Jack Kerouac’s Musical Side Celebrated on His Centennial With Help From His Friend, 91-Year-Old Pioneer David Amram

Jack Kerouac’s Musical Side Celebrated on His Centennial With Help From His Friend, 91-Year-Old Pioneer David Amram

Latin Jazz pro Bobby Sanabria led an diverse band through an evening full of mambo-bop as part The Village Trip festival.

David Amram

David Amram attends Remembering Jonas: A Tribute To Jonas Mekas at City Winery on February 21, 2019 in New York City.

Steven Ferdman/GI

A Friday (Sept. 16) concert at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan was centered around 100 years of Beat Generation writer/poet Jack Kerouac, but the more mind-boggling number at hand that night was 65; it had been that many years since one of the night’s performers, David Amram, pioneered improvisational jazz poetry at an art gallery just blocks away back in 1957 alongside the On the Road author. And even though more years have passed in the interim than Kerouac spent on earth, the 91-year-old Amram remains agile on everything from the piano to the pan flute while effortlessly scatting out witty bon mots at the drop of a hat.

Alongside Latin jazz maestro Bobby Sanabria, Amram was toasting the legacy of his late friend and collaborator as part of The Village Trip, an annual festival celebrating the rich cultural and musical legacy of NYC’s Greenwich Village. The festival is now a two-week affair and runs from Sept. 10-25.) On Friday night, Joe’s Pub felt less like a legacy and more alive. Children of the American Bop (and Mambo!) was the title of the concert. Night was a lively, fluid, and breathing dose from Charlie Parker-style mambo and bebop music (think the Titos and Puente), which fuelled the beats of the Beat Generation’s scribes, Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Band leader Sanabria played drums, and Amram switched between the piano, bongos, and the pennywhistle. The main band, which included Amram’s son Adam on percussion, was joined by Jennifer Jade Ledesna, a Bronx native, whose powerful vocals and lithe dancing commanded attention during the mambo numbers. Also, Antoinette Montague, a Newark, N.J.-raised jazz and blues singer whose pipes were s de la Fuente who sang the music that Kerouac loved, and in English and Spanish lyrics, while Marcos de la Fuente performed the band played the music Kerouac loved.

“Shakespeare said that ‘brevity was the soul of wit’. / At the end of the show, Amram sounded a joking tune. (In a strange coincidence, Turner Classic Movies began airing 1961’s Splendor in the Grass soon after the performance wrapped, which features a score from Amram – so in a sense, his music played on into the evening long after he left the stage.)

It’s far from over for The Village Trip, which extends another week and includes numerous musical happenings. There are two concert salutes to Phil Ochs (Sept. 18 & 21), an evening of music from Charlie Parker and Stefan Wolpe (Sept. 22), a celebration of Philip Glass at 85 (Sept. 23) and plenty more.

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