Dottie Grossman listened to music, and she wrote poetry, and she combined her poetry with music, and her poetry was music. She died Sunday.
Those of you who attend L.A. avant/jazz shows all knew Dottie and her gruff love, because she was always out supporting, and performing herself (gigging regularly with Michael Vlatkovich and Rich West as Call & Response right up to lately), wheelchair no obstacle the last few years. I've been communicating with her since the 1980s sometime.
So I thought I'd share a few words of hers.
From a MetalJazz "self-review":
"With specific reference to my own art, which is poetry, I know that probably the most important standard I have is that it has to be honest. Don't ask me to define that, though. I just know whether what I've written is in my own voice, and I can, as the saying goes, spot a phony a mile off. And there has to be rhythm. Not rhyme, rhythm. I'm a big fan of the popular song, and I absorbed its form as I was growing up. I was a great radio listener. Didn't have TV until I was a teenager, so I had a long time to learn many of the great American standard tunes -- which, incidentally, made the transition to appreciating jazz very organic for me, when I met my husband, who played jazz piano. [She's talking about the influential Richard Grossman.]
"I heard somebody in the audience audibly sighing, rather loudly, after I read something that particularly moved her. It was kind of funny, but it was very genuine, too, and that made the performance successful for me. I like it when I can hear the audience. Otherwise, in the immortal words of Lenny Bruce, 'It's an oil painting!' "
After the March Sunday Evening Concerts 20th-anniversary concert, where she did Call & Response with about 30 improvisers:
"I enjoyed having that great band! What a hoot! I am always grateful to be a part of that musical community. Such good and talented people."
From an e-mail last December:
"A drunk asked me for a cigarette and told me, 'I like to see old-timers like you still smoking.' Didn't 'old-timer' used to be reserved for males? Is this some of that nasty women's new freedom I've been hearing about?"
Since we were on the subject of geezerhood, I told Dottie I hoped she would live as long as she wanted to. She said thanks for that.
In 2010, Dottie was awarded the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize for poetry. She even got $5,000 along with it. Shortly before that, somebody from Poland contacted her about anthologizing a few of her poems. Both times, she was surprised. She shouldn't have been.
Read Mark Weber's tribute and post comments here.
LATER NOTE: I have altered the year of Dottie's birth to 1937 in accordance with her friend Richard Meltzer's understanding.