Amy Barlow Liberatore… stories of lost years, wild times, mental variety, faith, and lots of jazz

Tag Archives: Jazz

CHANTEUSE IN SNEAKERS

From that first jam session, I was
the little girl singing with old dudes
They told me I “brought it”

Caught ‘em by the spiritual heel
Held ‘em with my feeling, healing
No drab days after that debut

Wandering out the back forty
serenading the birds who
sang back like they were answering

Daydreamed through school
Lyrics in mind (not math)
Pondering styles on mental stylus

Teacher would call on me
I’d pulsate from embarrassment
No clue as to question or even subject

Kids laughed and teachers scolded me
about my silly sidetrackedness
But I’d have luxurious revenge

Within two years, the best songs
ingrained in my brain, a tendril of
inspiration connecting song to singer

At the jam, I shocked even my siren mom
when I sang “Embraceable You,”
a pint-sized vixen, meaning every word

Caught glances of awestruck audience
I watched their reserve melt away
Drawn into my world, surreal, transfixed

They left reality behind, escaped the moment
of “I’m guzzling a martini” to float into
a haven of heaven, losing themselves

I was seven years old
when I realized I had the ability
to eat other people’s shadows

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, the final stanza is the first line of a poem by Hamilton Cork; we were given several lines from which to create a poem. Thank, Izy, for a great prompt. Read all poems and a bio of Hamilton Cork HERE.

Also for ABC Wednesday (C) and Three Word Wednesday (drab, pulsate, tendril).


Take Me Back

Click on link to play.  Amy on keys and vocals, Riley on drumset, Rob on tenor sax. Photo by Donna Dajnowski, used by permission of photographer.

Studio Meeting of Minds

FAMILY AFFAIR

Mother and daughter
Keyboardist and drummer
Our yearbooks diverged:
Mine said, “You are so weird,”
and her entries were all about
her coming out and being cool.

Years ago, the dissolution of
the marriage of her parents
put Riley in a tricky spot.
Years later, rarity of rarities:
Her dad, a great saxophonist,
joined us on a session.

Vintage jazz cut with
a medium beat, but
vintage Amy to the core.
We all felt vibes surfacing.
Felt the delirium of healing.
Created a legacy of friendship.

Sessions are not just for
the psychologist’s office.
Jams are not only spread
on whole wheat toasty bread.
Jazz has that knack of pushing back
what’s in the way; music, here to stay.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Jasmine Calyx, who printed an amazing list of words, including some of the above: Songwriter, surfacing, yearbook, drummer, keyboardist, rarities, delirium, legacy, dissolution, and vintage. She has a knack for highlighting the blogs of other poets… a truly selfless blogger. I dig her style – check her out! Also for Wonder Wednesday at Poets United (proud to be a member!), asking for poems about wonders of the world. I think that two exes and their daughter performing in one space, making great jazz, is a WONDER!

Riley, Rob Weinberger, and I did record this piece in a Binghamton, NY studio. Rob’s wonderful wife, Donna Dajnowski, took some pix. Lex was stuck upstate, but he thought it was a great idea. The cut needs some editing, but you get the idea. Peace, Amy


UNSUNG HEROES IN MY INKWELL

My ubiquitous inkwell, home of
fluid blue poems-yet-to-be

Out pops an indigo sprite who
scribbles sillies and twizzles about
the ‘California daze’ or who’ll
juke-jive to the jazz

Sometimes a slate drudgeluckless
slithers over the side of the inkwell
seeps to the page
smears thoughts of illness and
acidic, acrid, lucid memories

There’s a crotchety navy man
who marches out, ten-huts at paper’s edge
and vigilantly decries the evils of war
He’s a vet of many battles and says
victory has neither a smell nor a hint of glory

My favorite inkwell denizen is
the periwinkle fairy who dusts the page
with a harvest heart and loving words
Who inspires hope with ageless
meditations on love

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Three Word Wednesday (Battle, sumptous, harvest – what a combination of words!), and for ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter U. Hope I post this in time…

And to tell the truth, I do have an inkwell on my desk for inspiration, but I write with my trusty Ticonderoga #2 pencil. Peace, Amy


Incantations in Jazz

Back in The Day
jam sessions were serious affairs
Jazz hinged on trust, ears, collaboration, and rotgut

Cat would stay
Play for no pay
‘Til break of day

Strayhorn charts in clouds of smoke or
off-the-top-of -your head bebop
Slammin duels or cozy duets

Soubrettes mimicked Ella, got laid
Torchettes dug deeper, got respect
Getz and Jobim brought bossa to the scene

Miles straight up in any incantation
Trane proclaiming A Love Supreme
but his lover was the needle, the ride

Recording sessions went straight to vinyl
Benny, Lionel, Slam – his high-pitched, mellow voice
doubling his bass lines, so fine, class, no sass

