The primary objects of study in Anthony Reed’s powerful book Soundworks are “phonopoems,” recorded collaborations between poets and improvising musicians through the long Black Arts era. This fact alone marks Soundworks as a critical contribution to music, jazz, and Black studies in particular, given both the importance of the figures Reed studies and their relative absence from our most dominant jazz histories. That is, while the Black avant-garde as a whole is often invisibilized as a consequence of jazz’s institutionalization into what Tracy McMullen helpfully terms its “museum” and “memory” cultures, it is perhaps not too strong to claim that, more than any aspect of this history, no one has quite known how to deal with the otherworldly poetic collaborations Reed asks us to listen with throughout Soundworks. As opposed to many of the ways that such work has been dismissed as simplistic or utopic formulations of a Black...

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