Wednesday, May 26, 2010

arizona goddam! (17)

arizona goddam!

alabama's gotten me so upset
tennessee made me lose my rest
& everybody knows about
mississippi goddam…
nina simone

dos cabesas, yr steep mountain slopes & granite
outcroppings, yr vegetated canyon floors provoke
strong feelings of arousal, attraction, & yes,
even love by more than just the white-tailed &
mule deer or eagles, golden & bald, the ranging
mountain lion, the beautiful collared lizard &
the peregrine falcon. u, dos cabesas, are,
indeed,a love object for arizona natives
imprinted by the wilderness with its uncultivated
spaces,its searing heat with that eerie desert
dust on its winds, a narcotic that makes them
susceptible to quaint hallucinations (daylight
savings time is a bolshevik plot),conservative
& highly distrusting of government. (goddam!)
where lawmen under the influence of frontier
fancy could take a hapless but convenient
outlaw straight from the lyrics of their state
song, a befuddled recidivist burglar named
ernesto arturo miranda, compel from him a
rape, etc., confession, make him write it down
& sign papers with a printed certification that
he “voluntarily & of my own free will, with no
threats, coercion or promises of immunity…” &
“full knowledge of … his)…legal rights” made
that confession, but failed to inform him of
his right to have an attorney present & of his
right to remain silent.(goddam!)
where in a season that saw even ronald reagan
bow to the inevitable winds of change by signed
the king holiday into law, three house republican
arizonans, including an “unevolved” john mccain
& that doyen of true american conservativism,
senator barry goldwater voted unequivocally no!
state lawmakers like sand lemmings followed suit.
babbitt, not sinclair lewis’ vacuous protagonist,
but a governor doing the right thing, signed an
executive order declaring a paid king holiday.
but 7 months & 24 days later, soon-to-be-
impeached evan mecham rescinded that order
in one of his first acts as governor! (goddam!)
rising from a searingly dry tropical airmass,
pulled northward by low-pressure cells moving
eastward across the two-head's wilderness
echoing off the sulphur springs & the san simon
valleys came a venal & corruptible voice calling
out to arizonans with the arrogated authority of
i am that i am: “i guess king did a lot for the
colored people, but i don’t think he deserves a
national holiday.” but the rocks surely cried out
in protest & boycotts. all manner of stones,
pythagorean frozen music, released their song
with stevie wonder singing lead --hapy birthday
to yuh -- public enemy struck back, the nfl
relocated the super bowl & arizonans, kicking &
screaming, capitulated in ’92 (goddam!)
where even the wind that competes at dusk
to be heard with the yips, barks & howls of
coyotes in telltale yellow desert coats, weeps &
wails in uncertain english even tho’ placed for
a year in english immersion classes where
languages other than english were banned from
speech. brainfried arizonans insist that the
speech of the alligator juniper, the bitter condalia
& crucifixion thorn, the catclaw & even the skunk
bush had better be the same as that which arose in
england & southeastern scotland; that they
obsequiously subordinate their mother tongues,
their identity & culture, for to speak a language
other than english is nothing more than a social
behold arizonans, the behemoth that u have made,
rising out of the desert, so mean, & abrupt of
emotion – & so unlike that mighty torch-bearing
mother of exiles on a distant shore who verily
welcomed the poor & the homeless. this shire reeve
golem of single eye & foul disposition casts his
all-seeing search light glance to expose & extirpate
all illegals wherever they might be found, especially
in the ghostly golden gate barrio, in cuatro milpas,
or in any of the barrios historicas that housed the
brown laborers who built yr streets & towns, yr
canals, laid tracks for trolleys & trains that brought
in the droves of undocumented anglos who
overwhelmed the indigenous population! (goddam!)
what have u done, arizonans? the adam of yr labors
has run amok & points proudly back to the womb
from whence it came – that monster matrix of
racism, red-baiting,anti-government sentiment &
resentment of anything progressive, whose birth
juices reek of hatred & calumny – back to u & yr
guiltfear, yr paroxysmally parochial thinking. it has
engorged on a steady diet of rights violations, english-
only legislation, reasonable suspicion & belief, & now
it stalks like a grotesquery seeking to devour the
interdisciplinary study of racialized peoples, latinos
& chicanos in particular. what makes u think, brain-
fried arizonans, that it won’t turn on & devour u?

