Saturday, July 23, 2016

Welcome to Tad Richards and Nancy Ostrovsky

Tonight I have an entry that truly combines words and images.  Poet and blogger Tad Richards provides the words, and artist Nancy Ostrovsky gives us the images.  I hope that you will enjoy tonight's entry.  Imagine that you are in an outdoor art gallery in Upstate New York!  Or at the Five Spot.

I will quote Tad's introduction to these poems:

"These are from a self-published collaboration with artist Nancy Ostrovsky, poems and drawings, many of them related to jazz. "With Miles" was originally published in Cortland Review. "In a Dream, She Sees Lester Young Standing Naked" is from a sequence of poems about a young woman, the daughter of a jazz musician, who has just left her husband and is trying to make sense of her life." 


I was just fifteen when Charlie Parker died
My older brother took me aside
And said, Kid, it's a bad day
It's a sad day
Well, I didn't know why and I had to be told
Hey, but I grew up
And I learned my stuff
And I learned enough
And I'm not so old

When I was a kid just starting to move
I filled my soul with that rhythm and blues
And I listened to the Clovers
And the Coasters
And I couldn't get enough of that rock and roll
I was growing up
And the beat was mine
And it still sounds fine
And I'm not so old

Then one night I turned on the radio
Looking for some of that rock and roll
And I heard some bebop
Brought me to a full stop
Didn't know what it was but it moved my soul
I was almost grown
And they said it was Miles
I still dig his style
And I'm not so old

I saw Monk dance around the Five Spot floor
And a cat from Texas made the Five Spot roar
His sax was plastic
His sound fantastic
And I went back again to hear Ornette blow
I was all grown up
And he made jazz free
Still sounds good to me
And I'm not so old

Once they said that jazz had passed away
But I go down to hear the young cats play
They play in the tradition
They've got a mission
They play sweet and strong and free and bold
Well, I may be grown
But the cats blow on
And the music's young
And I'm not so old


In a dream, she sees Lester Young standing naked
at the door to her kitchen.
He is as women are to men
in the dream, an invitation, not as men
are to women, intrusion. His body is
soft, and she wonders where
that hard part is inside him, the tunnel of breath
that turned Lady Be Good or Lester Leaps In.

She gets up and walks to the kitchen, but he's
not there. Thirsty, she runs the tap, and while
the water cools, she watches it splash
on the round of a spoon, spongy and brittle,
as it would be, passed through that tunnel in
her, in Lester, diffracted, never shaped.



Trane would start a solo
an hour later
   be playing
Miles said
     why so long
Trane said
     that was how long it took

Herbie told Miles
     I don’t know what to play no more
Miles said
     don’t play nothing

Herbie sat with
     hands in
       his lap
whole number
   up for
back to the lap

Miles said
     that sound was a bitch

Mtume wanted Miles
     like a martial arts master
     who splits an apple
     on a guy’s throat
     without touching the throat

to play a whole concert
just below the
threshold of sound

Don’t knock free
what it finds


She said jazz
is how life should be
flexible rhythm but
you count it off
beyond that

melody left behind
now it’s your call
you know where
the roots are you don’t

know where it’s taking you
she herself was
Chet Baker
Gerry Mulligan
touching where you didn’t

know you tingled
or she was
Thelonious Monk
threading her way along
narrow pathways

with broad steps
on either side are
Arizona cactus
long spined blooming

Tad also blogs about Prestige's jazz recordings at this site:

Now I'll put on some music, starting with Charlie Parker, of course.  Here is his "Ornithology":

Monk recorded an entire album at the Five Spot, but here is a link to his "Five Spot Blues":

I haven't posted that much Lester Young, so I'll play a few of his songs.  Here he and Billie Holiday perform "All of Me."  The stills are from the recent movie The Artist.

Not sure when this version of "Lester Leaps In" was recorded:

Lester Young plays with Coleman Hawkins among others:

I'll finish with "There'll Never Be Another You" where Young plays with Oscar Peterson:

and with a version of Miles Davis' "So What":


  1. Most enjoyable I love the sketch of miles

  2. Some time in the 90s, I was in the city, walking through Washington Square, ran into an old (but much younger than me) friend. We decided to go for a beer -- he said he knew this place on Cooper Square, a thrash punk club, but it was still early, and there wouldn't be any music yet.
    And sure enough, you could tell it was a thrash punk club -- lots of spidery black graffiti all over. But as I looked around, I said to my friend, "I've been here before. The last time I was here, Ornette Coleman was on that bandstand." It was the old Five Spot!

  3. "With Miles" is my favorite, although I love the painting of Lester Young.
    Miles lived in my Upper West Side neighborhood in the 80's. I never saw him, but I had friends who did.