Even though he is an expatriate, John Sinclair should be declared a national treasure. He’s a poet, historian and musicologist who, instead of publishing his research and findings, declaims them in the oral tradition with music. His latest works revisits themes he has worked with before and also adds several new poems and interpretations to his work. Let’s Go Get ‘Em features odes to friends and loved ones, whether it is remembering an evening with a lover who whistles Charles Mingus’ “Moanin’” or professing thanks and love to another with a reference to the Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four.” There are also several political pieces here, including his reworking of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ United Nations’ speech “Smells like Sulfur.” The music has a great groove that simmers and occasionally boils over, whether in the acid rock taste of “Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky” or the deep mellow spice of his dedication to Mardi Gras Indians, “We Love Big Chief.”
Honoring the Local Gods is a live recording containing songs/ poems dedicated to two of Sinclair’s heroes and muses, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. Over harder, free-er jazz, Sinclair’s deliberate and raspy cadence details his experiences hearing Trane with visceral images of “hearing saxophones inside his meat” and “getting up from a chair and walking smack into a post after 45 minutes of (drummer) Elvin Jones.” The Monk poems are excellent in explaining details of Monk’s eccentricity and how his genius manifested itself in his music.
As art and as a history, Sinclair’s poetry with music is captivating, stimulating and educational. He is passing the legends and myths of American music and radical politics to the next generation. Honoring the local gods? Yes indeed.
FATTENING FROGS FOR SNAKES 2011