Thursday, April 29, 2010

for herbie hancock (30)

for herbie hancock
(1940 --
there is nothing that music cannot undertake to do,
or dare, or portray, provided it continues
to charm & always remain music…

a remarkable creator, the step beyond bud
or monk – incredible synthesis of disparate
styles. a metamorphic with an uncanny knack for
soaking up life but remaining original like
ravel – who infused jazz into his concertos &
embraced the gypsy’s rhapsodic joy, trepidation,
& awe in his symphonic poems – u, herbie, a
miles davis wunderkin, brought glittering passages,
chordal melodies & enriched unisons to the
blues, webs of figurations to hard, edgy bop,
playing it funky, playing it electric but more
than that, feathering a cozy nest for unroosted
rock, rap & electronica to find their way home.

u have transcended limits & genre; absorbed deep
structures, the defining forms of classical, bebop
rock & soul; followed a brilliant path of transformation
upwards, shifting yr identity into even
higher order structures, enabling yr consciousness
to operate on, integrate the former in the
unimaginable spaces of yr genius – where
u have amamnestically come to know a deep,
fundamental frequency, an intonation, the
wombsound that birthed all music that u pray/praise when u
play, much like the laws of life u pray/praise when u chant
the sacred syllables nam-myōhō-renge-kyō,
the lotus sutra & symbol of yr transcendence.

©Joseph McNair;2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

for fela anikulapo kuti (29)

for fela anikulapo kuti
(1938 –1997)
in four kwansabas

he played an under ground spirit game,
he who carried death in his pouch.
his music was the massage, his medium
of social change. but dem sojas come-o,
dey go beat am. make him mad!
who no know go know am today-o
ah-ah! wait-o, make i commot my dress!

olufela, god’s glory, no be shakara oloje
his songs, bullets & he go say:
zombi no go go unless u tell
am to go. but him mama dey
go quench; throw her out the window!
throw her down for ground, na wah-o!
dis african man no dey carry shit.

him fight am back with afro beat
him send his mama’s coffin for head
of state! he dey waka, waka, waka;
he go many places, sef. for his
mama, he dey cry, for his people,
he dey cry, with tenor sax & shekere
endless grooves & yabis, he dey cry!

baba is dead-o! ibà á şẹ baba!
ma a gbo bi awon baba wa
se nwi
; listen to our fathers’ voices
in the fatidic sounds of afro beat
in its bodings & its auspice, in
its bitter truth; in the memory of
he who carried death in his pouch!

© Joseph McNair

for cecil taylor (28)

for cecil taylor
(1929 --

roiling clusters of ringing chords
& a sharply percussive attack rewards
yr ever faithful band of devotees.
with an intense, galvanic tease
of freedom, a spirit reach towards

moksha, past the thrall of keyboards,
chord changes & tempo; affords
an ephemeral grasp of totality
at vision’s embrace.

uncompromising creator, yr poetic words
reinvent the free when the last accords
of yr tone poems play, decay, release
the dance & plaintive echoes cease
at vision’s embrace.

© Joseph McNair; 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

for william "count" basie (27)

or william “count” basie

(1904 --1984)

said u hit it with the rhythm
& slid
into the riffs, & the riffs
just stuck!
that signature tune
aptly represents
yr essential
big band sound, that
spirit merging tone & time,
procreative when in the early hours
of the a.m. where stuff
just comes
together -- at one
o’clock – in those
moments when worldly
is burned away & the mettles
of musicians flux. when their

aptitudes for making accidental,

but fortuitous solo runs & hip
are discovered & pro
statements owned in
the moment,
or when sections
blend, become
organically one,
more than who or
what they
are & swing, even jump,
rhythms that don’t have to be
taught, that take the muscles
in the ambience of easy
u created;
in yr cultivated poise
& self-assurance,
in those
contrapuntal accents where
never wasted a note, in that space,
a staging ground for
talent, where the
great ones
gathered, ethel waters,
lady day,
sassy sarah, ella, helen humes,
jimmy rushing, joe williams,
prez, ben
webster, bird, diz,
miles & countless
where none were stepped on,
where each might find what
they liked
& needed – an easy
swing, just like
cutting butter!

