Alive According To E. E. Cummings

Jürg Solothurnmann

  Ellen Christi voc
  Jürg Solothurnmann saxes, comp
  Roger Girod piano
  Tomi Hirt bass

  © Keystone / Ayse Yavas

Along with Ezra Pound, T.S.Eliot and James Joyce, Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962) is one of the leading American poets who revolutionized the poetry of the 20th century.

"He was also a Cubist painter, a champion of the little man, a brilliant conversationalist, a romantic idealist, and a famous irrational curmudgeon. Cummings loved to play with words, usually witty combinations of the learned and the colloquial, scraps from ancient and foreign languages mixed with slang and bawdy phrase; it was a dazzling linguistic agility: puns, twisted slogans, topsy- turvy proverbs, incongruous literary allusions, sometimes in dialect, sometimes in mimicry of familiar public voices - he played so many roles that it was difficult to perceive the real Cummings. But, more than just a captivating talker, Cummings had a special talent for converting his linguistic play into unique poetry structures and a style that was entirely new to poetry." (Richard S.Kennedy, Biographer)

Edward Estlin Cummings
At the end of my studies in the USA in 1974, Julia Ristea, a Romanian-American friend, gave me a litte poetry book as a goodbye present with the dedication "Cummings is a great, witty-naughty fellow. Enjoy!" Ever since, Cummings has roamed a corner of my mind and it was my dream to put some of his texts to improvisations or compositions.

I don't know if he would like today's jazz music but he sure was a related spirit who is very close to the heart-felt humor and riskiness of improvisation. I want my music to be a mirror of the ever-changing and surprising life, a celebration of all its aspects. "Alive" was Cumming's favorite expression to describe something positive, something vivid, fresh and free but also very profound. His playful mastery of language and form is an inspiration to emulating him in sound and rhythm - alive according to E.E.Cummings.

In the early 90s I felt myself mature enough to realize my dream not least because singers and vocal qualities had become increasingling important in my music. After first attempts which were completely improvised I felt the need to integrate some of the texts into written compositions or verbal concepts. I didn't care so much about stylistic identity but followed the sounds that Cummings' words triggered in my fantasy. When realizing the project I felt rather like a director of a play.

Roger Girod
Pianist, lives in Winterthur/Switzerland. He is familiar both with classical and jazz music. A careful listener and a master of instant harmonization, he has been a sensitive midwife for my project.
Thomi Hirt
Bassist, comes from Zürich and is also a member of one of my other bands, the Agasul Orchester. I admire his talent for simple and strong solutions.
Ellen Christi
Vocalist, and, Hirt and were both members of the Swiss llustrio in the 90s. Chicago born Ellen Christi who commutes between Europe and the USA, is also the founder and director of the New York City Artists' Collective. She has worked with Amercian musicians such as William Parker, Rashied Ali and Hamid Drake as well as with leading improvisers in Italy.