I am one of many or one of few
blessed with blue beneath my beige
Age has no power over singers
even the unbalanced or quirky
First a slap on the upright bass
not uptight, plays soooo right
Then a snippet of snare and a
clink on the ride cymbal, yeah
Dust off a classic, “St. James Infirmary”?
Nope, too melancholy mournful
This lineup deserves a quick trip
on Route 66, flying down that road
on wings of azure razor-sharp steel
In an instant, the crowd really feeling it
One deep breathe and she does the whole
trip, all destinations, in one breath:
St. Louis, Joplin, OK City, Amarillo,
Gallup, Flagstaff, Winona, Kingman,
Barstow, San Bernadino… and then,
with a gasp, winds down to the final line:
“Get your kicks – on Six-Six”
Sure, it’s Nat’s line, but it’s homage
to the King of cool, of keys, ivories
We’re all Cole miners in this club
© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Photo of Amy sitting in with Madison’s All That Jazz, used by permission.
NOTE: The links below lead to YouTube videos – check out Krupa, Sinatra, and especially my girl Dusty.
For the Sunday Whirl and Poets United’s Poetry Pantry. The word “Blue” shouted to me in the Whirl Cloud – then the snare and ride, both essentials in any drum kit. The snare most folks know – it’s the smaller drum up front; the ride cymbal is one of two in most kits, and it gives a light tapping sound, while the “crash” cymbal does exactly that! There’s also a “high hat,” that gizmo with two small cymbals facing each other, connected to a long rod and controlled with a foot pedal, sometimes hit with sticks during a solo. Add a bass drum controlled with a kick pedal and a tom-tom (or “tom”), which has a deeper tone than the snare, and you’re about fixed. The toms get a workout on Gene Krupa’s classic, “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
Of course, REAL jazz players use more than sticks; for singers who have a ballad to share, they should have brushes for that swooshing sound in the rhythm. Some players use bundled bamboo sticks, which give a sharp, crispy tone to the skins (drum heads). But the most important part of any drummer’s kit? THE BRAIN. Good drummers have taste, a knowledge of the tunes (not just the pace, but the flavor of the song). The best musicians I know, the non-singers, learn the whole song, including lyrics. This gives a distinct flavor to any solo, knowing what word goes with what note, so when they streeeeeetch out on Johnny Mercer’s “Laura,” say, they can slide into “footsteps that you hear down the hall” with meaning. (Mercer wrote the words after David Raksin provided the theme for the Gene Tierney movie, “Laura.” The tune was so popular, they hired Mercer to write lyrics, and the song took off, especially the version by Frank Sinatra. any others. Same goes with “Satin Doll,” the Ellington classic – lyrics later provided by Mercer.)
Good example of tasteful sax soloing: Listen to Dusty Springfield’s version of “The Look of Love.” Stan Getz, who went to Brazil to pioneer the samba with Gilberto and Jobim, plays the sparest, breathiest solo to back up Dusty’s menthol cool. Tasteful piano? Listen to Bill Evans back up Tony Bennett years ago, two giants in one studio. Another vocal-sax pairing of note, Billie Holiday and Lester “Prez” Young.
I could go on, but how about this: Tell us YOUR example of taste in a song, where all planets were in alignment! Peace, Amy
Sherry Blue Sky
March 3, 2013 at 4:25 pm
Wonderful, Amy. It must feel so groovy. I always wanted to sing with a band, but was too shy.
March 3, 2013 at 4:27 pm
Dire Straits – Solid Rock is probably the epitome of a great rock song to me.
March 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm
What a joy to be able to sing Amy. I can’t imagine doing it myself but you convey such an appealing experience here!! I think maybe I could play the tambourine.
March 3, 2013 at 4:50 pm
ooh, when I was a kid, I fell in love with jazz and the blues, thanks to my mom and her younger brother!
March 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm
Oh How Fabulous, This Read!!!
Cole miners, indeed. You sing my kinda song, Amy!
March 3, 2013 at 5:14 pm
all Cole miners in this club…ha…love it…cool pic of you as well amy….dang i’d love to listen….
March 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm
I’m thinking all kinds of cool , slick, etc. …
March 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm
Stunning ~ plus: ‘my girl Dusty’ in your notes, oooooh 😉
March 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm
So cool that you’re blessed with blue beneath your beige… love that line, then the rest, carrying me along on a song you made me hear through your words, the music informing the rhythm melting back into the wings of azure razor-sharp steel…
In an instant, you really had me feeling it….
March 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm
Amy! i love “blessed with blue beneath my beige,” just something about that line. i also particularly love when music fuses with poetry, in whatever manner. keep singing, love, the world needs it. x
March 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm
And here I was today looking up old blues harmonica on youtube – Little Walter, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Paul Butterfield…. got lost in it for awhile. Nothing resonates like the blues. Thanks for sharing this
March 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm
cool jazzy, little lyrical number.
