These principal writers in various ways all tried to capture something of the flavor of jazz. Certainly Ginsberg and Kerouac. Kerouac wanted to write lines of prose or poetry that captured something of, say, the saxophonist art. He was interested in extemporization; he was interested in improvisation. And when he heard figures like Lester Young, Thelonius Monk, and so on, he had this idea that if he could write lines that felt like the one long breath of an improvising saxophonist, he was capturing something very special.
–Beat scholar Simon Warner on WBEZ’s Sound Opinions podcast, talking about jazz’s influence on the writers of the Beat Generation. See more podcast picks.
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