© Joseph McNair;2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

for willie the lion smith (26)

for william henry joseph bonaparte bertholoff smith
aka willie the lion
(1893 -1973)

a derby wearing, cigar puffing legend in his

time, a peerless tickler’s tickler & myth come alive.
on any given night, he might be king of the rent
party, a spellbinding showman in segregated

atlantic city clubs or mentoring savant to

ellington, biederbecke, the dorseys & artie shaw.

a musician’s musician, composer of over
one hundred songs, at his very best favorably
compared to gershwin & the duke himself. his left hand,
the envy of every pianist in jazz. he was
there for all who sought him out -- & gave freely of his

prodigy -- but to the duke, his protégé, bestowed
his special graces, that touch of immortality.

© Joseph McNair;2010

for thomas wright "fats" waller (25)

for thomas wright “fats” waller
(1904 –1943)

only you
can make this world seem right…
the platters

only u, fats, could frustrate yr reverend father’s
holy plans. only u could make him laugh, were surely
his expectation come to nothing; his lovable
incongruity. but divine humor is much less
mysterious than divine movement & yr frames of
reference were engineered to collide, yr shifts in
perspective duly twisted by a laughing god
who loved to hear the music u made. its incessant
shifts from seriousness to play, embodied in yr
syncopated right hand melodies uncannily
paired to a misbehavin’ stride left hand made ole al
“scarface” capone kidnap u at gunpoint & compel
u to play three days for his birthday – only u, fats!

©Joseph McNair; 2010

for james p. Johnson (24)

for james p. johnson
(1894 --1955)

a kwansaba

how do u james p. johnson? well,
u play a four-beat pulse with a
single bass note, an octave, 7th or
a 10th on the first & 3rd
beats, a chord on the 2nd &
4th beats, then let yr left hand
swing, yr right hand blur – that’s stride!

© Joseph mcNair; 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

for albert ayler (23)

for albert ayler
(1936 --1970)

a double kwansaba

no one knew what u were trying to
do! yrs was a jazz beyond jazz;
breach birthed out of the blues, out
of gospel, out of sousa march tunes
(for god’s sake) into full blown atonal
soul cries & soul lows moving at
light speed to holy change into energy,

just another kind of blues, u said,
a real blues, a brand new blues
that floats, wafts over our heads, just
beyond our grasp. one day we will
know these blues, will find & cleave
them to us – like we surely found
yr body wafting in the east river.

© Joseph McNair;2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

for ferrell “pharaoh” sanders (22)

for ferrell “pharaoh” sanders
(1940 --

yr pharaonic tonicity, of the sedge &
the bee, yr cunning & canny permutations of the
trilateral monosyllabic, often transcribe a
mystic resonance into soundscapes of old kemet
or japan, mantra-like, in simple, repetitive
melodies with an unhurried sense of perfect peace
or alternately into waves of harsh, overblown
cacophony – shrieking note clusters, rhythmic chaos –
growing into intense columnar vortices of
affect only to be sublimated again by
incessant repetitive phrasing, chanting, rolling
yr eyes up into yr head playing & praying &
giving in to the first manifestation of god,
the exquisite sound of her name, wholly holy – free!

© Joseph McNair; 2010

for archie shepp (21)

for archie shepp
(1937 --

they tried to peg u, archie, then panned u when u failed
to fit their misconceptions. were u into free jazz?
were u afrocentric? an extrapolation of
r & b, perhaps? u were all of these & more – had
trane’s “sheets of sound” intensity. were just as free as
ornette from the prevailing conventions of rhythmic,
harmonic & melodic structure. u matched albert
ayler most times with yr blistering tone & savage
aggression & u flew high & funky like Illinois
jacquet. u never tried to transcend yr blackness, but
embraced it; framed yr music in african-centered
urgency & vision. a prophet is seldom known
in his own time & place -- & yr time is not yet come.

©Joseph McNair; 2010

for charles "buddy" bolden (20)

for charles “buddy” bolden
(1877 – 1931)

a kwansaba
king buddy rose from new orlean’s pelvic
floor, part real, part myth, playing in
perdido -- the dives & tonks. his rhythm
drive, the power of his tone took
second to the madness of his ragtime --
a manic gabriel who blew his horn
when the blues came home to roost.

