. Seek it out and pleasantly blow your mind.

—Steve Dalachinsky, “Outtakes,” Brooklyn Rail, July, 2019

Sound Off: a book of jazz is the 13th book of poetry by Vancouver poet Stephen Bett. His work has been published extensively in literary journals in Canada and internationally. His personal papers are being archived by Simon Fraser University Library in British Columbia….

78 jazz musicians, the name of the musician as the title of the poem often with a quote from a music review as an introduction to the stereographic riffs of the Poet…. The poetry forms like another layer to the music, half impressions, half review mixed in with pieces of the daylight world, metaphors to sports, physics, classic literature, humor, his personal life, a dance with the Muse. As if painting a picture, the poetry responds and is in response to the music, the poetry chops a mirror, you can almost hear the jazz music playing in the background, in quiet cacophony. (Perhaps suggesting an art installation of poetry and music as an audiorecording).

Influenced by minimalist poetry and the San Francisco Renaissance Poets, the style suggests a crucible for the loss of grace from the First and Second World Wars and the violent places of the war economy [of] North America as it morphs into a new day. A poet from the postmodern school, the poetry is an incantation of broken thought, captures The Muse, the jazz music as if a snapshot in a moment of time.

This poetry is jazzspeak, as if on a cloud drawing down fragments of light in broken thought forms, a celebration of some of the greatest modern jazz musicians of our time. Sound Off: a book of jazz, by Stephen Bett.

Subterranean Blue Poetry (Montreal)

“I’ve read the poems from Sound Off several times over and must say I’m impressed. Nice to see you’re writing Jazz, not writing about jazz. Some very subtle, sophisticated rhythm changes. Admit if I hadn’t been studying music of late and learning the basics of different drum rhythms I would have missed some of this. Love the way your love of the music, with a kind of insider’s obsessiveness, permeates the whole collection. Your headers and intros are enough background and kind of serve as liner notes for the different pieces. Also appreciate the interplay between pieces, little tonal cues and echoes that evokes the playfulness intrinsic to jazz. For all its understated, unassuming airs you’re really taking some risks here (not something I’ve seen much of in the last 20 years of Canadian Writing), pushing out against the perimeters with a kind of edgy assurance. Like this stuff a lot. Shows how thoroughly the craft must be learned before one can make it this malleable.”

Ken Cathers, Canadian poet

The claim on the back cover of Stephen Bett’s latest collection of poetry [says] “This is a book of poems celebrating music, but essentially the poems are for readers - no jazz experience required.” There are aspects of the poems collected in Sound Off that will appeal to aficionados and non-aficionados of jazz alike - naming a dog after a favorite performer (as in a poem titled “Avishai Cohen (bassist, composer, not trumpeter”), for example, or imagining the soundtrack to one’s own funeral (as in “Keith Jarrett”)…. The poet’s love for jazz shines through in all of the poems in Sound Off, and fans of the genre … will find much to appreciate (and likely debate) in this collection.

Small Press Reviews

Stephen Bett’s hip, lean poetry encompasses a huge range of jazz and moves like mercury between styles. He captures musicians’ sounds superbly, paying tribute with humour and a fine nuance to their place in jazz history, writing in a minimalist style that manages to create a linguistic resonance that is ultimately so allied to music the poems sing. Reminiscent of the Beats and E.E. Cummings, Bett improvises deftly on the poetic legacy that is the best of the avant garde and is as charged as a Miles Davis solo, and in doing so he is as spontaneous as Jack Kerouac. This is a poet who writes with a subtlety that keeps with the rhythm of his verse as he makes it all modern again. At times as sweet as a Pat Metheny lick, this collection is both musical and as good a commentary on the form as anything out there. This is an important and enjoyable book. For lovers of jazz and of poetry, Sound Off is a great introduction to a major poetic talent who is also an acute observer of the contemporary world.

Richard Godwin.