Ben Sidran: Talking Jazz (An Oral History)

They say that if you want to understand why an instrumentalist plays the way he or she plays, listen to them speak. That makes total sense when hearing Wayne Shorter or Ornette Coleman being interviewed. And now, courtesy of Ben Sidran, there’s never been a better chance to hear other examples of this. Sidran is […]

Ben Sidran: Talking Jazz (An Oral History)

Talkin’ Baseball…and elections

Regardless of your stance on players kneeling during the National Anthem, baseball is still the American pastime, rich with myths, legends and colorful language and imagery. The beloved poem, Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer is the inspiration for my take on the circus surrounding the Presidential election results in Georgia.

Donnie at the Bat

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Trumpville mob that day:
The score stood three-oh-six to two-thirty-two, with but steal attempts to play,
And when Rudy dripped dye from his temples, and later farted without shame,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

The jubilant masses celebrated in the streets. The rest in kind
Clung to conspiracy theories which spring eternal in the misguided mind;
They thought, “If only Donnie could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even our children’s lives, with Donnie at the bat.”

But Flynn took the fall for Donnie, as Melissa performed like a flake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Donnie getting to the bat.

But Flynn received a pardon, to the wonderment of all,
And McConnell, the much despisèd, crumpled the Constitution into a ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Graham double talking and Flynn a-hugging a-turd.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose an unmasked yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled up from hell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Donnie, fascist Donnie, was advancing to the bat.

There was madness in Donnie’s manner as he overstepped his place;
There was false pride in Donnie’s bearing and a smirk crossed Donnie’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he doffed his MAGA hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Donnie at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on the GOP’s shirt;
Then while the wisened judge gripped the law and refused to flip,
Treason flashed in Donnie’s eye, a sneer curled Donnie’s lip.

And now the leather-covered tome came hurtling through the air,
And Donnie stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the Paunchy batsman the law unheeded sped—
“That’s all fake news” said Donnie. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
“Proud boys stand back and stand by,” Donnie responded as he raised his hand.

With the blessings of white Evangelicals, Donnie’s orange visage shone;
He stirred the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled recount to the judge, and once more the law sphere flew;
But Donnie still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
With one approving look from Don the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his tiny fingers strain,
And they knew that Donnie wouldn’t let the truth go by again.

The sneer is gone from Donnie’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And the steadfast judge still holds the line, freeing the will of the people to flow,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Donnie’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Trumpville—loser Donnie has struck out.

“Casey” Image courtesy of C.F. Payne

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer is in the public domain

Bridge

The Bridge is an enduring symbol of the conquest of ingenuity over physical obstacles. It is about creating connections where none previously existed. And, it is a metaphor for the basic human need to connect with others of a like mind, to be understood. I explored these cultural connections in an earlier post https://foursquaremiles.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/culture-of-one/

I’m over here, you’re over there

but every day we build little bridges

to meet somewhere in the middle

====================================================================================

“Bridges (Travessia)”
Milton Nascimento

as performed by Sergio Mendes Brasil ’88

I have crossed a thousand bridges
In my search for something real
There were great suspension bridges
Made like spiderwebs of steel
There were tiny wooden trestles
And there were bridges made of stone
I have always been a stranger
And I’ve always been alone

There’s a bridge to tomorrow
There’s a bridge from the past
There’s a bridge made of sorrow
That I pray will not last
There’s a bridge made of colors
In the sky high above
And I think that there must be
Bridges made out of love

I can see him in the distance
On the river’s other shore
An his hands reach out in longing
As my own have done before
And I call across to tell him
Where I believe the bridge must lie
And I’ll find it, yes I’ll find it!
If I search until I die

When the bridge is between us
We’ll have nothing to say
We will run through the sunlight
And he’ll meet me halfway
There’s a bridge made of colors
In the sky high above
And I’m certain that somewhere
There’s a bridge made of love

Vou seguindo pela vida
Me esquecendo de você
Eu não quero mais a morte
Tenho muito que viver
Vou querer amar de novo
E se não der não vou sofrer
Já não sonho, hoje faço
Com meu braço o meu viver

====================================================================================

To Brooklyn Bridge

Hart Crane – 1899-1931

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty—

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
—Till elevators drop us from our day . . .

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,—
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry,—

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path—condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City’s fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

Wall

There’s no shortage of old stone walls in Connecticut. Most have been standing for hundreds of years. They were built from materials pulled from the land. When the glaciers melted and land masses were pulled apart by the forces of nature, Long Island was blessed with rich, fertile soil, leaving New England with an unyielding rocky coastline.

Walls are built to keep things out, or in

Walls define borders

Walls are passive by nature; they are not weapons—they are defensive

I’m sitting on this one, so I can view what’s on either side…

Shadow

Though the sun is setting

and we are confronted by twilight

Know there is also potential for incredible growth

The Cross

“One Ton…One ton, it’s not gonna get any lighter.”

Rahsaan Roland Kirk at Newport Jazz Festival

Hidden behind a stone wall that borders a small brook, this stone cross is a reminder of the sacrifices that have been made for all of us, and the burdens still shouldered by our brothers and sisters.

Beyond the darkness is light

Arms spread outward in an infinite embrace

Love will endure over hardship

Heartbeat

Heartbeat    teabtraeH

HeartbeatteabtraeH

HeartbeattraeH

Heartbeat—pulse of the city street

or a country road

Heartbeat of rhythms carry me to the sea

carry me,

far away

far from shores of steel and cobblestone

and far from rooftops—stargazer’s threshold

to Heaven

And further yet from stillness

of country nights

a heartbeat riding bareback, hair flying free

riding into darkness—far from me

Heartbeat of traffic

Sirens

a hornblast

infant’s cry across the alley

padding feet upon the pavement

Far from mountains

Deep-taken breaths

and time

suspended

stretched

endless

intolerable…

Hard, fast, intense

Heartbeat of city streets

Gentle, patient, passion restrained

yet,

still a heartbeat

Different and distant

two heartbeats

two hearts beat

As one

Heartbeat    teabtraeH

HeartbeatteabtraeH

HeartbeattraeH

Heartbeat

Love Swings

><

Love swings,

like Basie or Duke

As softly as a morning sunrise

streams into the day

It swings

><

Love swings,

as the breast gently rises

and her breath fills his horn

giving life to the moment

It swings

><

Oh hear,

how it soars so high

and crashes so low

and it swings

><

Hear it,

as my soul fills with color

but is left dark and empty

as it swings

low

sweet rhythm

Coming for to carry me

carry me,

but never deliver me

from love

><

Love swings,

her call irresistible,

my heart’s steady rhythm

a whisper

yet

heard by my lover

whose love is a song

that swings

WRVR Jazz NY – RNC Theme Song

In honor of the awe inspiring Republican National Convention, I profoundly present to our listeners a song from the days when America was great, when WRVR was broadcasting on the New York airwaves, Donald Trump was following in the footsteps of his father Fred, demolishing some of New York City’s finest architectural landmarks, and when men were men, women were women and, like minorities and foreigners, knew their place.

This classic, Your Mind Is on Vacation from Mose Allison, could have served as the theme song for the RNC that mercifully concluded after four mind-numbing nights.

Your Mind Is on Vacation

Mose Allison

You’re sitting there yakkin’ right in my face
I guess I’m gonna have to put you in your place
Y’know if silence was golden
You couldn’t raise a dime
Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is
Working overtime

You’re quoting figures, you’re dropping names
You’re telling stories about the dames
You’re always laughin’ when things ain’t funny
You try to sound like you’re big money
If talk was criminal, you’d lead a life of crime
Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is
Working overtime

You know that life is short and talk is cheap
Don’t be making promises that you can’t keep
If you don’t like the song I’m singing, just grin and
Bear it
All I can say is if the shoe fits wear it
If you must keep talking please try to make it rhyme
‘Cause your mind is on vacation and your (big) mouth is working
Overtime

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