© Joseph McNair; 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

for ferdinand "jellyroll" morton (19)

for ferdinand “jellyroll” morton
(1885 –1941)
a kwansaba
said u invented jazz in ‘02
& being the best of the big
easy brothel players, spread yr shout, rag
& boogie north to thumb yr solos
at young james pee & "not yet
the lion" smith, bass walked them thru
major & minor sixths & into history

© Joseph McNair; 2010

for lionel hampton (18)

for lionel hampton
(1908 -- 2002)

"there was no better school in the world
than the lionel hampton orchestra.
he taught me how to groove &
how to laugh & how to hang
& how to live like a man."
-- Quincy Jones

o luminous national treasure, the very heart & soul of jazz;
to the music u were betrothed; to but play, yr fate & destiny,
such a fructifying spirit, full of vigor & pizzazz.

a focal figure on yr instrument, ingenuous, as great as
they come. u gave to the music a brand new vibraphonic voice
o luminous national treasure, the very heart & soul of jazz;

with serendipitous instant synergy, yr joyous playing has
healed the wounded spirit, fixed the heart & soothed the soul;
such a fructifying spirit, full of vigor & pizzazz.

u would swing until u dropped, scat “hey baba re ba” as well as
cut a mean rug with flashfancy foot & solo work,
o luminous national treasure, the very heart & soul of jazz.

u gave personality to an instrument thought sterile, cold as
apathy; raised its vibratory rate, made it simmer, made it swing,
such a fructifying spirit, full of vigor & pizzazz.

that we’ve been touched by yr music; yr vision come to pass
is evident in our beaming smiles when u come to mind.
o luminous national treasure, the very heart & soul of jazz;
such a fructifying spirit, full of vigor & pizzazz.

©Joseph McNair;2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

for art blakey (17)

for art blakey
aka abdullah ibn buhaina
(1919 – 1990)

music washes away the dust of every day life.
art blakey

umatched u were in hard bop’s idiom,
yr mighty drive & steady pulsing beat;
yr artful & percussive axiom?
go heavy on the 2 & 4, bring heat.
lay down some slick but solid cymbal work
with ride & hi-hat on the very edge.
don’t rush, nail down the time, then go beserk
with manic press roll roars, let triplets wedge
between the 2’s & 4’s, let rimshots end
the phrase. throw in an afro-cuban feel,
& bounce. yr rhythm burned, a fiery blend
of all that’s hip & what is crazy real.
a bebop prophet, hard bop father/sage?
hell yes, & thaumaturgic rhythm mage!

© Joseph McNair; 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

for elvin jones (16)

for elvin jones
(1927-- 1986)

u surely played with great subtlety
& transcendental strength, elevating
yr drums to a higher ground, to the
foreground, working yr ride & high
hats, overcoming the time keeper
with yr legato phrasings, yr improvised
lines & exploding accents playing at once
& against several metrically contrasting
rhythms each with irregularly shifting
emphasis independent of systolic-like
pulse – jonesing – yr dense, percussive
layers & counter rhythmic motifs, yr
wide array of timbres made u nonpareil
improviser & architect of upscale,
organically evolving rhythmic synergy.

© Joseph McNair;2010

for milt jackson (15)

for milt jackson
(1923 --1999)

a “rhapsodic melodist”
some have described u,
with those big puffy bags
beneath yr big, serious
eyes, yr sweet inimitable,
opulent tone, those fluid,
executions above all &
before all else swinging.
& those countless other
bags from whence u came.
yr integrated attack, free-
flowing in structure or
tightly unstructured if
u saw fit, featuring a
range of highly contrasted
moods & color but always
resolving/dissolving in the
blues, always yielding an
undercurrent of radiance
beneath slow cleverly
paced solos however bright
or darkly hued or a brilliant
sheen on the shimmering
surface structure of dazzling
melodic runs. yr cool stance
& unpostured mastery, never
looking stiff, never playing
from yr elbows. yr succinct
palms-inward two-mallet grip
coaxing out those sanctified
singing vocal lines or striking
those bebop, hard & post
boppish riffs, lavishing yr
soulfully elegant attention
like a skilled lover on yr
beloved instrument, striking
low notes softly in the
erogenous center of the
bar, playing near the node
in poignant phrasing, bowing,
pitchblending, setting new &
unequaled expressive standards
for vibraphonic virtuosity.

