(Namaya Production, CD)
Vermont’s picturesque beauty and the serenity found by those who live among its splendor (at least before Irene) have provided no shortage of inspiration for artistic endeavors. But rarely have those expressions taken a form quite like that of Vermont My Home: A Celebration, the new album from local jazz poet, songwriter, multimedia artist, playwright and storyteller T. Namaya. Equal parts open love letter and beatnik word jam, the record documents one man’s search for peace in a world gone mad. Not to play spoiler, but much as Dorothy needed only to click her heels together and wish to find her way back to Kansas, Namaya’s quest for tranquility ultimately ends where it began: home. But it’s quite the journey all the same.
Namaya is a world-traveling performance artist who has plied his trade in nearly every corner of the globe. He’s penned a number of plays that have run in New York City, Boston and beyond, and has a new work called Four Prophets — which answers the question of what might happen should Jesus, Satan, Muhammad and Moses meet in a public restroom — that is set to run this year. But for all his travels and experiences, Namaya has rustically fashioned himself as the Bard of Blue Heron Pond. And it is there his latest trek begins.
“Blue Heron” opens with a flutter of birdsong against a dawning swell of strings, evoking daybreak over the pond. Jon Simpson wrote and produced Namaya’s accompaniment here and throughout the record, and ably matches the bard’s new-age by-way-of-Walden-Pond aesthetic. Namaya proves a capable latter-day Thoreau as he greets the listener in a rich baritone, speaking the opening lines, “Blue Heron Pond / Love song for the earth / Welcome.”
A jaded observer might bristle at the Bard’s earnest musings. But there is artfulness here, too, albeit oft cloaked in middling new-age pseudo-philosophy — as on the second track, “Gaia,” for example. But as Namaya allows his mind to wander, cliché musings about natural beauty give way to more worldly observations. On “Fire Inspires Memory,” you can almost picture Namaya brooding over a campfire — though that may have something to do with the crackling-fire sound effect over which he performs the piece. Nevertheless, his ruminations here are sharp and poignant, as they are in numerous instances later in the album. In particular, “Midnight on the Pond,” “Peak Colors” and “Narcissus Unbound” strike a balance between impassioned enthusiasm and tactful storytelling. And “Ice Skating with Li Pon” — a poem about skating with monks set to a bizarro Vince Guaraldi-like score — is a pure joy.
T. Namaya’s Vermont My Home: A Celebration is available at vermontpoet.com.