Sherman Irby’s Inferno

“Hell’s never sounded as suave and soulful as it does on Sherman Irby’s Inferno by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) with Wynton Marsalis. Irby, the lead alto saxophonist for the JLCO, cleverly interprets Dante Alighieri’s epic poem from The Divine Comedy to create a sweeping work that takes listeners on a lyrically swinging tour of the underworld’s nine circles.

“The epic composition, recorded live in 2012, lets the JLCO’s all-star improvisers give life to the colorful denizens of hell and casts the late, legendary baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley as the voice of Dante. Irby’s Inferno both stands alone as an irresistible musical narrative and sheds new light on Dante’s classic; this unique exploration of the epic poem captures its timeless quality and ingeniously places it in conversation with the jazz canon.”   —wyntonmarsalis.org

You can download the album or access it through various streaming services here.

Recorded May 19, 2012.

Released January 17, 2020.

Sherman Irby discussed his work on Inferno, his circuitous path to Dante (starting with a Divine Comedy anime!), and his plans to set all three canticles to music at the webinar “African American Interpretations of Dante’s Divine Comedy” (Oct 4, 2020).

See our previous posts on Irby’s Inferno here and here.

“A Dante-esque Limbo”: Unemployment Claims in the Wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic

“With a flood of unemployment claims continuing to overwhelm many state agencies, economists say the job losses may be far worse than government tallies indicate.

“The Labor Department said Thursday that 3.8 million workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the six-week total to 30 million. But researchers say that as the economy staggers under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of others have lost jobs but have yet to see benefits.

[. . .]

NYTimes-Coronavirus-Pandemic-Unemployment-Dante-Limbo

Photo by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times

“New York has started processing claims from gig workers and freelancers, but one of those, Seth Flicker of Brooklyn, hasn’t had any luck.

“‘Not a phone call nor an email, nothing,’ said Mr. Flicker, 52, who applied in mid-March after his work as a handyman came to a halt. ‘We are stuck with absolutely nowhere to turn,’ he said, calling his situation ‘a Dante-esque limbo.’

“Mr. Flicker was able to delay paying his electric bill without a penalty and sent a check to the phone company, but he is worried about covering May’s rent. ‘I haven’t figured it out yet,’ he said. ‘It’s nerve-racking.'”  –Nelson D. Schwartz, Tiffany Hsu, and Patricia Cohen, “Stymied in Seeking Benefits, Millions of Unemployed Go Uncounted,” The New York Times, April 30, 2020

Contributed by Martin Kavka, Florida State University

Alison Cornish and Stefano Albertini on Dantedì 2020

In recognition of the first annual Dantedì (March 25, 2020), the director of NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, Stefano Albertini, interviewed Alison Cornish, Chair of the Department of Italian Studies at NYU and Acting President of the Dante Society of America. They conducted the interview virtually, during shelter-at-home orders resulting from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on her experience teaching Purgatorio during the pandemic, Cornish comments that Purgatorio is “about community after traumatic separation” (7:34), a community that is recreated through shared cultural rites like liturgy and song, forms of virtual embrace, and collective suffering.

The interview is available to view on YouTube (last accessed April 10, 2020). The comments on Purgatorio can be heard at 6:00-15:34.

“Dante Rides Again” at Potsdam Museum

An interactive reading of Walter Noble’s translation of the Divine Comedy in Potsdam, New York, taking place on November 10, 2019.

Monster Children – The Gates of Hell

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Photo by Kealan Shilling

Rumour has it, this entrance leads to seven layers of interconnecting tunnels (the seven layers of hell) and that somewhere within them, is a room where you come face to face with Lucifer himself.

The ‘Gates of Hell,’ is a series of water runoffs and underground tunnels located in Clifton, about an hour outside of downtown Manhattan.

“We passed several dry, smaller openings and eventually we came to a larger room with three tunnels, one of which smells a bit and is marked comedically, ‘…not the gate to hell…'”    — Kealan Shilling, Monster Children, May 25, 2016

The SEC vs. Cryptocurrency: From Dante to Facebook

“The Securities and Exchange Commission, the multibillion dollar agency that safeguards investors, presently stands on the precipice of the layer Dante reserved for the indecisive. For, nearly a decade after Bitcoin burst onto the scene in 2010, there has been no concrete attempt at delineating purchaser from investor in the cryptocurrency market—indeed, it appears the agency is content to provide guidance regarding fraud and custody rather than defining products and attendant responsibilities for those soliciting funds for digital conversion.

