Night Lights Classic Jazz

Jazz And Jack Kerouac

On the Road, like many of Kerouac's other writings, celebrated and invoked the music of Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and many other jazz greats.

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Kerouac Blues and Haiku

Photo: Album cover art.

Jazz Kerouac: the novelist's work was informed by the music in ways both subtle and overt.

“Here were the children of the American bop night,” Jack Kerouac wrote in his 1957 novel On the Road, which, like many of Kerouac’s other writings, celebrated and invoked the music of Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and many other jazz greats. We’ll mark this weekend’s 50th anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s best-known book with a program that explores his relationship with jazz, including recordings he made with saxophonists Al Cohn and Zoot Sims as well as talk-show host and pianist Steve Allen, the bop that the author and his friends drew inspiration from, singer Mark Murphy’s Kerouac tributes, and an interview with musicologist-of-hip Phil Ford.

More about Jack and jazz

  • In 1959 Kerouac recorded a narration for the 26-minute film Pull My Daisy, scored by jazz musician David Amram, that featured poets Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and other members of the beat scene. You can view the film here and read an interview with Amram about Kerouac here.
  • Jazz writer Larry Kart wrote an illuminating essay years ago on Kerouac’s relationship with jazz; recently he posted it over at Organissimo.
  • Listen to music historian Sam Charters’ talk about Kerouac and jazz.
  • An NPR story about the creation of On the Road.

Here’s Kerouac reading from and discussing On the Road on The Steve Allen Show:

Music Heard On This Episode

Mexico City Blues 221: Deadbelly
Jack Kerouac/Steve Allen — The Kerouac Collection (Rhino, 1958)
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Mexico City Blues 221: Deadbelly
Jack Kerouac/Steve Allen — The Kerouac Collection (Rhino, 1958)

Notes: Originally on the LP POETRY FOR THE BEAT GENERATION.

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Mexcio City Blues 239-241: Charlie Parker
Jack Kerouac — The Kerouac Collection (Rhino, 1958)

Notes: Originally appeared on the album POETRY FOR THE BEAT GENERATION.

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Move
Charlie Parker — One Night in Birdland (Columbia, 1950)

Notes: With Bud Powell on piano, Fats Navarro on trumpet, Curley Russell on bass, Art Blakey on drums.

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Fantasy: the Early History of Bop (excerpt)
Jack Kerouac — The Kerouac Collection (Rhino, 1958)

Notes: Originally appeared on the LP THE BEAT GENERATION.

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San Francisco Scene: the Beat Generation
Jack Kerouac — The Beat Generation (Rhino, 1958)
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Blue Brew
Brew Moore — Bebop Spoken Here (Proper, 1948)
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American Haikus (excerpt)
Jack Kerouac/Al Cohn/Zoot Sims — The Kerouac Collection (Rhino, 1958)

Notes: Originally appeared on the album BLUES AND HAIKUS.

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October in the Railroad Earth
Jack Kerouac/Steve Allen — The Kerouac Collection (Rhino, 1958)

Notes: Originally appeared on the album POETRY FOR THE BEAT GENERATION.

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Pull My Daisy (excerpts)
Jack Kerouac/David Amram — Pull My Daisy

Notes: Narration by Kerouac, score by David Amram.

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Parker's Mood
Mark Murphy — Stolen...and Other Moments (32 Jazz, 1981)

Notes: Originally from the LP BOP FOR KEROUAC. Text from Kerouac's THE SUBTERRANEANS.

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On the Road (excerpt)
Jack Kerouac — Reads From On the Road (Rykodisc, 1958)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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