Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jazz, Two Poems and a Funeral


King Pleasure's vocalese classic
Parker's Mood

Jazz, Two Poems and a Funeral

The impetus for the last blog, 'The impetus for the last blog, 'Jazzhead Great Bobby Jackson Dies at Age 57.' Here are bits and pieces sparked by his memorial had jazz or course and poetry.
One thing that thrills me about ‘spoken word’ is how the structure of the word on the page, its grouping with other words, whether consistent end rhyme is employed, stanzas and couplets, that make meter and even individual iambs in say tetrameter or pentameter all are questioned.   The word is primary but flows with, pushes against, responds to and calls or answer or completes an idea the music. Enter jazz vocalese the art of taking lyrics and singing them to pre-existing tunes, the structure of the rhythm of the words against and with the structure of jazz tune. The music and it's form is primary. In either case words can be on the upbeat, downbeat, off tempo, they expand and contract in the most interesting and exciting ways.
At Bobby Jackson’s memorial service on Monday the 16th (2013) councilman Jay Westbrook read a piece he found in a small book of poetry at Bobby’s house.  The poem/lyrics were by King Pleasure aka Clarence Beeks a jazz singer in the 40s and 50s.  The piece is called, Parker’s Mood by Charlie ‘Yardbird’ Parker.  King Pleasure does a vocalese version of it and thus the lyrics exist, a year before Parker died in March 1955. It was already an emotional time at Bobby’s memorial. At the reading of Parker’s Mood myself, many in my row, the row in front, the row behind cried Bobby a river.  Jay didn’t read with any particular expertise as much as reading from a place of deep loss at Booby’s passing.  It is easy to confuse the piece with ‘Goin’ to Chicago’ many of the lyrics are the same and there is a hint of humor throughout.  Jay’s reading of the piece was so different from the performance of the piece yet the spirit seemed to remain.

 King Pleasure - Parker's Mood- Come with me If you wanna go to Kansas City
I'm feeling low down and blue, my heart's full of sorrow Don't hardly know what to do;
where will I be tomorrow? Goin' to Kansas City. Want to go, too? No, you can't make it with me. Goin' to Kansas City, sorry that I can't take you. When you see me comin', raise your window high, When you see me leaving, baby, hang your head and cry,

I'm afraid there's nothing in Miss Creamy's dreamy town A honky-tonky monkey woman can do.
She'd only bring herself down.
So long, everybody,
the time has come and I must leave you. So, if don't never see your smiling face again
Make a promise you'll remember, like a Christmas day in december, That I told you all through thick and thin,
on up until the end, Parker's been your friend.
Don't hang your head when you see those six pretty horses pullin' me.
Put a twenty dollar silver piece on my watch chain, Look at the smile on my face, And sing a little song  to let the world know I'm really free. Don't cry for  me, 'cause I'm going to Kansas City.Come with  me, if you want to go to Kansas City


Don't Let the Sun Go Down..


Well not exactly. Another set of words that was not read was, The Sun Must Go Down. it was in the program and I was struck by how the sanctity of creations aren't that holy if they don't fit the occasion. There were a few lines cut from the lyrics before going into the program. Mandrill came into being in 1968, started by three brothers from brooklyn all horn players; trombone, trumpet and sax. They are considered funk not jazz. (Click on the pretty Mandrill to hear, "The Sun Must Go Down," lyrics are below)


It is an interesting conversation between poetry (I’m using an expansive definition of poem) on the page, poetry when one speaks it and words when music is included.   Often the relationship is poetry with music added and many times music w poetry added.  


2014 marks year 17 for the Nia Coffeehouse.  In the early years I endeavored to bring music, mostly standard jazz  and poetry audiences together.  The jazz folks inevitably wanted more jazz less poetry and the poetry audience wanted more poetry and less jazz.


On venues like youtube how often music and even the interpretation added to the word on the page are distasteful. Many times it seems the poster does not fully understand or accept the power of the word on the page and seeks to help it out a bit. So often the music is inappropriate to the word or the volume is plain overpowering.  Many times the voice is not so much interpreting as pushing a preconceived idea of what the poem should do or helping the poem with trills here and whispers there.  

The Sun Must Go Down lyrics:
The Sun Must Go Down
One moment feels good, the next not the same
The only thing changeless is change.
The pendulum swings the tides creeping in In the darkness we question
The sun must goo down! Sun must go down and so are we bound
To give way to inevitable changes.
One more time around but look what we ve found
A fresh dawn, a new growth for the ages.
As we flow on our trip once again have a grip,
on the hassels that we probably lack
the sun shine on we turn our backs. T
HE SUN MUST GO DOWN

-Omar Mesa 21 Mandrill