©Joseph McNair;2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

most interesting of our american birds (16)

most interesting of our american birds

the gooey oil washing into the maze of marshes along the
gulf coast could prove impossible to remove, leaving a
toxic stew lethal to fish and wildlife...
government officials & independent

most interesting of our american birds
whose iconic flight & voracious appetite
inspired no less than audubon to inscribe
rhapsodically in his journals:

listen to the sound of the splash they make
as they drive their open bills, like a pock-net,
into the sea…

a pelican feeding its young embossed on
louisiana’s state seal by 1804 & on her blue
unfurling flag by 1912, a fitting perch for one
who’d tear her own flesh to feed her young.

one of ornithology’s most astonishing events,
in 1966, the year it became louisiana’s state
bird, pelecanus fuscus vanished like the hero
in a novel from the state’s entire coast.

did concurrent tropical storms savage vulnerable
nests in its overwash? perhaps some pathogen
or virulent human encroachment struck? or
more likely the toxic pesticides from

agricultural plains, drained into the mighty
mississip, got absorbed by anchovies &
other favored fish -- did an inside job on
eggshell formation, on eggshell thickness,

& caused the heroic pelican – the same who
would destroy itself to feed its young -- to
destroy its eggs as it sat on them within its
nest to incubate & protect them.

thus did the brown pelican become like a
novel’s anti-hero whose one abiding trait
is bewildered & anxious uncertainty about the
futility & fundamental amorality of life.

for despite efforts to transplant fledglings from
florida’s peninsula, at hundreds per year, or
banning ddt, the pelican will never see any
pattern in life & rarely its destination.

we can see this now in the frightened eyes of
oil-soaked birds who hobble like drunks at dawn’s
break on barataria bay because they cannot fly;
whose brown & white feathers, are now jet black.

whose nests & new hatchlings are coated with
crude, whose gunk-glazed eggs, like their habitats,
may never be cleaned or saved, whose offensive
images are the new expletives for corporate greed

& signs of our failure to live in harmony with nature,
symbols of our disdain for ecological balance,
signifiers of our suicidal self-absorption --
new metaphors for our insanity.

© Joseph McNair;2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

stormy weather (15)

stormy weather

for lena horne
(1917 - 2010)

tube captured, tube enthralled -- cut off from
smell, touch, taste, heat-sense & gravity. only
my eyes & ears worked, held at electron gun

point by florescent vision – those long shapely
brown legs (with the eagles on her stockings
that flew in formation up under her hemline,

still flock in jagged colored specs & fly in
semicircular orbits around the edges of my eyes)
fill my memory now like they filled that large,

deep & heavy evacuated glass envelope so many
days of my youth ago when that heart shaped,
luminous face (that no gal made could get the

shade), those large, bold beautiful eyes paired
with that elusive smile made their impressions,
made me consider my first faustian exchange --

my soul for just a few moments, maybe just one
night. i was, afterall, 12, star-struck & heavily
hormonal. if made to choose between lena as

sweet georgia brown, god or petunia jackson,
georgia (miss brown to u!) would win every
damn time. i was no inverterate gambler then &

my real addictions were years ahead, but I felt
like a drunk heady in his very first cups. the
pleasure possibilities waxed infinite. the very

thought of her & me – a real little joe – made
a fantastical cabin in the sky seem quite absurdly
possible, even desirable. & then i heard her sing.

another night, another movie, same television...
framed against an open window adorned with

formal treatments -- swags, jabots & pleated

drapes -- that could have been several of the

imaginable colors in the middle gradient shades
of gray, between absolute black & white, looking

out on an urban evening street scene which

captured a couple scurrying to get out of the
rain & prefaced by introductory strains from the

cab calloway orchestra with a cameo of the immaculate

cab himself animatedly conducting that special
group of musicians who needed little in the way

of conducting. she sang a sultry soprano lament

(an offstage wind machine ruffling the sheer full-
length sleeves of her perfect black & sequined

dress). her perfect phrasing evoked a swarm of
associations caught up in a vertically oriented
rotating column of emotion & she sang her

heart thru the vortex, making the raging storm
a distinctive collocate of the literal; a subtle way of
grasping one kind of thing in terms of another,

fixing its elemental turbulence & power as the
central & controlling image of her lifesong:

don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky,
stormy weather, since my man & i ain't together
seems like its raining all the time

i felt the stirrings of love in that moment, for
lena & for language, for she embodied every
feature of a poem in motion draped in a

musical score. she had a way of spreading her
arms when she sang that had no paraphrase,
but just as clearly said “love me” & when

she left that open window walking down
stairs that split the orchestra into two sections
with the camera panning from full room to

a head to hip shot to climbing up her bodice
resolving in a full body shot framing her in
a spotlight on a night club floor & in my

poetic heart, she became for me more than
a beautiful, evocative
ornament, but an enduring
metaphor for the complexities of love.

