Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Beat Goes On - Café Lento

Sophie White writes:

There was a cosy atmosphere at Café Lento on Friday night, when all the hippest cats of Headingley, armed with berets and black turtlenecks, gathered to celebrate the legacy of the Beat Generation.

Chris Goostrey and Richard Lindley (MC)
The Sam Dunn Quartet supplied the groovy beats, with Sam Dunn on guitar, Garry Jackson on bass, Steve Hanley on drums and Sophie Smith providing vocals. The lively and unpredictable melodies filled the café, and when paired with Smith’s mellow yet nimble style, immediately transported the audience to a smoky downtown jazz bar.

The literary section of the event began when café owner and jazz devotee Richard Lindley played a rare recording of Jack Kerouac recalling the New York beatnik scene, where spirituality collided with jazz and poetry. Kerouac’s vivid descriptions of the music and atmosphere of 1950s New York set the tone for the evening to come.

As the last notes of jazz rang out into the café, Richard Wilcocks took his place for the first reading, Marriage by Gregory Corso, a poem about the fear of “marrying a girl who was like my mother”. Corso, one of the youngest Beat writers, described by Allen Ginsberg as the ‘awakener of youth’ is known for his humour and spontaneity. Later in the evening, Richard returned to perform a second reading, Sunflower Sutra by Allen Ginsberg: an ode to the beauty and spirituality lost in the modern age

Sophie White

Sally Bavage performed her own selection of poetry, the first Underwear by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who is widely regarded as the father-figure of the beat generation and co-founder of the famous City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco. Sally then provided a refreshing, but often neglected, feminist perspective of the Beat generation with a poem by Diane di Prima. Song for Baby-O, Unborn reflects di Prima’s attempts to reconcile her artistic sensibility with motherhood.

The combination of jazz and beat poetry, in the intimate setting of Café Lento, resulted in a fantastic evening enjoyed by whole audience, with not a square to be seen!. Through events like this, the free-thinking and radical spirit of the Beats will live on in the next generations.

Vince Mihill writes:
Sam Dunn Quartet
This was a great idea and I say that as an unashamed Beat generation acolyte. It was a combination of jazz from Sam Dunn Quartet who played a proficient if not unusual selection of standard jazz numbers apart from a rad reworking of a Stevie Wonder song to finish with. They were joined by Londoner Sophie Smith who has a great voice and feel for jazz with plenty of jazzy facial expressionism. The young drummer is exceptional and effortless but the band are carried by their virtuoso guitarist. Jazz isn’t my bag although I know the Beats adored it, particularly Charlie Parker. This setting does at moments capture essences of that beat scene but isn’t like the frenzied sweat-drenched clubs back then. Not being an afficionado I will attempt to describe some jazz feelings from seeing this band.
They begin with a light number, the spirals of your mind, light airy spacey sound - the Star Trek episode where Spock plays his lyre unexpectedly in the Enterprise canteen springs to mind. It's an intimate atmosphere and the crowd, principally from North Leeds, laps it up. Twists and flourishes within the music are applauded like goals in football. It can appear pretentious. Sophie reminds me of a combination of Sade, Rumer and Norah Jones. So this is all very well but what about the beat aspect? Where are the angel-headed hipsters, the finest minds of a generation amidst the collection of comedy berets?
Richard Wilcocks
The most emotive part of the evening is when the MC plays a Jack Kerouac speech that he made about the beat generation of which he was the unelected leader. His enunciation is perfect and his unbridled enthusiasm for jazz, life, etc really comes across before years of drink took their toll. He pronounces beat like “be-at”. Richard Wilcocks from LitFest reads out Marriage by Italo-American poet Gregory Corso from 1958 when aged just 19. It is really well read and it's an evocative piece. I like the term 'Reichian wife'. His enunciation is superb and really gets to the spirit. I would’ve done a good job of reading out I feel. He ends with Ginsberg’s Sunflower Sutra. This is another stand-out poem with really strident language using a vocal technique called vocalise. The poetry is better than the jazz but there is a great atmosphere around the place despite its tiny size.


Audience Comments
Very good combo of music and complementary poetry, lovely venue, manic entertaining host!

First beat poetry reading I've seen live. Fantastic following, first reading (illegible) this summer and then Gary Snyder. Thanks!

Very free! Great jazz and very good to hear the beat poetry – the sense it's still radical saves it from nostalgia.

Sally Bavage
It was an amazing atmosphere to enjoy the jazz! I've never experienced the jazz (illegible). Superb! Café Lento's owner has been hosted very lucidly. Thank you. Unfortunately, the way to hear the poetry sound was a bit strong?

Atmospheric, an interesting reconstruction of 1950s beat culture. Some of the audience appeared to be reliving their real or imagined youth. The event suited the intimate atmosphere of Café Lento. There was a nice and relaxing atmosphere.

Loved, thoroughly loved the jazz!! Beautiful poetry but would have found me with a bigger smile if you'd read 'The Green Automobile' (Ed. By Allen Ginsberg). Well, there's always next time, I hope.

Seriously cool poetry and groovy beats


I am very glad that Headingley LitFest supports events like this at venues like Lento. Keeping alive awareness of cultural threads such as the Beats who were very influential. Very good!

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