© Joseph McNair;2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

for george shearing, obe (14)

for sir george shearing, obe

hail to thee, sound!—the power of euterpe
in all the scenes of life—
henry kendall

sir george, yr dad delivered coal to the palace at
westminster; yr mum cleaned the trains ‘tween giving birth to
one & seven siblings come before u & after
caring for them the day long in battersea. & u,
the last, was born congenitally blind. thank yr stars
for music! thank euterpe, the giver of delight
for yr prodigy, for those old teddy wilson &
fats waller records, for making a quick way out of
cockney battersea, bringing u to america
giving u the lullaby of birdland & the kind
of music u made when u played double block chords on
top of octave melodies, yr beknighted voicing.
u 've done yr muse blinding proud. well cracking done, sir knight!

©Joseph McNair;2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

for mongo santamaria (13)

for mongo santamaria
(1917 -- 2003)

baba mi jijo
my father, please dance
ijo leegun n jo
a masquerade should dance
bo loo dara, oro asimo
punishment awaits those who refuse
to honor a masquerade
egungun chant

conguero. yr hands beat a sacred path from
conga, to tumbadora to quinto, much
like yr sojourn from hustle/playing en las
calles locales de havana to the
night club tropicana; & from mexico
to new york & perez prado, cal tjader
y tito puente! the spirit of ayan
came upon u; made those congas sound like igbin
ipese & ogidan
, drums sacred to
the yoruba; possessed bebop declaring
u "are ilu", mighty chief of drummers

© Joseph McNair;2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

for gerry mulligan (12)

for gerry mulligan
(1927 --1996)
miles davis is one who writes songs when he plays.
gerry mulligan
yardbird invited u to jam
u played & it was on – hot damn,
a white, crew cut, bebop junkie
who surfaced without his monkey
out of the fifties & bedlam

with talent intact & then, bam,
a gig with miles, a new “i am,”
the birth of the cool (right on key)
& west coast jazz.

composer, arranger, goddamn
jeru! how did u ever cram
so much in yr bari – funky
atop the polls forty spunky
years nurturing de bop sh’ blam
& west coast jazz.

©Joseph McNair; 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

for harry carney (11)

for harry carney
(1910 -1974)

yr baritone sax ploughed deeply
in problematic bottoms; anchored
the distinctive tonal blend defining
duke’s orchestral sound. a lodestone
pointing/pulling north, piercing an
elevated artistic vanguard, yr deep,
thick, reedy licorice resonance, a
blithe harmonic weaving hook lacing
warp & weft of sundry black & tan
emotive threads: funky growls, high
falutin mood swings, dicty wah-wah
glidings, cucumber cool exotica,
pulsing jungle heart murmurs &
primal galloping rhythms. but duke
gave u yr regular solo voice & u
answered yr solo calls with lower
register power & robesonesque élan,
steeped in playful dash, impetuous
ardor. yr forceful blowing & wavering
tone could take on even the searing,
melodic wizardry of johnny hodges;
yr circular breathing would let u hold
a note forever. u carried that band, like
u drove the duke from gig to gig, for
forty-five years. when the duke threw
off his mortal coil & left us, like the
faithful sideman & doppelganger that
u were, u threw yrs off too. if there is
a regular set in the hereafter where
jazz men occasionally gather to jam,
i’m sure that with yr sisyphusian
patience & persistence, u are driving
the duke still & taking yr eternal place
on his bandstand.

©Joseph McNair;2010

for charlie haden (10)

for charlie haden
(1937 --

o rambling boy, what drew u out of yr ohio
folk & country roots to translate yr lyrical bass
runs into the physical/mental extensions of
yr own logic musically expressed in a spare
unison group or solo context? was it the mild
brush with polio that ended yr singing career?
or maybe it was l.a.’s nasty drinking water?
nevertheless in ’59 u mainlined coleman’s
harmolodics, got hooked on potent passages of
collective improvisation; became one with yr
instrument, bent yr will to its will, & made even
mingus name u “bass” as u walked in time, ran free of
time & turned a stagnating idiom inside out.