Basie showed Sinatra how to swing
(before the “ring-a-ding-ding”)
All live, driving, vibrant, vital

Women with ample curves strung like pearls
Billie moaning, Ella owning the scat, Bessie howling
Flat-out fine, no whine about the need for pay

Getting laid, getting high, getting by
by the grace of jazz, flowing like honey or
slappin you upside the head like a pissed-off date

He’d make love to her later
after the session cooled off, horns packed up.
Then everyone got down to real business

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter “I”; Three Word Wednesday (Need, Hinge, Lethal); the open call at Real Toads, AND Trifecta’s word, “Ample.”  Also at the place where I’m always jammin, Poets United.

This is the soil from which I spring. Call it a dangerous environment for a young girl, but I was right at home with the old cats, the ones who gave Art Tatum driving lessons (he was blind)… the ones who ruined their voices on bathtub gin and took up the drums to keep bread on the table. Imagine my luck, a little white girl who could sing blues, accepted by musicians of all colors and lifestyles! Peace, Amy


Corner Shelf Onstage

Young: First round on me
Stay ‘til last call
Partied hard,
some success

Now: Wiser,
ready for rowdiness, revolution

Dichotomy:
Shy, depressed or
Manic, obsessed with
peace, poetry, politics,
my past

And always singing…

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For the whimsically titled Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, the challenge was to write a poem about yourself in 35 words or less. Peace, and please do come to the Garden – you’ll meet interesting poets and photographers and other artists!


Please be sure to read the explanation at the bottom of this post; otherwise, I’ll have every single stay-at-home mom mad at me, and that’s not my intention!! Peace and an Oreo dipped in milk, Amy

Housewife Envy*

I have always envied housewives.
Each morning, pulling crisp aprons
from drawers under counters crowded
with kids’ art awaiting a place on the fridge.
Willing the bacon to crisp, flipping
hotcakes on a Revere-ware skillet.
Had I but known that it only took
one drunken prom night spree in
the back of his souped-up Chevrolet,
just blooming at the shotgun wedding…

I, too, could include myself in the
year-round bliss of Tupperware parties;
Bloody-Mary-and-Bridge afternoons;
summer months spent gazing out the
window watching our neighborhood’s
rowdy, mud-caked munchkins until
Fall. Then, one by one, my own brood
would thrill to new lunchboxes and
come home smelling of crayons and
some other kid’s egg salad sandwich…

I wish I’d realized that to spurn those
high-school advances of Jimmy Parker
was like shredding my ticket to ride;
I would not feel so darned ignorant now.
Housewives get all the real news from
their husbands, entertainment from TV.
They subtract their own little extras from
the shopping list to stick to the budget,
and the only balls they need are made of
cotton, to wipe off Noxzema each night.

But here in this smoke-filled piano bar,
as another twenty drops in my tip jar, I
abandon the sting of this jealousy and
face reality: I’m stuck traveling to cities
like Hamilton, Bermuda, wearing a daring
cut-down-to-there number, making my
way in the world. Always on the move,
waiting for the crowd to feed me their
electricity through our mutual umbilical
cord of jazz, wisecracks, and dry martinis.

If I were a housewife, I would be pampered,
cared for, and I’d only have to spread my legs
once in a while and put up with the sting of
unschooled sex. I might wonder about the
uncertain lives of girls like me, who constantly
have to update their passports, who buy their
own jewelry from this year’s collection, who
hustle their way through airports to catch a
plane to the next destination, the next show…
If only I were a housewife, I’d be lucky.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
*IMPORTANT NOTE: I hold the greatest respect for mothers who are able to stay at home with their children; in fact, I consider it the most noble of pursuits. The “housewives” moniker is insulting to me as a feminist, because I believe staying at home is a viable CHOICE among many choices. But a prompt is a prompt, and since the poem presumes that all stay-at-home moms do is sit on their asses eating bonbons, sucking up booze, and watching soaps, I will accept all criticism. Please know that, after my years as a single working mother, I was indeed envious of moms who could be with their kids after school.

For Trifecta, “tongue in cheek,” and The Sunday Whirl: Housewives, Months, Year, Ignorant, Subtracting, Sting, Rind, Balls, Fall, Drawers, Spurn, Electricity.


