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spacer.gif   VOX ROCKS GUILD COMPLEX
Posted by : cj on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 03:47 PM
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Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines
Welcome to the 21st Century. Things change. For example, Chicago poet Christopher Stewart and bassist Craig Nakamoto (both formerly of the poetry band, Circadian Rhythm, which is prominently featured in the Tia Chucha Press CD "A Snake In The Heart") have joined forces with three new musicians (Raphael Dussaussoy on guitar, William Pritchard on drums, and Jason Grochowski on saxophone) to undergo a new artistic direction: Vox Rockwell.

This somewhat more stylistically simplistic collaboration premiered during a night of debuts at The Guild Complex, on Wednesday, November 20. Not only was this the band's first gig, but it was the first time the Guild's new Artistic Director, Robert Karimi, graced a Chicago stage, as well as the first time former Street Sounds bassist Mitar Covic conducted a Donahue-like question and answer session for this, the final show of the 11th Musicality of Poetry Series, and the 2nd to last show of the Guild's 2002 programming (the final one being the first Chicago appearance of Sandra Cisneros after bashing this great city in The Chicago Tribune).

Many people came out to experience Stewart's new ensemble (including the great Michael Warr, coming out of hiding), which fused words with the frantic, Jamiroquai influenced hammering of the band. At times the combination was harsh and abrasive, the vocals and the percussion pounding up against the high ceiling of the Chopin's 2nd floor theater space, persistent and unforgiving like "water" following "the path of least resistance," tensions mounting into an explosion of sax and fancy guitar work like techno jazz without the techno; but at other times the band offered relief to the sense of panic, tranquilized (including Stewart's poetry recited over Nakamoto's vocal rendition of "ain't no sunshine when she's gone," creating quite a concept piece), the sax at times bridging on film noir soundtracks, and the poetry turning into "Chicago love songs" and sonnets, the melting of the two mediums establishing a dreamy mood, blurring the line between slow motion and time lapse.

A former Funky Wordsmith, Quraysh Ali Lansana, also took the stage for a cameo appearance, his voice increasing in volume as he belted out a six part poem based on his experiences a few blocks away from the WTC on the fateful day, competing with the band for intensity. Lansana has apparently lost none of his Chicago performance poetry roots, even if he can now be called a Professor.

Their fusion of poetry and music proved Vox is more than a word on a foot pedal. Though completely lacking in subtlety and not yet polished, the verse set to rock was a heavy dose of contrast which left one thinking. Stewart's forehead wrinkled as he climaxed "Yes, sweetheart!" and the otherwise dark, "muddy river" raged with an overdose of energy, at times barely allowing us to catch our breath. The intentional repetition of key and downbeats backing up the deep, emotional feelings of the author was a cinematic, theatrical, getting across of ideas.

It might be super hyper-kinetic and it might not change the world, but, dude, Vox Rocks!

Sorry if I can't include many quotes from the poems, but when you melt these two mediums together as they did so effectively, the whole becomes something beyond the parts, and it is true, "poets remember the strangest things" anyway.

--C. J. Laity

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