©Joseph McNair;2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

for johnny hodges (9)

for johnny hodges
(1906 --1970)
never the world's most highly animated showman or
greatest stage personality, but a tone so beautiful
it sometimes brought tears to the eyes –
this was johnny hodges.
duke ellington

yr pure tone & economy of melody;
relaxed swing, subtle inflection & perfect
phrasing; yr lyrical poise & effortless
technique made u revered ancestor to several
generations of altos. trane admired u,
as did ben webster. & goodman called u the
greatest man on alto sax he ever heard.
even bird acknowledged yr preeminence.
tho’ often hidden in the penumbra of
the ellington orchestra, yr star shines bright
in the dazzling firmament of modern jazz.

©Joseph McNair;2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

dave brubeck (8)

for dave brubeck
1920 --

and there is a time where you can be beyond yourself.
you can be better than your technique. you can be
better than most of your usual ideas.
dave brubeck

experiments with offbeat time
signatures, sweet knack for sublime
polyrhythms, deft improvised
counterpoint delighted, surprised
a stolid jazz world, in yr time.

an unsquare dance in 7/4 time,
an estimated prophet, prime
chamber jazz mover; u devised
yr own sweet way.

yr legacy of freedom, time
out, deposed tyrant 4/4 time,
& a nascent free jazz disguised
as third stream duly advertised
to all without reason or rhyme
yr own sweet way.

© Joseph McNair;2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

for horace silver (7)

for horace silver
(1929 -- )

yrs is a style of meaningful simplicity,
profound, rhythmically infectious, that
defined a genre. u coaxed the blues --
skulking like a vagrant among all those
intimidating scales, arpeggios & chromatic
ornaments -- to come out in front & out of
hiding, to colonize yr compositions like an
occult infection. u called the gospel down
to possess yr melodies, make them shout,
speak in cloven tongues, elicit thunderous
blakeyian press rolls, cross beats & fills;
quiet tremblings that grew into frenzied
explosions. u broke free of bebop, keeping
the bop, firing it up to make it hard & ductile;
distanced yrself from the so-called cool
& chamber jazz forms. u showed the way
for others to follow, especially the sons
who would write songs for the father –
that would be u, the intrepid pop & now,
perhaps, the venerable hard bop grandpop!

©Joseph McNair;2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

for bill evans (6)

for bill evans

a unique & most unusual jazz pianist,
yr tone & conceptions were delicate
without being fragile. u could not
collaborate nine gestative months with
miles with thin skin. u might have been
vulnerable but u didn’t bruise or frighten
easily. he liked what he saw in u, what
u brought to the table, those hints of
lennie tristano, lee konitz & even horace
silver – yr quiet rage. he liked the way
the piano sounded when u played. yr

highly nuanced touch; those single note
tone phrases that rang like freedom (u let
them ring as if u wanted all & sundry to
savor the decay); those block chords &
rhythm independent melodies, never
aggressively percussive, more often
like a junkie shrinking back from bright
lit corners. & yet yr themes & figures
were exquisitely crafted disturbances
in space & time, studies in the kind of
pain only the soul can know, kinda blue,
abstracted from bent time. u’d take a
stone of a phrase in yr solo, toss it in
yr modal soup & let the ripples spread,
extend their rhythms, melodic passages
& harmonies. then, within the same solo,
u’d drop that stone again & again,repeating
transformative dance each time. an
unfolding beautiful to behold. so unlike

the day-to-day ugly of cold sweats, malaise,

anxiety/depression that boy heroin brings;
the cramps,chills, muscle & bone aches &
nausea,the menacing, often terrifying
phantasmagora lurking just
outside of eye
& earshot, the temporary fix
that propped
the music up,that propped u
up.the good
news is that u kicked, kicked
the boy to
the curb.but u failed to strain
yr impulses,
yr social alienation & sensation-seeking
thru & into the safe refuge of the vaunted
impressionism & introverted classical
sensibility folks so admired about u,
that influenced so many young, brilliant
players. & thus u fell under the fatal spell
of the girl. alas,
yr mistress wasn’t music,
but cocaine.

©Joseph McNair;2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

rufus harley (5)

for rufus harley
(1936 --2006)

what possessing spirit took u, rufus?
was it patrick mor maccrimmons’shade?
reeking of oolitic loam, the hedgerows
& boggy ground of the winged isle of
skye? did he invade yr dreams, a
speeding bonny boat like birds on the
wing, across time, haunting u with strains
of the big music, the pibroch & the ceòl mòr?
or maybe it was some anonymous egyptian
prodigy, from the courts of isis or ra,
who played the shawm, the folk oboe or
bamboo clarinet. it matters not that trane,
rollins & stitt drove u out of the tenor clan
for u found yr niche & fulfillment, donning
yr macleod tartan kilt, yr nigerian fila (or
any assorted knit hat u chose), tossing the
drones over yr right shoulder & adapting
the unwieldy bagpipes to a soulful post-bop
idiom; playing yrself like one possessed
into the lexicon of modern jazz.

