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Ken Nordine

spoken word jazz poetry word jazz cool

Ken Nordine (January 1920) is an American voiceover and recording artist.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Ken Nordine is the son of an architect. He attended Lane Technical College Prep High School (Chicago) and the University of Chicago. He has three sons with his wife Beryl whom he married in 1946.

Nordine's deep, resonant voice has been featured on many commercial advertisements. One critic wrote that "you may not know Ken Nordine by name or face, but you'll almost certainly recognize his voice."

He initially attracted attention when he recorded the aural vignettes on Word Jazz on Dot in 1957. Word Jazz, Son of Word Jazz (Dot, 1958) and his other albums in this vein feature Nordine's narration over a cool jazz background. He began performing and recording such albums at the peak of the beat movement and was associated with the poetry-and-jazz movement. Regarded by some as an original hipster, Nordine's "writings are more akin to Franz Kafka or Edgar Allan Poe" than to other beats. Many of his word jazz tracks feature critiques of societal norms, while some reveal dark, paranoid undercurrents and bizarre, dream-like scenarios.

Nordine was Linda Blair's vocal coach for her role in The Exorcist, and Word Jazz inspired Tom Waits' spooky, spoken word-type pieces, such as "9th and Hennepin" and "Frank's Wild Years" and "What's He Building?"

Nordine's past radio series were Now Nordine and Word Jazz. He currently hosts a weekly radio program and maintains residences in Chicago, Illinois and Spread Eagle, Wisconsin.

On television, Nordine did a series of readings on a show titled Faces in the Window, and Fred Astaire danced to Nordine's "My Baby" on a TV special.

It should be further noted that not only has Ken inspired artists the likes of Tom Waits, but he has recorded with them as well. Like Waits, he has recorded and performed with Jerry Garcia, The Dead, Lori Anderson and Howard Levy. He has also been invited to perform at the "Highline Festival" in NYC (May 07) by David Bowie.

Another interesting aspect of Nordine's life is how his art is continually evolving. He has currently created a new series of impressionistic, "State of the Art" computer graphic pieces that are interlaced with his Word Jazz. Some examples of his new creations can be seen on UTube or on his website at Wordjazz.com.


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