April is Jazz Appreciation Month. It’s also National Poetry Month.
It’s probably no coincidence the two art forms are celebrated during the same month. After all, the Harlem Renaissance gave birth to jazz poetry. The most celebrated jazz poet is Langston Hughes who collaborated with jazz musicians, including Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk.
In his 1926 essay, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” Hughes wrote:
But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America; the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul—the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.
In 1958, Hughes recorded his poem, “The Weary Blues,” over jazz composed by Mingus and Leonard Feather.
Also, check out a reading of “The Weary Blues” by Rev. Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan, a Philly native and former professor at Harvard Divinity School.