Dizzy for Neruda

Jazz cat Perrin turns his passion for poetry into a musical event.
  • Jazz cat Perrin turns his passion for poetry into a musical event.

San Diego jazz guitarist and singer Chuck Perrin admits that he wasn’t initially transfixed by the poetry of Pablo Neruda. “I do not speak Spanish,” he explains, “[so] I didn’t really come to appreciate the beauty of his imagery until about 15 years ago when Kamau Kenyatta turned me on to the translations of Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets, by Stephen Tapscott. [This] seemed to capture a certain sensuality in the words which struck a chord deep down inside me. It inspired my own writings, songs, and recordings about love, intimacy, and passion, and drew me to study all of Neruda’s work in greater detail and highlight the works which particularly spoke to me.”

Perrin presents “Four for Neruda” on July 12 (the poet’s birthday) at Dizzy’s, the jazz space he’s kept afloat since 2000. Joining him for the poetry/improv fusion will be Kamau Kenyatta on keys and sax; longtime UCSD professor Bert Turetzky on bass; and singer Coral MacFarland Thuet, who sings in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Perrin and Turetzky have known each other 20 years or so, Perrin explains: “He and I share a love for beat and dada poetry and jazz. I used to go see him perform with poet Jerome Rothenberg.

“Since [Turetzky] retired from UCSD four or five years ago, we began to experiment together with the mixing of words and jazz. A dozen years ago or so, Coral MacFarland Thuet and Kamau Kenyatta invited me to be a part of a few presentations of Neruda’s works mixed with the classic music of Latin America. They are both extremely talented musicians and scholars and I admire them greatly and look forward to collaborating again with them....

“When Bert and I work,” Perrin explains, “it is totally improvised and spontaneous — me rendering the words, him commenting musically in the moment — both of us listening to each other and adjusting. So I envision this show will be much of the same. Because Coral is bilingual, she will be performing the words to some of the works in the original Spanish as they were written....

“Kamau will also improvise around the words. He is a very expressive and honest musician. Some of Neruda’s poems have previously been set to song, and I think Kamau and Coral will present a few of those.”

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