Michael S. Harper: Double Take

Michael S. Harper: Double Take

Jazz-Poetry Conversations for mouth and bass clarinet
Michael S. Harper
Paul Austerlitz
Michael S. Harper
Paul Austerlitz
Catalog Number: 
spoken word

Providence, RI

Release Date: 
May 5, 2004
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Public Enemy’s Chuck D. was here to fight the power. Michael S. Harper is here to disturb the peace. Public Enemy used hip-hop to express race, sex, politics and purpose. Michael S. Harper uses the pantheon of jazz gods, his mouth and a bass clarinet. 

For the past three decades, this poet laureate of Rhode Island hasn’t paid any mind to moth-eaten poetics with tired "let me count the ways" blah. Harper grabs the mic back from would-be coffee shop confessors and armchair cultural quarterbacks, shuts it off and shouts. 

He speaks in cocaine highs creeping up your groin. He speaks with the mouth of Black Narcissus. He speaks Coltrane jazz with messy fingerings (calling on the howling ghosts of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bessie Smith) 

His partner in crime is bass-clarinetist/composer Paul Austerlitz, known for his sweet n’ punchy collaborations with Fred Ho’s Afro-Asian Music Ensemble, and Caribbean music legends Gonzalo Rubalcaba and percussionist Julito Figueroa. 

"Double Take: Poetry/ Jazz Conversations" breaks 180 degrees from bling obsessed rappers with MTV cribs or actors and actresses in Hollycars and goes straight to the root, where words and music can still kill you. 

Harper and Austerlitz both teach at Brown University. 



This collaboration between fellow teachers at Brown University-"Jazz-Poetry Conversations" as it is subtitled- is simply one of the finest such projects I've heard. On every count, Double Take comes up a winner. Coloristically, it's all in the metal and wind of the clarinet, and the pleasing, rich grain of Harper's voice. The ears-to-soul atmosphere of these conversations is all that is needed to communicate the power of these simultaneously comforting and challenging texts. Double Take is a rare and rewarding collaboration, highly recommended.

By Larry Nai