© Joseph McNair; 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

awaiting an appropriate provocation (14)

awaiting an appropriate provocation

tell me, arizonans, is a god or perhaps
some human demiurge supposedly
the author of your laws?

surely a god, for who else might godly
see thru’ layers of artifice & deception,
in honest toil, toned down actions & attire,
minimal human intercourse, capricious
movement, desperate concealment, the
furtive, undocumented heart?

whose nostrils can indeed detect the
stench of flight from custody or country;
the reeking infectious foreignness of
interlopers, who abide among us
fangfeeding off the fat of the land,
diminishing us all.

tell me, arizonans, are there among u,
like minos, those who commune with an
olympian sire? inspired to make laws

that bestow clairvoyance on lawmen,
enable them to clair-see “probable &
reasonable causes” in mexicans or
o.t.m.s who work the bean fields or
sinister sit on porches, in the back
of pickup trucks, in barrios & in

cantinas of historic ethnic enclaves or
those who don’t; who speak subversive
spanish, pantomime the tortilla & butter
truth about speedy gonzales, the frito
bandito, las posadas & la llorona or
any other appropriate provocation

for trivializing the human spirit --
por una noche de cristal fea,
arizona style.

©Joseph McNair; 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

for wayne shorter (13)

for wayne shorter
(1933 -- )

perhaps the music’s greatest living
composer, yr organic conceptions
of fissioning melody, harmony,
& rhythm took the state of play in a
fresh direction. one of the few young
composers who could take a piece
to miles & get it back unchanged;
get the band to play it like u wrote
it, conforming precisely to its often
bopish, sometimes modal structure,
swiveling where it said to swivel,
snaking where it said to snake,
crossing over the tonic center from
the consonant right or weaving back
over the new middle from the
dissonant left in densely dreaded
unison plaits that changed the sound
of jazz, that changed fluidly, like yr
own rollins-like tenor style, with its
ripping, runaway trane asymmetries
to the coruscating color of yr rhythmic,
interval leaping soprano solo voice
chanting its own mystical name &
transfiguring signature, its new motifs
& alternate insights assigned to
randomness, new denouements &
meticulous untyings of personal meaning –
rushing in where boppers fear to tread!

© Joseph McNair; 2010

for hubert laws (12)

for hubert laws

(1939 -- )

from the start, when it was the instrument of the wood-god pan,
the flute has been associated with pure (some might say impure)
energy. its sound releases something naturally untamed..."
--seamus heaney

the iconic miss mary’s place,
a hoary houston honky tonk
prominently placed because
it pinpoints a precise location
for yr musical roots, soul sourced
in an urban manifestation &
a perceptible revelation of the
jook, ribald cake & whiskey
cousin to the beans & bacon
blues with a stepped up tempo
that sulky soaked the late night
& early morning air across the
street from yr house, combined
with yr mama’s gospel piano
& yr daddy’s harmonica riffs,
the basis of yr own funky, secular
testimony, the crucible where
rhythm & blues, classical julliard,
& the spiritual, weighed & mixed
in proper amounts, given time to
season, fluxed down, solve et
coagula, & transmuted into the
sweetest, purest melodic &
multicolored jazz flute tone
ever proffered, ever played.

© Joseph McNair; 2010

for bennie carter (11)

for bennie carter
(1907 -2003)

the only musician to have recorded in eight
different decades, yr life, a symphony in riffs
pouring out of yr trumpet, out of yr alto, out
yr head & captured on vinyl, on tape, on compact
disc living & playing thru’ yr legend making,
writing it in the tales yr music told. yr rites of
passage & the sheparding process where those at a
higher level of understanding guided u to
& thru’ a greater exposure to the music. rex
stewart, sidney bechet, fatha hines, fats waller,
willie the lion smith, james p. johnson & the duke
transferred their powers to u, caused a change in yr
existential condition; freed u from profane time.

freed u to recapitulate the history of
the music that thru this recapitulation u
might sanctify the music anew, reveal its deep
meanings to the new generations, help them own &
assume the responsibility of mystical
vocation. u took time to befriend & mentor miles
when he had no friends; to mentor q when like u, he
wanted to write scores for film, to be there for j.j.
johnson, art pepper & max roach as they each increased
in stature & in favor. & u also took time
to teach yr alto to sing. yr signature sound was
smooth as silk, flowing like a lazy river that might
race like a rapid or be still like a honeyed pool.

