March 23, 2016
Mar 23, 2016
I was a rock and roll child. I saw Elvis
Truncated by Ed Sullivan, listened to Fats Domino
Sing “Blueberry Hill” and loved “Sixteen Tons,”
Which was proto-rock and roll. I still love it,
But since you can’t remain a child forever,
I cast my net wider, and thanks to my Japanese
Integrated amp, saxophones wash over me each night.
It started with Paul Desmond, who aspired to sound
“Like a dry martini,” and went on to bring to life
The celebrated and the obscure alike: Spike Robinson,
Whom I heard at the Jazz Estate a few blocks away
In 1992; Frank Morgan, who had Milwaukee ties
And whom I wanted to nominate for an honorary degree,
A scam set up for local businessmen; and Coltrane
Of course, that endless aural rope that curls upon itself
And then uncoils. And it wasn’t simply saxophones: Chet
Baker’s trumpet, plangent and permanent as he fell from
Young and beautiful to wrecked and toothless; and Bill Evans,
Still perfecting “Autumn Leaves” at Top of the Gate,
While downstairs in the streets the ’60s boiled. Von Freeman
Died last week at 88. I hadn’t heard of him until he died,
And now here he is, filling up my room with “Time after Time.”
He believed in roughness, and on leaving imperfections in
So his songs wouldn’t lose their souls, which is how I think of poems.
Philip Larkin loved jazz too—a great poet, though disagreeable—
But I don’t know if many other poets on my radar do. Perhaps they
Think it’s easy, I say to myself as I put on a record of Mal Waldron’s,
To whom Billie Holiday once whispered a song along a keyboard
In the 5 Spot and Frank O’Hara and everyone there stopped breathing.
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March 23, 2016