If the late Miles Davis were alive, and you could book him to appear with, say, Michael Jackson or Paul McCartney, you would draw a jazz audience and a pop audience.
According to UCSD's Prof. Quincy Troupe, this is the general idea behind Artists on the Cutting Edge IX: Cross-fertilizations Literary and Music (ACE), a seven-night series of live presentations from March 8 through April 19 at the Sherwood Auditorium of San Diego's Museum of Contemporary Art.
This year's program includes many of today's most innovative artists, including Bebe Moore Campbell, Ana Castillo, Janet Fitch, W. S. Merwin, and C. K. Williams.
"What I try to do, and what I've been doing for nine years, is bringing writers and musicians of all backgrounds ethnicities and races and styles to the same program - which is unlike what they do every place else in the United States regarding literature and music," Troupe said.
For example, the program for March 8 brings Bebe Moore Campbell (a female African-American mainstream novelist) with Michael McClure (a cutting-edge American male poet) together with René McLean.
McLean, whose father was alto-sax legend Jackie McLean, is a saxophonist and flutist who played alongside the likes of township jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela in New York City, married a South African woman and settled in Johannesburg for several years.
The 68-year-old poet and songwriter McClure, is enthusiastic about the series. "It's a neat event that somebody's taken that much care to make what they also call not only the cutting edge but also the cross-fertilization," he said. Last year he attended as a member of the audience. "It's in such a comfortable and beautiful place," he said. "It's not a grimy coffee shop. It is in a handsome building."
McClure said the unusual combination of people set people's imaginations at work and the audience was able to take much from this. "At least I did the day I went. "And I'm a fan of Quincy's anyway. I love the book he wrote about Miles Davis. And the poetry."
A survivor from San Francisco's poetry renaissance in the 1950s McClure said he is not at all tired of being asked about Janis Joplin, Jack Kerouac and the rest of the beat pantheon. He wrote the Joplin classics "Mercedes Benz" and "Trust Me," but the royalties did not buy him a Mercedes of his own.
McClure's first public reading was at the Six Gallery, a former auto repair shop in San Francisco on October 7, 1955. That was the famous occasion where Allen Ginsberg first read "Howl," poets Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen first read their work, and Jack Kerouac recalled the whole event later in his novel The Dharma Bums.
How has McClure stayed on the cutting edge so long? "That's the toughest question," McClure said before taking a couple of minutes to compose a considered reply. "Because I believe poetry is the language of a state of crisis, and that poetry comes from inspiration, and life is a crisis."
Bebe Moore Campbell will be reading from several of her six best-selling novels including What You Owe Me, a story of black and Jewish families coping with financial and emotional debts that span two generations, which is due to be published in August.
"White readers say my depiction of white characters is very fair," she said attributing the popularity of her books to her knack for creating a multi-racial cast of well-rounded, if very flawed, characters.
"She's an important writer now," Troupe said.
Prior to the performances, ACE ticket holders will be admitted to the museum galleries at 700 Prospect Street, La Jolla, to see Against Design an exhibition of artworks that blur the boundaries between art, architecture and design. The ACE programs begin at 7:30 p.m. Each will be followed by a book signing in Axline Court.
Tickets may be purchased in advance at MCA Bookstores and through Ticketmaster (619-220-TIXS). Advance purchase is strongly recommended. A 7-night ticket is $100 ($70 to members/students/seniors). Tickets to individual evenings are $17 ($12 to members/students/seniors).
For further information phone (858) 454-3541 or browse to: www.mcasandiego.org.