Tuesday, June 2, 2009

for lester "prez" young

remembering lester" prez" young

coleman “the hawk” hawkins,
undisputed king of the tenor,
king of the slap-tongue,
hard-driving exploding riff
& cane-syrup-pouredfrom-
got cut up at dawn in
kansas city’s
cherry blossom club.
his velvet tone, his
slightly asymmetrical
pairing of eighths & cubic
dissection of straight
quarters into triplets,
even his penchant to stray
from ordinary thematic
resolution or jump playfully
into double-time weren’t
enough to beat back the
sonic attack & stylistic
mugging of prez – lester young –
billie’s lover man, whose tonal
growl & alternative fingerings,
whose relaxed & uncrowded
noteflow bore his natural
feelings reduced to their
harmonic equivalents &
played refreshingly free of
thematic requirement – like
pure pain in dark, unexpected
juxtapositions to joy; like
a prim pork pie hat crowning
an enigmatic improvisation.
yeah, ole prez cut the hawk
up, left his tethered solo on the
bandstand bleeding; sent the
king packing with short blithe
rhythmic phrases played repeatedly
over continually changing
symmetries of pain, heartbreak,
& sadness; prophesying
the advanced harmonies,
syncopation & altered chords
of bebop; shaping the
cacophonic winds blowing
through his horn; echoing
the cacophonic winds
blowing through his life.

©Joseph McNair; 2008

1 comment:

  1. I took a jazz class, and was greatful for the exposure to this great tenor saxophonist.