©Joseph McNair;2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

for herman poole blount aka sun ra (4)

for herman poole blount
aka sun ra

(1914 --1993)

when movements from tone to tone are codified
& consciously used within a symbolic frame of
reference, the language of music develops.
dane rudhyar

u, who cherished irony & paradox
as a way to break out of conventional
music making ventured even into stark
atonality in yr endless quest to
disrupt the basic unity of europe’s
collective psychism; its imperial
drive for conquest, expansion, austere
christian salvation. u were there eshu-ing,
trickerating & dancing at the crossroads;
carrying messages, re-coding movements
from tone to sacromagical tone –zoning!

© Joseph McNair; 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

horace tapscott (3)

for horace tapscott
(1934 --1999)

the one thing constant in a changing
world is the avant- garde.
louis jouvet

yr ark -- a life raft for breathing black history &
its marginalized players, composers, writers &
poets -- was abrasive, had a hard political
edge like yr abrupt, percussive, bop-like keyboard style

stirring big chords like fatha hines, tatum & erroll
garner. u, hunched like a long, tall wraith, rocking over
the keyboard, attacking from one end to the other;
a tidal wave crashing on the rock-like mainstream,
wearing its roughness smooth. on its winds yr distinctive,
syncretic compositional & solo voice. yr
musicians, poets & artists taking off in as
many odd directions as their numbers, yet meshing
cohesively in a funky subliminal groove.

©Joseph McNair;2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

for earl "fatha" hines (2)

for earl “fatha” hines
1903 --1983
"If you see me up there on the stand smiling, I'm lost!"
fatha hines

u made the music long before they named it
one of its many “fathas” (tho’jellyroll claimed it);
when america in heat backed up to jim crow’s fence
& let the players get to her & de dip do bop, do it.

took a gig @ seventeen for fifteen bucks a week
played piano in der liederhaus to eat & earn yr keep.
that pittsburg club, yr music matrix, molded & begat
yr insouciant, exhuberant avante garde; yr cheek.

met satchmo in chicago, joined his band & played
on some of the most important records ever made.
1928 @ the grand terrace café, u were al capone’s
piano man, led yr own big band, had it made.

for eleven years u led that band, three shows a night
four shows each saturday, broadcast on open mikes
across the nation’s airways. mr. b made his debut
& a parade of greats followed ‘cause u did it right.

no less than j mcshann & young art tatum tuned u in,
did not nod or sleep ‘til u went off the air; took in
yr lightning octaves, steady left hand tenths, yr chords,
trills, two-fingered runs & glisses; yr soul pulse/vision.

& then u faded until ’64. perhaps u peaked too soon
but never did u play a melancholy note, a despairing tune.
perfervid pianist all the while, u broke out solo, to amaze
again those who forgot or never heard yr boon.

u showed us how to swing, create real jazz playing alone,
a whole orchestra by yrself. no one ever got yr style, none!
for nineteen years until u died, u were the daddy, first
on every poll, the real fatha of jazz piano, the only one.

© Joseph McNair;2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

for art tatum (1)

for art tatum
1909 - 1956
"i only play the piano, but tonight god is in the house."
fats waller, announcing art tatum

bird aspired to play yr right hand, but not even he

could run with u, catch up to u because u were

so ahead of yrself; more fly than he. oh how he

thanked his stars that u -- with yr perfect pitch & nimble

fingers effortlessly playing the impossible;

cataract blind in one eye, not seeing at all out
the other -- had chosen to play piano & not
the saxophone. that night in ’33 at new york’s

morgan’s bar when u cut up j.p. johnson, willie

“the lion” smith & fats waller with yr two-fingered

runs & self taught technique, reharmonized melodies
& strong, swinging pulse, u sent a message, a shot heard
round the fickle jazz world: there can only be just one!

©: Joseph McNair; 2010