LIVE: Robert Pinsky with Pat LaBarbera & Todd Coolman @ Skidmore College, 6/28/10

Pat LaBarbera and Robert Pinsky
Pat LaBarbera and Robert Pinsky

What happens when the New York State Summer Writers Institute collides with the Skidmore Jazz Institute?

That’s the question that was answered on Monday night as both Skidmore College-based institutes launched their 2010 seasons with a a joint program in the Gannett Auditorium on campus.

The answer? Magic.

Billed as “An Evening of Poetry and Jazz,” former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky took the podium with Skidmore Jazz Institute faculty members (and internationally acclaimed jazz artists) Todd Coolman (bass) and Pat LaBarbera (tenor saxophone) providing musical accompaniment.

Wearing a white, short-sleeved t-shirt and jeans, Pinsky’s look and rhythmic reading – complete with dynamic phrasing, strategic accelerations, pauses and all – harked back to the ’50s and early ’60s collaborations between Beat writer Jack Kerouac and tenor saxman Zoot Sims.

Pinsky’s words masterfully rode Coolman’s earthy bass tones and danced hand-in-hand with LaBarbera’s saxophone lines. The full-house audience was glued intently to every word and every note.

Closing out the reading was the unscheduled “Rhyme,” which Pinsky chose to present at the last minute and in two distinct ways. First, he gave a standard straight ‘poetry’ reading with no accompaniment. Then he read it again, this time with Coolman and LaBarbera’s passionate sounds embracing his words.

“Hear the difference?,” Pinsky asked with a huge smile. Then he added with a wink of his eye, “When did you ever hear Bill Kennedy doing that!”

Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

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For fans of poetry readings and literature, the New York State Summer Writers Institute series continues with readings by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Charles Simic and award-winning short story writer Lydia Davis at the Davis Auditorium at Palamountain Hall, Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs at 8pm tonight. Admission is free.

Meanwhile jazz fans can enjoy a concert by the Skidmore Jazz Faculty Sextet – featuring bassist Todd Coolman, saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, pianist Bill Cunliffe, drummer Dennis Mackrel, trumpeter Bobby Shew and trombonist Curtis Fuller – at 8pm tonight at the Zankel Music Center on campus. Admission is free.

Todd Coolman
Todd Coolman

Todd Coolman, Pat LaBarbera and Robert Pinsky
Todd Coolman, Pat LaBarbera and Robert Pinsky

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