American Dream on some Best of 2009 lists such as George Grella’s…

Now pianist Frank Carlberg has also made jazz out of Creeley’s poetry, and the result is the tremendous “American Dream.” Carlberg doesn’t shrink from the poems, and Creeley’s lines are tougher than leather. The very first sound is vocalist Christine Correa’s wail, as gripping as anything since John Vicker’s sang “Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!” at Covent Garden. Carlberg’s band, with Chris Cheek on tenor sax, John Hebert playing bass and Michael Sarin on drums, has some qualities of Keith Jarrett’s great European quartet, but with an extra toughness to their grooves and a tastier blues/rock filling. His settings of the text are excellent, turning the lines of poetry into real songs with harmonies and contrapuntal material that give the musicians a lot of ideas to work with. The star is Correa, her powerful and expressive singing dominates the record. Her full-throated voice demands attention and her musical sense and diction convey both the text and a plangent sense of meaning. She colors the phrases and notes with the details of real thoughts – the way she clips ‘out there’ into ‘out! . . . there . . . ;’ the joy of ‘we get crazy but we have fun,’ the rueful hope of ‘no more war, dear brother’ – that show she has command of not just the notes but the meanings. The connection to Lacy’s music is mostly subtle, but clear, important and welcome. Lacy was enormously admired but so individual that his practical influence on jazz has been slight. Carlberg has his own way of setting the same poet, his lines are longer and more lyrical, but the roar in the vocals triggers immediate memories of Lacy’s wife Irene Aebi wailing out on his great live set, “The Way,” and the tune for ‘Fat Fate’ could be heard as a fast variation on Lacy’s lovely ‘Napping.’ “American Dream” is a model of what jazz and poetry can achieve together, and is one of the finest jazz records of this decade. Tough, beautiful, driving and moving, it is urgently recommended.