April 20, 2007

Alexie sets poetry to jazz

Taking flight in words and musicPepper (1941-92) was born in Salem. His father was a member of the Kaw tribe and his mother was Creek. A musical genius, Pepper grew up in Portland and played the tenor saxophone in local clubs before leaving for New York, where he formed one of the first jazz fusion bands. He went on to worldwide acclaim and played with many of the legends of jazz before dying of lymphoma in Portland at age 50.

There's been a surge of interest in Pepper's life and music in recent years, and Alexie's upcoming Portland reading will be accompanied by the Third Angle New Music Ensemble, with Pepper's music arranged by Gordon Lee, who played with Pepper for many years. Third Angle will play music by other composers as well, and Alexie will read his poetry and excerpts from his new novel, "Flight."

Alexie said he's read to "pretty much any type of music you can think of--Hendrix, Hank Williams . . . I've done a lot of stuff with country music because it's played such a big role in my life, but this is the first time I've done this kind of a poetic thing with jazz. I was really happy when they suggested it. It has very much of a jam-band feel to it, more loose and dangerous."

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