© Joseph McNair; 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

for ben webster (10)

for ben webster
(1909 – 1973)

and i heard charlie parker for the first time & that
was quite a thrill. this guy scared me to death!
ben webster

what johnnie hodges was to the alto, u were in
spades to the tenor & when froggie went a’courting,
uh hunh, yr warm, breathy, sensual tone slickly slipped
like a tongue up under a stray hemline to caress
a fleshy thigh, make it surely shake with tremulous
waves of hurt-so-good need or turn brutish on a stomp,
ferally fecund, growling, rasping, rooted in the
blues. u were one of yr era’s three tenors, before
the sunrise of bebop, when the hawk & prez prowled the
bandstands seeking whom they might cut up. but when they tried
to cut u, they had to bring their lunch & dinner too.
u enjoyed a reign as king of the tenors, that is,
until bird came – then nothing else was ever the same.

© Joseph McNair;2010

for sidney bechet (9)

for sidney bechet
(1897 -1959)

it is the world of your own soul that
you seek. only within yourself
exists that other reality
for which you long.
herman hesse

a double kwansaba

"le dieu," a sound force given into our
keeping, casting off tonic light from yr
spirit heat. yr sugary sweet improvs like
a savory beignet reek crawdad & shrimp;
yr vibrato at once wide in affect
cajoles octave joy, searing sorrow, fear &
creole from yr sax, yr mage’s wand.

twas a world of yr own sound
that u sought, that u dared to
draw us into, with its halls of
mirrors & endless doors, that magic odeum
within for which u did surely long;
that made u wolfly stalk jazz’s outer
steppes, its first great soprano soloist!

©Joseph McNair;2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

for mccoy tyner (8)

for mccoy tyner
(1938 --

u were twenty-two when u joined the
john coltrane quartet,
but clearly the
real mccoy. trane knew this, kept u five years
close, at the core of this
most seminal of jazz experiments.
from where did that transcendent piano style come? from
what holy
place within? & where did u learn that unique
two-handed harmonic
attack & rhythmic charge – yr block
chording low bass left hand stacking
fourths & yr staccato
right hand
flying thru pentatonic scales, modal structures,
inverted triads &
multi-fingered runs – new voicings &
vocabulary for virtuoso jazz piano
& growing each time u
played. u
shadowed trane thru’ his scales, chordal structures,
melodic phrasings
& rhythms, playing mantrically, intuiting
the sacred audible tones
to help elevate each consciousness-
raising performance, drawing garrison
& jones to u,
transcending &
integrating all that had been played before,
fastened securely to his coattails,
to his ascension. he took
u to the pinnacle
of god consciousness, let u glimpse the
final & highest abode of ishwara, the
ultimate revelation of
the self in perfect
radiance & release. he would have taken
u further, into formless consciousness & boundless radiance.
but u did not like the free; were not yet
ready for the street
of pefume sellers, &
like the vagrant who was overcome by
the heady aromas on that street, who
could only be revived
by a fecal sal
volatile from the street’s gutters, u said all u
heard was noise; that u had no
feeling for the new music.
turned away,
turned back to yr unabsorbed present, to yr
raw blues & passionate pentatonic
; turned back to comfortable
virtuosity, but haunted by an audible image of a seed syllable
where all sound,
all music dissolves into perfect radiance &
release & a memory of not a means to
an end but the means
& the end.

© Joseph McNair; 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

for armando “chick” corea (7)

for armando “chick” corea
(1941 --

a villenelle

angular melodies, latin-swing rhythms, extended, structured compositions,
hard bop proclivities & avante garde dispositions roiled in yr musician soul,
transient, finite, existing in time, negating the negation, defying definitions.

classical music was a just way to learn to play, but jazz allowed u the juxtapositions
u sought of tempo, virtuosity & improvisation, a way to fuse competing feels in
angular melodies, latin-swing rhythms, extended, structured compositions.

cathartic best describes the change that leads to turning points. contradictions
spiral, effervescent progressive rock stirs up the mix, makes the music helical,
transient, finite, existing in time, negating the negation, defying definitions.

u give yr passion wings. yr spanish heart pilots yr sonorous explorations
sometimes charted, sometimes floated; whatever the heart feels, pours into yr
angular melodies, latin-swing rhythms, extended, structured compositions.

redemption at the keyboards. blurring the line between yr many dispositions,
& freeform outbursts, fusion & rock; a synthesis is realized, a new u steps forth
transient, finite, existing in time, negating the negation, defying definitions.

yr voracious musical appetites compelled u to blithe quixotic explorations
of a wider musical world, while evolving a distinctive & venerable voice within
angular melodies, latin-swing rhythms, extended, structured compositions;
transient, finite, existing in time, negating the negation, defying definitions.