March 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm
I bet you’re wonderful on stage, Amy! I can tell it’s in your blood. This made me smile: We’re all Cole miners in this club.
Josie Two Shoes
March 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm
Beautiful, soulful photo and words that sweep like I know the music must. Would love a video of you doing this!
March 3, 2013 at 8:30 pm
“Cole miners” what a hoot 🙂 Great rhythym here…and a backstory that is a flash fiction piece in itself. Come on back to visit, PA friend – you are missed… 🙂
Brian the Kwyjibo
March 3, 2013 at 9:37 pm
I love lots of the old standards, like Mack the Knife, and I think few songs were more perfectly crafted than Van Morrison’s Moondance. I agree with Guapo too, on Dire Straits. My favorite of theirs is Romeo and Juliet.
By the way, I’ve added your nominations to The Bozo List over at Unintimidated by Convention. Thanks for them!
March 3, 2013 at 10:53 pm
Grooooovy, Baby. Love it. 🙂
March 3, 2013 at 11:16 pm
Oh, you brought back some super fine memories. I know what CDs I’ll be dropping in my Cd player tomorrow when I settle into my office 🙂
This was lovely. The Look of Love – I can hear her singing now – thank you!
March 4, 2013 at 2:46 am
Loved every one of those clips and your poem is Formidable. My Dad was a spare-time drummer in a 1930’s dance band, and my younger uncle played double bass with o ne of the Bert Ambrose bands during the war.
March 4, 2013 at 5:12 am
Blue is the world..not darkness..blue is much richer than that..sing loud!
March 4, 2013 at 6:13 am
Wonderful, Amy! I agree that age has no power over singers! Love the picture of you, Amy, and all the background info. Sing on in your poetry and in song!
March 4, 2013 at 8:46 am
music and poetry – perfect
March 4, 2013 at 9:24 am
oh, goodness! you do it all, don’t you? such a great post… my example of a song in which all the planets are in alignment? tough one, because there’s so many! I love Julie London’s ‘Fever’, and Mildred Bailey’s ‘Small Fry’ just sends me – but Nat King Cole’s ‘Mona Lisa’ is what I remember playing from the 8-track in my dad’s Mustang!
March 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Your love of music shines through in this poem, Amelita. Nicely done, now I am off to watch the videos.
Rosemary Nissen-Wade (@SnakyPoet)
March 4, 2013 at 9:05 pm
My kinda music! Loved the poem, and loved almost as much in a different way your dissertation following. 🙂
March 4, 2013 at 11:21 pm
Fantastic! It sings itself! Love it…
March 5, 2013 at 11:08 am
As a lover of “The Great American Songbook” I also feel the music, Nat was cool. “Blue beneath my beige” is inspired. Many of us have secretly blue souls. Excellente, Mujer! (That be my brown-eyed soul coming out.)
March 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm
Impressive, Dear Lady! The poem grabs the soul and takes it for that ride. And the internal rhyme made my heart flutter. I don’t read enough of your inspired words. But that WILL be remedied! Love your way!
March 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm
Amy, your poems about music always stir my soul, make me smile and feel wistful. You take me there, but I realllly want to be there and hear that music. I’m going to have to think about where I feel like the planets all aligned for a song–so many! One of my favorite poets though, are Simon and Garfunkel (I know, not bluesy but boy could they put a song together–like “Kathy’s Song”? Holy cow, that ending line…”I know that I am like the rain–There but for the grace of you, go I”) http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/paul+simon/kathys+song_20230533.html
March 6, 2013 at 2:35 am
So cool, Amy. Your poem feels like a song to me. I loved the images. I also now have three songs going through my head, “Laura”, Rosemary Clooney’s version of “St. James Infirmary” and Ethel Merman’s “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (Rosemary and Ethel sang those two songs on two different episodes of the radio show “Suspense”).
March 6, 2013 at 6:06 pm
True blue singer, hail Amy! My, you are up so high in the jazz scene. Cute picture accompanying the band, too! Some familiar names mentioned in your Notes. I’ll come back for seconds to take the songs later. So much to chew but just great, Ma’am!
March 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm
Bernadette Peters singing “Mean to Me” on the Johnny Carson Show, some time
back in the 1970’s or 80’s. She acted it out perfectly, even cried a tear or two…
March 22, 2013 at 3:55 am
I always enjoy your poems about jazz. Another example of a sax player that went well with a singer was John Coltrane with Johnny Hartman. I would play that album on my afternoon jazz shows when I was a dj in college, along with all of the other vocal greats. By the way, that is a really good picture of you, Amy.