Dryads and Satyrs
dance with merry pranksters,
nomads and martyrs
as if we were back in Woodstock
watching some Isadora
searching for sons of aurora.
By looking at that first piece, "Satyrs and Dryads", one gets the sense of the poet's work - its stretch between the Beat and the classical world of words - and what Knowles is up against. She tackles this by elongating alternate phrases and rushing others to accommodate the rhythm, stretching the first, third and fifth lines to match the length of the lines that follow. Only a jazz singer could accommodate such liquid swoops and liberties in diction (at one point she bleats "Ber-er-er-er-kley Hills" like Miles sputtering "Funny Valentine").
I hear from many jazz listeners that the problem with such singing for them is that its strength - its novel unorthodoxy - ends up consuming its own tale. While I can understand the point of view, Knowles shouldn't have to - she's doing her thing and doing it well. When the musicians do their part as well and the disc achieves a textured pulse - as on the hilarious radio ready "Shot Down", the beautiful ballad "Mirage" or the spacious "Incantation" - Thirteen Kinds jars the usual jazz vocal patterns. If you like your eclecticism timid and in small doses, then don't go here. But if you're sick of the same old song, climb aboard and set sail.