© Joseph McNair

Thursday, May 6, 2010

julian “cannonball” adderley (6)

for julian “cannonball” adderley
(1928 –1975)

yr chromatic & continuous lines, a cutting
tone & voracious spirit devouring the changes,
like a cannibal [not cannonball] with a fertile
fang in the new hardbop thang got u thru the fifties,
established yr street creds. u couldn’t be the new bird, the
naturally occurring vacuum in those big shoes
nearly sucked the life out of bebop & would not be
filled. but u were u, good enough to replace rollins,
play on the same bandstand with trane, make miles salute yr
talent. but u could not be contained for long in a
group not yr own. so u grabbed yr brother, nat, called on
the great ones who knew u, had played with u, to help u
lay down yr ha' mercy blues-based, soul jazz legacy.

© Joseph McNair;2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

for freddie hubbard (5)

for freddie hubbard
(1938 -2008)

one foot in tonal jazz, the other in atonal,
a pendulum swing between interest & tension,
stable/passive & unstable/active, u were a
dialectician of sonorous euphony, the
most brilliant horn of a generation of cats who
swung from side to side, to & fro with gravity &
acquired momentum but would not fly off into the
deepest currents of free jazz. had a big beautiful
tone; a canny sense of rhythm & time; a fiery,
exuberant style that pushed u to hit notes higher
& faster than anyone else around or blow up
tense & tumescent to release the contents of yr
very soul in a soft melodic adumbration.

©Joseph McNair; 2010

for quincy Jones (4)

for quincy jones
(1933 --

any writing or telling of the history of
black music without u in it is like the english
alphabet without the letter q, the dominant
missing from the diatonic scale, a volume of
space that is essentially empty! quincy delight,
my, my, my, my! what would have happened if u hadn’t
quit school & gone on the road with hamp? u started yr
career arranging songs for the likes of sarah, duke
dinah & ray, playing with the best known names in jazz.
& for more than sixty years u have burned yr imprint –
records, television, film; seventy-nine grammy
award nominations & twenty-seven grammys,
thirty-three major motion picture scores, an emmy,

seven oscar nominations, hundreds of millions
of records sold to name just a few of yr awards
& accolades – on the consciousness of the nation.
u have ushered american music from the post-
swing era thru’ today’s high-tech, international
multi-media hybridism. u have just like
ellison added yr ten drops of black to the mix,
making the discolored stuff like that the “purest white”
when shaken, like obàtálá’s cloth, & like the arch
divinity, u have molded the unique talents
of an eclectic group of singers & musicians
in yr image & likeness, that pays tribute to u,
the musician, composer, arranger, producer.

© Joseph McNair; 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

for bud powell (3)

for earl rudolph "bud" powell
(1924 –1966)

standing shoulder to shoulder with monk, u were
one of the twin towers of bop piano.
yr huge comping left hand let the odd bass note
outline the root & fifth, stretch to get the tenth,
& easily include the minor 7th.
yr homophonic right hand -- a storied blur
of dazzling arpeggios often spiced with
elaborations of or substitutions
for those bland white note scale tones -- turning chords out!
u had mad skills, bud. u walked in, the music
got into something, the jump started jointing!

© Joseph McNair; 2010

for max roach (2)

for max roach
(1924 -- 2007)

a double kwansaba

from the great dismal swamp u came
to put fear & awe in the
drummer; to do more than just keep
time. to make magic, play the pulse
of the standard 4 on the ride
& free up the three other limbs
to make real change; to make music.

one of the last bebop giants, u
lived long, long enough to tell yr
whole story -- in solos, mixing up pitches,
timbres, using deft silence or blazing speed--
by making yr drums talk, sing yr
passion song of freedom, human rights, &
change until the very day u died.

