Different art forms traditionally feed off each other. The performance 10 days ago at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium by Chick Corea and the reformed Elektric Band was, among other things, a reminder that jazz and literature can have occasional fruitful exchanges. It's a moot point, mind you, whether L. Ron Hubbard's science fiction can be regarded as literature in any particularly elevated sense of the term. I certainly wouldn't want to try to make the case for it, but Corea regards the architect of Scientology and its mountain of associated claptrap as 'a model artist, because to me his fiction writing is on the level of fine art'. This isn't the place to dispute that, and I'll leave aside the question of how and why creative and otherwise intelligent people such as Corea are prevailed on to take Scientology seriously. He and the band gave a strong performance of To the Stars - the music from his current CD, based on the Hubbard novel of the same name. It's been described as 'like speeded-up Bach', although I'm not sure what Johann Sebastian would have made of the curiously dated-sounding electronic effects used to suggest space travel. Still, I suspect it's better than the book. What struck me as interesting, though, was not what Corea saw in that particular novel, but his observation that he felt his best work was based on 'a theme, or a structure, or a location' and that using a literary form as a starting point got him going as a composer. 'I have these works of art that I'm in love with to give me inspiration and a theme for tone poems,' he says. 'It's something I'm really into.' Hearing To the Stars set me thinking about other examples of works of literature that have inspired jazz musicians. There are quite a few. Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn based the 1957 jazz suite Such Sweet Thunder on Shakespeare's plays and poetry, and John Dankworth set the Bard's sonnets to music for his wife, Cleo Laine, on the album Shakespeare and all That Jazz. Several other poets have also received the Dankworth treatment, including T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and Ralph Hodgson, but he has a particular penchant for swinging the Swan of Avon. 'John likes to set Shakespeare,' Laine said recently. 'Shakespeare can't argue with him.' There's probably something to be said for the relative ease of collaborating with dead poets over living ones. British composer Mike Westbrook has produced some memorable settings of William Blake's poetry without having to deal with that unpredictable genius directly, although he did have the assistance of Liverpool poet Adrian Mitchell in devising the settings. In Britain during the 1950s and early 60s there was a considerable dialogue between jazz and poetry, with poets reading their work between - and even during - improvisations. Not all jazz lovers - or, come to that, poetry fans - enjoyed or approved of this, but at least one memorable collaboration resulted. One of the poets was Pete Brown, who met then jazz drummer Ginger Baker when he was reading on a gig. Baker introduced him to bassist Jack Bruce, and the main songwriting partnership for Cream, which reformed earlier this month to play the Royal Albert Hall, was born. A number of those songs have worn rather better than the declaimed verse that begat them. The precedent for poets and musicians sharing a stage was set on the other side of the Atlantic. The Beat poets identified strongly with jazzmen, and Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti all recorded and performed with jazz players. If jazzmen such as Corea sometimes try to work like poets or novelists, many more authors of verse or prose have tried to work like jazz musicians. Jack Kerouac's spontaneous stream of consciousness outpourings in On the Road - famously derided by Truman Capote with the put-down, 'That's not writing, that's typing' - were a self-conscious imitation of jazz improvisation. Novels taking jazz as a theme have proven more fertile ground, and have a fairly long history, although they're tiresomely predictable in that they tend to present musicians as romantically doomed loners born to self-destruct. The first of these, Dorothy Baker's Young Man With a Horn, was published in 1938 and mythologised Bix Beiderbecke, who drank himself to death in 1931. James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues, probably his best known short story, published in 1957, is a grittier piece of work and, with its black protagonist, focuses on racial issues that Baker's book sidestepped. This time, the central figure is destroying himself with heroin because he worships Charlie Parker. The archetype of these figures is most elegantly sketched in Deacon Blues by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen on Steely Dan's jazziest and, in many ways, best album, Aja. Literature graduates, they've said they approach writing songs like writing fiction and named their band after an unusual object in a book by William Burroughs. It's difficult, though, to imagine either of them reading L. Ron Hubbard without laughing.