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Category: Jazz

POEM: For McCoy Tyner

[McCoy Tyner at the 2013 Detroit Jazz Festival. Photo: Jason Crane.]

For McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner died today.
He was 81.
Honestly that surprised me;
I’d thought he was older.
Aren’t all masters ancient?
Or maybe timeless. Ageless.
Achieve a certain level of fluency
& you pass beyond the reach of the clock’s hands,
slip through Death’s grasping arms.
Now all four are gone: John, then Jimmy,
Elvin next, now McCoy.
A baby born tomorrow will never have
breathed the air at the same time
as any member of Coltrane’s classic quartet.
I wasn’t born when Trane died.
I was two when Jimmy left us.
Once I shook Elvin’s hand.
Another time I heard McCoy play.
McCoy Tyner died today.
He was 81.

/ / /

Jason Crane
7 March 2020
Tucson, AZ

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POEM: Playing The Fania All-Stars At My Retail Job

Playing The Fania All-Stars At My Retail Job

Takes me back to my early days playing
latin jazz and salsa in Tucson bars.
When we were all the way on
whole rooms full of sweating dancers
would cheer, spinning, singing along. ¡Baila!
Me, a 20-year-old white kid with no business
among these grizzled Mexican and Puerto Rican
veterans of the local music scene. Playing the claves
like an elementary school kid with woodblocks.
“If you’re going to play them,” Ismael said, “PLAY THEM.”
Later he would tell me, during a flamenco tune:
“Clap like my mama’s making tortillas.”
(He offered me cocaine, drank Scotch during every set
till the tempos were elastic as putty.)
Later I would lay jazz melodies over the dance rhythms.
Will, the bongocero, said to a new trumpeter:
“Can you play them jazz songs like my man Jason?”
I floated off the floor in my cap-toed spectators.
MCA Records offered us a deal, so we got together
at Izzy’s house to lay down a bunch of music.
Izzy got coked up, missed the meeting with the execs,
the deal was off. But when we were on, man,
we were all the way on.

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Jason Crane
27 December 2019
State College PA

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POEM: Real

Real

I watch John Tchicai dance lightly
through the minefield of “supposed to.”
He’s far ahead but I can see him,
and though the way is full of danger,
I take one step—

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Jason Crane
12 December 2019
State College PA

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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

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