“In the 14th century, Dante Alighieri forever shaped our vision of a retributive afterlife with his Divine Comedy. Tellingly, the first “level of hell” introduced therein was populated by those who could not decide (‘those who lived without occasion for infamy or praise’); to the celebrated Renaissance poet, those habiting the sidelines of history could hope for limbo, at best, in the final judgment.” […]    –J. Scott Colesanti, New York Law Journal, July 31, 2019

World’s Best Bar 2019: New York’s “Dante” Wins Top Spot

“New York’s Dante reached cocktail paradise tonight when it was named World’s Best Bar at the 2019 Spirited Awards in New Orleans during this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. The bar, which opened in 2015 in what was once a famous Greenwich Village coffee house, Caffe Dante, was also named Best American Restaurant Bar for the second time in three years (which, under the rules of the Spirited Awards, means it is now retired from the the category). Among the American bars, Dante beat out local competitor Gramercy Tavern, Houston’s Better Luck Tomorrow, and Louisville’s Silver Dollar.

“The awards ceremony was introduced by Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston, who just launched a mezcal called Dos Hombres with his Breaking Bad costar Aaron Paul. ‘People suggested we call it Methcal,’ Cranston joked in his welcoming remarks. Earlier in the week, the two actors were slinging drinks at New Orleans’ iconic Napoleon House and Cranston, who admitted how much more respect he now has for bartenders, confessed that he endured two non-lethal injuries during his three-hour shift—cuts on his hands from the cocktail shakers.” […]    –Karla Alindahao, Forbes, July 20, 2019

Tina Turner: By the Book

“What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?

‘In 2017, my kidneys were failing and I went through a prolonged period of dialysis. Every time I went to the clinic, I brought the same three books with me: The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra, The Divine Comedy, by Dante, and a book of photography by the extraordinary Horst P. Horst. I needed something for the spirit, something for the intellect and something for the senses, and the ritual of studying the same books while I was undergoing treatment was comforting to me because it imposed order on a situation I couldn’t otherwise control.’

“You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

‘I like a dinner party to be a lively mixture of different kinds of people — young, old and everything in between. So my first choice would be Dante — after all my years of studying The Divine Comedy, I need to ask him a lot of questions! I could be his Beatrice! Since I can’t choose between Anne Rice and Stephen King, I’d set places for both of them. Their books have kept me awake for many a night because there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good scare! And I’d definitely serve Thai food, because I like things spicy.’ ” […]    –Jillian Tamaki, The New York Times, October 18, 2018

‘Dante’s Inferno isn’t hot enough for you,’ says judge

“STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Earlier this month, Anthony Morales admitted to slaying a neighbor and her son on a Mariners Harbor street two years ago.

“But the stocky 51-year-old defendant didn’t apologize for their deaths at his sentencing on Wednesday. Instead, Morales presented himself as the victim, claiming the decedents had harassed and tormented ceaselessly over the years, had followed him to a home he owned in Pennsylvania and had ‘come looking for’ him on the day they died.

“State Supreme Court Justice Mario F. Mattei listened patiently to Morales’ rambling seven-minute monologue in his St. George courtroom packed with the victims’ distraught relatives. And when Morales finally sat down, the judge didn’t mince words or hide his disdain.” […]    –Frank Donnelly, SiLive, May 30, 2018

BenDeLaCreme’s Rising Up Into Dante’s Inferno Down Below

“I must confess, and not in a catholic kind of way, because that kind of on your knees religion has nothing to do with the uproarious show, BenDeLaCreme’s Inferno-a-Go-Go currently damning us all to hell at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in Hell’s Kitchen, naturally. But it does have a lot of a lot to say about the other kind of on-your-knees kinda praying. My confession revolves around the simple fact that I do not watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, nor have I ever heard of one of the most well known contestants, the heavenly smart and witty BenDeLaCreme, the creator/performer/writer and all around mastermind of the show.  I only came to this show because one of my best friends was sitting next to me when I got the press invite, and he squealed like an excited pig when I asked him if I ever heard of a creature called BenDeLaCreme. (I can write this statement, because I’m pretty darn sure he’ll never read this review as there are just far too many words for his liking.)” […] –Ross, Times Square Chronicles, May 25, 2018