A night of jazz and poetry closes tribute to Peter Rabbit

Petter Rabbit and Anne MacNaughton

Originally published in Tempo, Taos News

“Beats & Bebop—A Poetry-Jazz Tribute to Peter Rabbit” concluded with a grand finale at Taos Mesa Brewing on Friday April 10th.

The evening started when several former members of the jazz and poetry ensemble “Luminous Animal” took the stage by storm.

Steve Rose, a member of the Poetry Circus founded by Peter Rabbit and Anne MacNaughton in 1982, emceed the poetic part of the event. He also recited some of his own poetry.

Amalio Madueño, who used to host the “Mexican Bob” poetry workshops at the Taos Poetry Circus, recited a bilingual poem entitled “Dia de la Santa Muerte” dedicated to Bill Gersh.

Eric Gladstone, the Taos Jazz Bebop Society founder, read a poem by Lenny Bruce, “Psychopathia Sexualis,” that made the audience laugh out loud.

Anne MacNaughton read two pieces by Peter Rabbit, “Self Portrait” and “Material World,” and some of her own poems.

At different moments of the event MacNaughton and Gladstone wore a hat that belonged to Peter Rabbit.

“And it was a very nice hat,” said audience member Mike Beck. “That was a really cool idea.”

The event was a presentation of the Taos Jazz Bebop Society.

The music

Traveling jazz master and saxophonist extraordinaire Greg Abate, who comes to Taos at least once a year, was there to the delight of his many fans. His quartet, with Abate on saxophone, Andy Zadrozny on bass, John Rangel on piano, and Pete Amahl on drums, played several songs from Abate’s new album, “Motif.” Among them were “Snowfall” and “Morning of the Leaves” as well as some new pieces like “The Waltzing Panda” and timeless classics like “Confirmation.”

“I love coming to Taos and always have such a great time playing here,” said Abate. “I want to thank Tempo for letting people know that I was going to be here. That really means a lot.”

He will be back on June 19th at the Taos Inn for another jazz night.

Back to the good old times

When the event was over, the audience lingered to talk to the musicians, poets, friends and total strangers.

There was a sense of community in the room that reminded audience member Thea Sandoval of times past.

“I’ve lived here since the early sixties, when everybody knew each other,” she said. “Later we had that great music and the poetry slams during the beatnik days. Those were good times.”

But are those good ol’ days over? Maybe not, according to Steve Rose, who also remembers them quite well.

“I am fortunate to be old enough to remember the beatnik era and all the jazz and poetry fusion that was going on then,” he said. “Yes, that was fun. Now, where are we? I think we are at the brink of something here in Taos…I don’t know exactly what it is, but it is something good.”

“This is about bringing good music and good poetry to all the people, young and old,” said local filmmaker Jean Stevens, who produced “A Tale of Two Poets,” a film about the Taos Poetry Circus which contains interviews with Peter Rabbit and MacNaughton. “That’s what we did back then and what made Taos a mecca for poets and musicians. Tonight was like a snippet of what it used to be every summer. I hope that it goes on and we can enjoy more events like this one from now on.”

“It was like a reincarnation of ‘Luminous Animal,’” said Madueño. “I became part of it in 1995 when Bill Gersh invited me, that’s why I devoted my poem to him. I am happy to be here tonight, sharing these happy memories.”

“The whole evening felt like watching a house being built and then finding yourself inside before you knew it,” said audience member and jazz enthusiast Shawna Williams. “Such an energetic show!”

Poetry and jazz

Rose praises the confluence of jazz and poetry as one of the greatest coming together of art forms in the history of mankind.

“It goes back to The Steve Allen Plymouth Show, with Steve Allen and Jack Kerouac performing together,” he said, “when writers used the rhythms and freedom of jazz in their poetry.”

“April is National Poetry Month and National Jazz Month so the event, besides being a tribute to Peter, was also timely in that respect,” said MacNaughton. “I was impressed with the amount of people who showed up and came from so many different cities. I am grateful for all the support we have had.”

“It was a great show,” said Judy Katzman, who belongs to the Taos Jazz Bebop Society. “Jazz and poetry are as riveting and relevant today as they were fifty years ago.”