"Melodic Recollections of Notable Musicians: Stories from the Stacks" Reuben Jackson on VPR
Reuben Jackson discusses his twenty years working for the Smithsonian's Duke Ellington Collection in this hour long talk he gave over the Vermont Public Radio Airwaves in 2013.
"This isn’t HBO so I won’t go into any of the funny things I may have seen."
Reuben Jackson thinks that hindsight is kind of funny, though in a disruptive way. That once you reconnect with a person you once were, you often end up not as smooth and contiguous a person as you once thought. In his talk on VPR, Reuben alludes to the Superman TV series, saying "you know the old superman show where Jimmy Olson would be under some spell and he’d walk out onto a ledge to rescue Lois, and then Perry White would say “Jimmy that was really bold of you to have done that” and Jimmy says 'I did what any'…and faints." That is Reuben Jackson's hindsight.
"People would ask 'did you really do that or meet so and so? Did you really spend two weeks in Woody Herman’s daughter’s garage rummaging through things?' and I go 'Jeepers Mr. White...'"
In "Melodic Recollections of Notable Musicians" Reuben spends an hour recalling his adventures and misadventures as curator of the Smithsonian's Ellington collection. His recollections are sharp, tactile, and meticulously told all while maintaining the interesting discursiveness one would expect from a storyteller recalling not just memorized tales but the person they once were. Over the talk, the jazz music fan is bound to recognize many famous names, but, for my money, the joy of the talk is not so much found in learning anecdotes about one's favorite musicians, but in hearing the man who remembers them. For anyone interested in knowing more about Reuben Jackson and the immense jazz influence in his poetry, this is the place to start.
Reuben Jackson served as curator of the Smithsonian’s Duke Ellington Collection in Washington, D.C. for over twenty years. His music reviews have been published in the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Jazz Times, and on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Jackson is also an educator and mentor with The Young Writers Project. He taught poetry for 11 years at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland and taught high school for two years in Burlington, Vermont. He is also a founding member of the New Music-Theatre workshop and currently works for the organization as a librettist. His poems have been published in over 40 anthologies; his first volume is fingering the keys, which Joseph Brodsky picked for the Columbia Book Award. Reuben Jackson is currently an archivist with the University of the District of Columbia’s Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives. From 2013 until 2018, he was host of Friday Night Jazz on Vermont Public Radio.
“Reuben Jackson’s marvelous poems map the poles between ode and lamentation, politics and intimacy, sagacity and audacity. He writes for everyday neighbors, folkloric brothers, and imaginary sisters. He writes for Trayvon Martin as well as Frank Sinatra. He nimbly charts the broad spectrum of our lives and loves. I have admired Reuben Jackson’s work for over twenty years. Scattered Clouds will alert old and new poetry fans to his fine, abiding talent.”
—Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin