POEM: Charles Mingus Running Laps

Charles Mingus Running Laps

The new old Mingus was recorded
seven months before my own debut;
thirty-plus years before I made it to Detroit,
where Charles and Roy and Joe and
John and Don were still figuring out
the steps, some of them having only
recently been invited to dance.

There is space for all of us in music.
The misfits and the fits, if those
even exist. I’m skeptical myself.
But anyway there is room enough
at this kitchen party for you
and everyone you’ve ever known.
Hang up your coat and grab a drink.

I was a kid the first time I saw men play jazz.
My grandpa took me to hear Pete Fountain
and Al Hirt someplace. Rochester maybe. He knew
them from Lawrence Welk. At least that’s where he
learned about Pete. Toupee like a dare, clarinet
dancing like a baton as he made the uncool
cool. Saved my adolescence.

OK not actually. It still wasn’t cool to play jazz
in the eighties. Not as a nerdy white kid
in an all-white town forty-five minutes
from the birthplace of Chuck Mangione.
I did get a lot of hall passes from
the band teacher, and that was something.
Better than class. Way better than gym.

I like to picture Mingus sneaking out
of the locker room before his gym teacher
can line him up for dodgeball. Mingus who
might have flashed a blade at Duke. Mingus
who told racists in no uncertain terms
to fuck right off. Did he have to run laps,
gasping in the morning cold?

///

Jason Crane
20 November 2018
State College PA

Record Of The Day: Gerry Mulligan Presents A Concert In Jazz

gerry

I heard this record for the first time last night and it’s a killer. I’m partial to Gerry Mulligan anyway, and I’ve always enjoyed his Concert Jazz Band recordings. This album was recorded in New York City in 1961. The 13-piece band is outstanding. It includes Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone; bassist and jazz humor anthologist Bill Crow; Mel Lewis on drums; Gene Quill on clarinet and alto saxophone; and Doc Severinsen on trumpet. The arrangers are equally impressive: Mulligan, Brookmeyer, George Russell, Johnny Carisi and Gary McFarland. (This is McFarland’s first recording. I was interested to learn that he’d studied at the Lenox School Of Jazz in my hometown of Lenox, Mass.) The band cooks at times, and at other moments lopes along with that easy swing associated with the best Basie material. Recommended.

Standard (for Porter & Perez)

standard

Standard (for Porter & Perez)

they are silent phantoms
moving like wraiths between
the close-knit tables

remove a plate
add a napkin
offer the dessert menu

steal away into
a darkened corner
of the club

then a sound
like overheated lightbulbs
pop pop popping

the bassist looks up
smiling
as a new phantom

glides toward the kitchen
holding a witch’s broom
(and dustpan)

the sound of glass dragged
across poured concrete, then:
“Besame Mucho”

/ / /

Jason Crane
18 April 2015
Jazz Standard
NYC