Monday, June 24, 2019

Douglas Malan, Jazz, and Trains

Photo by DVS

Tonight Douglas Malan brings us back to the theme of music, specifically jazz.  

I intended to be way up there,
Vermont, perhaps,
playing jazz
into the blue
predawn hours
sipping something strong. 
I intended to be there,
wrapped in meditative comfort
surrounded by walls of circles
possessing hot magic
in vinyl grooves and pockets.
I intended to be there,
the tick-tock of the wooden clock
marked the rhythmic electric flow
and ancient pines caked with snow
welcomed another midnight dusting
of slow, acoustic grace. 
I intended to be there,
watching from the window
speaking only when necessary
in low, liquid tones
to no one, or everybody
all of them unseen
from my den. 
I intended to be there,
but knew the velvet night
never lasts
and the sharp light changes me
agitates, enervates, misappropriates
pulls me out as I give in. 
I intended to be there,
but never went. 
Originally published in Jerry Jazz Musician.

Forged and Cast
I sit in the darkness,
eyes closed, but not asleep, 
listening for distant sound. 
Quick arrival, low hum leading 
to a mechanized rumble
and iron clacking drumbeat. 
Then, gone. 
Return to the night 
of crickets
and wisps through leaves. 
The faceless among them
hurtle into the mystery 
with industrial rhythm
powerless, hopeful.


I’ve been there. 
Boarded the City of New Orleans, 
northbound train #59,
Christmas season,
countryside lit up with joy and hope.
The potbelly stove and grandfather clock 
saw me off around midnight 
from Newbern, north of Memphis. 
Journey on. 


Low lights, scattered sleep
DuQuoin, Illinois 
God, don’t I know you well. 
Mom always held my hand tightly across Main Street, 
until she didn’t need to anymore. 
Got sick of this place, vowed never to return.
But it can’t leave me, and I love it more 
with time and distance. 


Black canvas, blur of light
drunk on sleeplessness
16 hours without speaking, 
I liked it that way.
Chicago, Omaha, Denver
retracing boyish steps, 
as a man. 
Breathless in Vail’s blue-haze snow
another clumsy attempt
because I didn’t belong. 
I was a connection 
humble farmers of dusty overalls
and jet setters of champagne baths
who will never meet. 
Every wailing train
makes me daydream.


Of course, I am going to start with "Moonlight in Vermont," but this is a 1952 version with Johnny Smith on guitar and Stan Getz on tenor sax:

Here is Ahmad Jamal's version from 1958:

Now you have jazz in Vermont.  The Brian McCarthy Quartet plays "The Feeling of Jazz" at the Vermont Public Radio's studio:

I'll finish up with Chuchito Valdes playing at the Vermont Jazz Center:


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