From 1985 to 1994 Vernon Frazer committed himself to the resurgence of the poetry-music fusion through his recordings and through performances at such venues as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the Knitting Factory, Brandeis University and the University of Massachusetts. A bassist as well as a poet, Frazer combined his musical and literary talents to advance the idiom beyond the bop-oriented approach of the Beat Generation poets and their San Francisco counterparts. Employing free jazz improvisation as his musical grounding, Frazer encouraged his collaborating musicians to improvise on the text as well as the basslines, which he employed to guide the flow of the music.

Frazer performed throughout the northeastern United States, in a variety of formats: as a solo poet-bassist; in a duo with the legendary saxophonist Thomas Chapin; and with the Vernon Frazer Poetry Band, which existed from 1998 to 1993. His performing credits read like a Who’s Who of contemporary jazz, including saxophonists Chapin, John Zorn, Richard McGhee III and Kris Jensen; trombonist Steve Davis; violinist Stephen Scholz; keyboardist Steve Starger; bassists Joe Fonda and Mario Pavone; and percussionists Brian Johnson, Royal Hartigan, Bill Dobrow, Randall Colbourne and Rob Rudin.

Despite near-misses with Cadence, Evidence, Silkheart and Leo records, Frazer self-produced three recordings of poetry and music: Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike, SLAM!, and Song of Baobab. Lack of distribution didn’t prevent them from receiving consistently superlative reviews and a cult following in the international cultural underground.

The albums can be heard on YouTube at the links below.


Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike


Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike

Vernon Frazer, poetry, recitation, bass;
Thomas Chapin, saxophones, flutes, balloonophone, little instruments;
Mario Pavone, bass;
Joe Fonda, bass, electric bass;
Brian Johnson, drums, vibraharp, voice, percussion.

Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike

A Conversion (of Sorts)

Interlude 1*

Club Music


Under the Lamp at Cobalt Beach

Interlude II*


Interlude III*

An Old-Fashioned Break Dance

A hipster’s hipster

Sales Pitch of an Honest Real Estate Agent

Interlude IV*

A Slick Set of Wheels

A Lunchtime Reunion

Interlude V*

Haight Street, 1985

July 4, 1986

Interlude VI*

The End

I’ve been to too many concerts where the opening act consists of a mediocre poet back by “jazz” group. Too often the music and the poetry seem at loggerheads, having little relation to one another. The music is usually timid pointillism and if it gets too loud, the poet looks askance as if thinking, “Hey, man, it’s my show.”

This problem is not encountered on Vernon Frazer’s SEX QUEN OF THE BERLIN TURNPIKE . Part of the reason is that Frazer composed basslines over which the players improvised.

Frazer’s poems are glimpses of people, fragments of everyday life and events…When pieced together, these thirteen poems form a portrait of the landscape of urban America (Reagan’s America). They are not overtly political, but it’s hard to escape the connection if the poet has any grounding in reality. Frazer’s observations are usually right on target and the music is finely attuned to the poems.

Robert Ianoppollo





Vernon Frazer, recitation and bass
Richard McGhee III, saxophones
Stephen Scholz, violin
Brian Johnson, percussion

Demon Dance

Pilgrimage to the Big Sur Inn

B-Movie Lover

Corny Tune

The Sane


Up No Head (Take 1)

The Geometry of Intimacy

Dream Haiku

The Translator-Poet at 40

The Solo Percussionist at Thirtysomething

The Dream of Her

Two-Wolf Nightmare

Up No Head (Take 2)


Before Dawn

A Sporting Affair


Bassist-Poet Vernon Frazer’s SLAM! is a home-grown recording that is not only loaded with variety but boasts an excellent improvising ensemble and more than a smidgeon of humor. Frazer’s poetry (pr, more accurately, his recital of the poetry) takes a bit of getting used to, but is worth the effort. Stylistically, the music combines disparate elements of free jazz, folk and stream of consciousness mysticism… Overall, it’s an impressive effort. I’m eager to hear more from this impressive talent…Frazer is a creative fellow and his music deserves to be heard.

Carl Baugher


Song of Baobab


Song of Baobab

Vernon Frazer, recitation, bass, recorder with alto sax mouthpiece

Thomas Chapin, saxophone, flutes, little instruments

An Open Reading at Peter’s Pub

Post-Alarm Dreaming

Troglodyte’s Trilogy:
The Sane
Nice People
An Afternoon Break

Manna’s Manic Melody

Let Me Play

Song of Baobab

Glandular Secretions

Brother Protoplasm

Shana’s Going to Disney World

Two-Wolf Nightmare

Rarified Air

The Bathtub Admiral

The Furies

The Dinosaurs


A Tale of Two Decades


Dream Lover

Vernon Frazer’s poetry and music merger has been more successful than most. Perhaps it’s because as a bassist (amateur by his own admission) he understands the music better than most. HIs two previous releases have received favorable reviews for the same reason.

His latest is a series of duets with long-time cohort Thomas Chapin. Chapin was a presence on Frazer’s 1988 release Sex Queen of the Berlin Turnpike and Chapin’s Menagerie Dreams featured a lengthy track with a recitation by Frazer.

Frazer’s poetry consists of barbed, trenchant observations of America at the end of the century. A poetry reading of poseurs inspires the hilariously nasty “An Open Reading at Peter’s Pub.” “A Tale of Two Decades” tells of two veterans holding court at a bar twenty years apart. “The Troglodyte’s Trilogy” takes aim at the sane, nice people whose condescension disguised as pleasantries belies their true motives. “Shana’s Going to Disney world” is a heartfelt poem colored by his mother’s dying from Cancer. Although Frazer’s reading style can be strident and in your face, it’s what his poetry demands. And, there’s a lot of humor which tempers what could merely be one man’s harangue.

Besides, there are two voices at work here. Chapin’s accompaniment is spot on. He seems very familiar with the texts. His split second reactions attest to this. Occasionally he sounds like a second reading voice. Chapin has emerged as one of the best saxophonist of the decade and this is as good a place as any to hear why.

Robert Iannapollo