I was surprised to see that the liner notes for the recent solo album by Metric singer Emily Haines—who plays tonight at the Lakeshore—were written by the great British songwriter and singer Robert Wyatt, a one-time member of Soft Machine and a solo artist of rare sensitivity, intelligence, and beauty. Even though I wasn’t particularly impressed by the record, who was I to doubt Wyatt’s endorsement? Things made more sense after reading this profile of Haines by Greg Kot. Her father was poet Paul Haines, an excellent, whimsical writer who also happened to be a huge jazz fan. He collaborated with a number of great artists, most famously writing the libretto for Carla Bley‘s classic Escalator Over the Hill. Nearly two decades later the fine jazz-rock group Curlew set some of his words to music on the sadly out-of-print A Beautiful Western Saddle, with vocals by Seattle new music figure Amy Denio. Around the same time American Clave Records released a stunning 2CD set called Darn It! that showed the affinity jazz and new music artists felt for Haines’s writing. Among the contributors were Evan Parker, John Tchicai, Derek Bailey, Paul Bley, Andrew Cyrille, Cream’s Jack Bruce, and DNA’s Tim Wright.
Haines was a staunch supporter of free jazz in the 60s and wrote plenty of essays explaining his love of the music, although I’ve never had the privilege to read these pieces. Some of them are to be featured in a forthcoming anthology called Word Music, which looks to be essential. I had the pleasure of meeting Haines during a jazz festival in Istanbul in 2001 and he was nothing short of delightful and provocative; his humorous, insightful anecdotes, much like his poetry, came in the form of terse, playful torrents. Even this letter to the editor of the New York Times comes off that way. Maybe I need to go back and listen to that Emily Haines record again—she sure has good genes.