John Pietaro wrote this review, included in the April issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

The tendency of poets to break out of the two- dimensional boundary is often seen as a post-War phenomenon, yet poetry was oral long before written language emerged. The African-American jazz tradition, begotten from a brutal melding of divergent cultures, cast a certain boundlessness. The music’s central swing and bop allows the poet to emote and embellish with shifts in meter, stress, dynamic, repetition and surely through improvisation.

The fusing of verse and music is exhibited quite classically on The Poetry of Jazz. This encounter pairs Philip Levine, Pulitzer Prize recipient and U.S. Poet Laureate, with alto saxophonist and composer Benjamin Boone. The two collaborated while teaching at Cal State, the latter a musician constantly drawn to words and the former a perpetual jazz fan who grew up with the music. The album was recorded in 2012, three years before Levine’s death, documenting the moment and the movement. The poetry flows through Levine’s lips most fluidly. Of special note are homages to jazz heroes backed by charts embracing the honorees and poet alike.

The album opens with the poet’s musings on drinking gin in youth and its symbolism of adulthood’s challenges. Boone’s music effortlessly captures the vibe of the late ‘40s-early ‘50s, particularly the West Coast sounds. Arrangements are clean, sumptuous and driving and the album boasts an array of musicians including Greg Osby and Tom Harrell (on a gorgeous piece dedicated to Clifford Brown). Karen Marguth’s vocalization tops off the melody on two cuts recreating the era anew. Oh, this is hip.

But on “Making Light”, Levine calls on “the blue light like no other”, describing summer in the west within a cool waltz that ends abruptly, only to land upon “The Unknowable”, a piece dedicated to Sonny Rollins’ quest for a higher musical truth on the Williamsburg Bridge. “Singing through the cables of the bridge that were his home,” recites Levine as Chris Potter’s tenor obbligato becomes a solo flight and the poet wonders “how he knew it was time to inhabit the voice of the air.” While most of the journey is a celebratory exercise of Levine’s poetry of (and through) jazz itself, the album closes with a somber recollection of “What Work Is”, here the struggle for dignity among the unemployed in painful expectance and those lost in toil.

Read more thoughtful reviews like this one at NYC Jazz Record

Karen is among a stellar cadre of special guests on “The Poetry of Jazz,” a collaboration between saxophonist Benjamin Boone and the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Philip Levine, due March 16 from Origin Records.

Along with Karen, other guests on this album include Chris Potter, Tom Harrell, Greg Osby, and Branford Marsalis.

Long fascinated by the inherent musicality of the spoken word, saxophonist/composer Benjamin Boone crossed paths with the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Philip Levine as fellow professors at California State University, Fresno, and they ended up working closely together in the three years before Levine’s death in 2015. Boone and Levine’s “The Poetry of Jazz,” which features performances by several special guests, captures a genre-expanding partnership unlike anything else in the jazz canon.

Boone is heralded as a performer and composer in both jazz and new music circles. His compositions have been heard in 29 countries and on more than 25 albums and have been the subject of multiple national broadcasts on NPR. He conducted musical research in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova as a Fulbright Senior Specialist Fellow and is currently spending a year in Ghana performing and composing with African musicians as a Fulbright Scholar.

The video trailer, below, includes excerpts from the album:

Learn more about Ben Boone, and this project, at Ben’s website.’s George Harris has compiled the ‘Best of 2016’ lists of several jazz journalists, and Karen’s album “Just You, Just Me” appears on the list of DownBeat’s John McDonough.

Here is McDonough’s complete list:

Count Basie-Lester Young: 1936-47 (Mosaic)
Bill Charlap trio: Notes from New York (Impulse!)
Miles Davis: Freedom Dance (Columbia) [for the session rehearsals]
Sonny Rollins: Holding the stage
Fred Hersch: Sarabande (Sunnyside)
Ella Fitzgerald: JATP sessions (Verve)
Accordi Disccordi Trio: Bouncing Vibes [Hot Club of France stylings]
Kenny Barron: Book of Intuition (Impulse!)
Benny Golson: Horizon Ahead (High Note)
Dick Hyman: House of Pianos (Arbors)
Mary Halvorson: Away with You (Firehouse)
Chuck Israels Orch: Garden of Delights (Dot Time)
Nathan Zaporski: Live Recitation (ZGR)
Karen Marguth: Just You Just Me (Wayfare)
Jane Monheit: Ella Songbook Sessions (Emerald City)
Marlene Verplanck: The Mood I’m In (Audiophile)
Houston Person-Ron Carter: Chemistry (High Note)
Scott Hamilton-Jeff Hamilton: Live in Bern (Capri)

For a peek at all the lists, visit Jazz Weekly

Since moving to the Bay Area, Karen has had the opportunity to work with educator, composer, and arranger Matt Finders. Recently he invited her to sing on this recording of his arrangement of the Charlie Chaplin tune, “Smile,” in Berkeley’s Fantasy Studio.

Featured are Matt Finders on bass, Danny Janklow on sax, Matt Clark on piano, and Kelly Fasman on drums.

Matt Finders spent 17 years as a member of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno Band (on trombone). During that period, Matt started his Jazz Labb programs to keep his students playing during the summer. On the Tonight Show, Matt wrote over 400 arrangements for the band and continues to write for the Jazz Labb groups and school bands which he leads. Besides local instruction, Matt works as a guest clinician/adjudicator.

Highlights of his career include:

Benny Goodman Big Band, 1985-86
Bob Mintzer Big Band, 1987-1992
Mel Lewis Big Band, 1983-1989
Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band, 1983-1992
Buck Clayton Big Band, 1988-1992
Natalie Cole, 1991
Harry Connick Jr. 1990
Marian and Jimmy McPartland, 1989-90
Clark Terry Big Bad Band, 1981
Blood, Sweat and Tears, 1987
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno Band, 1992-2009
Bill Holman Big Band, 2007-2010
Woody Herman Big Band, 2008-2010
Count Basie Orchestra, 2008
Jack Sheldon Big Band, 2003-2008
Bill Cunliffe Sextet, 2000-2010
Michael Bublé, 2000
Pancho Sanchez, 1996

Broadway: Cats, My One And Only, The Tap Dance Kid, Starlight Express, Secret Garden, Rags, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Anything Goes, 42nd Street, Grand Hotel

Matt Finders

Matt Finders

Karen will perform on February 25, 2017, at The Sound Room, in Oakland, California. Joining her will be Matt Finders on bass, David Aus on piano, Brian Hamada on drums, and Guido Fazio on reeds. The evening’s setlists will include tunes from Karen’s upcoming release, including originals and new arrangements not yet performed for a live audience.

Oakland's Home of Bay Area Jazz and Arts (BAJA), The Sound Room

Oakland’s Home of Bay Area Jazz and Arts (BAJA), The Sound Room

This Oakland spot is home to Bay Area Jazz and Arts (BAJA), a nonprofit dedicated to fostering music through educational programs and intimate performances. The Sound Room is all about the music, where audiences can get up close and personal with musicians in their Friday and Saturday shows and enjoy the affordable pricing, drinks, art and snacks at this cozy jazz destination.

Truly a listening room, where all ages are welcomed, BAJA and The Sound Room exist to present great music and promote jazz as an art form. They sponsor many jazz programs for kids and highlight young talent with a free concert on most 1st Fridays.

Tickets are available at Tickets

The Sound Room is located at 2147 Broadway (at 22nd), Oakland; 415-994-3501

The Sound Room is located at 2147 Broadway (at 22nd), Oakland; 415-994-3501