Indianapolis Museum of Art (Pulliam Great Hall), June 26
Wreathed in an eye-catching necklace of tinkling metal, energetic and inventive after 77 years of life and creativity, accomplished on keys, woodwinds and brass alike, David Amram is an absolute delight to watch, as fine a storyteller as a musician and the perfect choice for the opening concert to the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s summer-long exhibition of Jack Kerouac’s scroll for On the Road.
Ably accompanied by Frank Smith on bass and Kenny Phelps on drums, Amram led his pickup trio through jazz standards, his own compositions and readings from On the Road presented by a cast of six (Tom Healy, Jim Walker, Audrey Sprenger, Norbert Krapf, John Clark and JL Kato). The trio’s performance on Amram’s title song for Robert Frank’s 1959 documentary Pull My Daisy was a highlight. The piece couldn’t have been more relevant to the exhibit: Kerouac narrated the film and wrote the lyrics to the tune with Neal Cassady, and Frank’s photos from his book The Americans are hanging alongside the scroll.
Amram, who freestyle raps with speed, intelligence and whimsy, threw off a whirlwind history of Kerouac, the scroll and himself in rhyme, emphasizing his own travels to Indianapolis in the early ’50s to play in the great Indiana Avenue jazz clubs of that era. Plus, the tune featured one of Amram’s many great lines of the night: “In the interest of good taste and spontaneity, let’s all pull our daisies.” Shall we?