© Joseph McNair

Sunday, May 2, 2010

for charles “doc” austin (1)

for charles “doc” austin
(1930 --

what turned u around, doc? thirteen is much too young to
die. what about-faced u? snatched u from that blissful peace,
from free floating out of yr body, looking down on
it from above & peristaltically moving
thru’ that surreal tunnel heading inevitably
to the brightest of lights? perhaps it was the music.
those buzzing, ringing near death tonalities that
were surely soundsign auguries pronouncing yr life
course meet & yr destiny in accord with divine
sanction. yr uncle’s second sight informed him, but his
physician’s skill convinced him, & he told yr loved ones
u had turned around, had broken death’s tenacious grip.
resolute, for better or worse, u were coming back.

although the magic city birthed u, fey destiny,
masquerading as the low down dirty blues drove u
from miami, dropped u in memphis in the loving
care of a fairy tale uncle who clothed u, fed u,
kept a roof over yr head, nursed u back from the edge
of pneumonitic death, bought u yr first saxophone,
a shiny soprano to help you strengthen yr lungs.
u poured into that conical tube of thin nickel
plated metal all the rage rending anguish of a
father’s abandonment, all the profound sorrow of
having to leave one’s mother, all the existential
terror of wrestling with death that a thirteen year old
could hold, contain; & u learned to really play that horn!

played so well that u picked up five dollar gigs on beale
street with b.b. king, in the house band at the mitchell
hotel. played the summer “carni” circuit when school let
out, flexing yr big fifteen year old chops from the big
easy to atlanta & points north – coming of age,
meeting diz who nudged u thru’ liminality to
rites of entry – & u won a talent show at the
handy theater & a music scholarship to
philander smith college; transferred to tennessee state
just to attend the school that topped the best jazz band polls.
played at clubs in nashville, for the great glee clubs
at t.s.u. & fisk, learned theory from quentin banks
who taught u how to write & play music differently.

left college for the navy, joined a vice admiral’s
flagship jazz band, even played the ed sullivan show.
did some woodshedding, studied theory with dave brubeck’s
brother. kept up with what diz was doing & listening
to & returned to tennessee state to finish yr
degrees. came home to miami-dade, reunited
with yr mother. married, had children, taught school during
the day, starred in the jazz band at the hampton house at
night, where mlk & malcolm x stayed when in the
magic city, where everyone who was anyone in jazz came
to play. u were the first black jazz man to integrate
miami beach, the eden roc & the fountainbleau
hotels – a living miami legend in yr time.

dizzy told u that when he first heard the music of
the pygmies, with their dense contrapuntal communal
improvisations & complex polyphony, he
thought he was hearing music that he had written. for
u, it was the mystical & distinctive sound of
the japanese five toned scales, the tonal images
that reconstructed stravinski’s fleeting vision of
a pagan ritual where a young girl danced herself
to death, those asymmetrical rhythms, percussive
dissonance, polyrhythms, polytonality;
the layering of persistently repeating themes
& melodic fragments that reeked of west africa;
that sent u creatively spinning, zoning, fuguing!

seek & ye shall find & u found all of those sounds &
blends & complements in the moog synthesizer. when
wendy carlos was switching on bach, u switched on
joe galivan & the two of u realized a
mutualistic symbiosis between woodwind, reed
& moog. galivan’s digital rhythm section freed
up yr restless saxophones, yr flutes, yr english horn
& oboe; freed u up to go where too few save trane,
pharoah, shepp & ayler dared to go. u gave him real
percussive freedom – to play melodies, chordal bass
lines, let him erase the boundaries of rhythm &
beat – freed him from just keeping time! the music took the
two of you to europe – communist romania.

under nixon’s cold war policy u won a state
department grant & were selected to play at the
opening of the new american library
in august ’69 in a pre-war mansion near
the heart of bucharest. booked with no less than the great
american composer, george crumb, & the winners
of the tchaikovsky piano competition. u
& galivan fired those romanians up with yr
music, had them screaming for more! a foreshadowing
of the university college london’s yearly
saxophone festival in the early seventies
where u were the only american saxophone
player invited back for ten consecutive years!

u have had a fully elaborated life, doc,
& at every stage a peak experience. u have
known & played with some of the great musicians of our
time, have won acclaim as a player, conductor &
creator. u have followed yr muse, explored the edgy, outer
limits of yr creativity, but found the time to
provide for & raise yr own children, eschewing the
lucrative & salacious enticements of the road.
u always came home, spared them the angst of abandonment
that u knew all too well & they grew to make u proud.
& those other children, the very ones u taught, trained
& mentored? that u touched their lives with music is worth
more than any honor or award bestowed on u.

© Joseph McNair;2010