I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (click on link to hear the song)
Amy Barlow (vocals) and Stuart Watarz (piano)
Music by Duke Ellington; lyrics by Ned Washington (used by permission of their estates)

SINGING STANDARDS

Those well-known, well-worn songs
of Ellington, Gershwin, Mercer
My primer, my guide from childhood

I wanted to make them my own so
I read the lyrics poetically first
before I sang them; I grew them inside

myself, within the deep chambers
of mystery, of smoky romance
and infectious delight

I never sang a song
the same way twice, but
I tried to get it right

Not trite, this advice to
younger singers: Read the song
first, listen to the lyricist

Don’t imitate, it grates
and you will sound over-rehearsed
and you will be dismissed as a poser

Don’t listen to Ella. Ever.
She embeds in your head and
will be artist-in-residence

Sing it. From the sole of your shoes,
from the fire in your heart,
from the orgasmic desire

Though the song was written
before you were born,
know in your heart that

there’s your version waiting
to be sung from your POV
Blow your horn, baby

and give out like there’s
no turning back,
no way out

cuz there isn’t. Once you’re
lost yourself in a classic…
you’re where you need to be

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For dverse Open Mic Night. “Standards” are the jazz tunes every good musician and singer knows before accepting a gig. As Time Goes By, Fly Me To The Moon, Embraceable You, … then there is the second, special tier of songs not on “the list” but that earn a singer points with the band members for knowing them… Lush Life, I Cover the Waterfront, Cottage for Sale.

The song on the media player is a standard; however, this is the complete version with both full verses, so it straddles the two tiers above. This version makes more sense, because it deals with the weekend, THEN “when the weekend’s over.” I cut my teeth on these songs, and I hope you like this version, from my CD, “Jazz Baby Hits Her Stride,” available for download HERE.


BABY’S BEGINNING

And though she knew
the marriage was doomed
in her womb there was a seed

that grew steadily
until that glorious night
at the Chinese place

The Quickening
The moment a soul
enters the body and

like Elizabeth’s child,
baby leapt for joy
(so did her mom!)

Blessed with a gig in
Bermuda, piano bar
No star, but paid the bills

(and his too, as he
withdrew into his shell
back in Queens)

Every time mommy
played Duke Ellington
baby’s feet kept time

Fast songs or slow
Kicking perfect rhythm
My covert metronome

And when at last
she emerged from inside
her eyes so wide, so black,

I knew they would stay brown and
I knew we would be together
weathering any storm

Mothers who nurse know
the most beautiful sight
is the top of the baby’s eyelids

as they shut tight
working on their task
nuzzling at the breast

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Image by Mahalie, used by permission of Creative Commons
For Sunday Scribblings, “In The Beginning…” Also at my poetic playpen, Poets United!


Was a Time When…

Was a time when
nothing was shelved for another day

When, lacking A.C., our windows allowed
the cacophony of Manhattan traffic
to ferment with our Streisand on the stereo
into an ethereal, essentially New York brew

When heartaches were daily doings and
lovers’ promises abstract

When Chinatown was
a neon-spangled dragon,
delicious, exhilarating, smelling of
sesame oil and sweet rice wine

When we’d shimmy on the sidewalk
to every lowrider blasting reggae

Now those days in the City
are an exquisite origami swan
swinging from the ceiling on a ribbon,
suspended over my head
over my half-closed eyes
from the drop ceiling
over my hospital bed

as my life reaches the coda of
its jazzy, dizzying blur

Slowly, veil upon veil of blissful,
mystic, magic memories featherfall
upon my last moments…

but not a single regret

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For the Sunday Whirl: Exquisite, abstract, spangling, ethereal, ferment, dragon, shimmy, origami, cacophony, coda, aches, shelved. FYI, it’s The Sunday Whirl’s first anniversary this week, so click on the link and check out what others have done with Brenda’s weekly “dirty dozen” words. The variety of thoughts, of what springs to mind and splashes on the page of each poet or writer, is quite amazing. Brenda Warren, BRAVA and thanks!

Also at my poetic nest, Poets United! Peace, Amy


Dreadlocks and the Three Rednecks

Shaniqua was only 13, but she took the A train uptown every Saturday to visit her grandmother, an invalid who depended on help from neighbors for everything from groceries to doctor visits. Her grandma loved these visits for the sheer joy of her granddaughter’s sense of humor and her growing knowledge of old jazz records. This was the day Shaniqua would be introduced to “Ma” Rainey on 78s.

Today, the A was hopping with Yankee fans, headed up to watch Steinbrenner’s investment pay off once again as they chugged warm beer and scattered the bleachers with peanut shells. Shaniqua noticed the predominantly white ridership, so she pulled up her hoodie and gazed obliquely out the greasy subway window.  Three rednecks were harassing a gay guy when they turned their attention to someone they assumed would be more intimidated by them.

“Hey, little girl, you ain’t related to Rosa Parks, are ya?” drawled an out-of-towner, sitting pretty even though several older women were forced to stand, strap-hanging. His buddy caught on, got up from his seat (a senior widow slipped in fast as a New York minute, smiling smugly about getting off her tired feet). The second guy: “Why’re you wearin’ that hoodie? You a gangsta type? Member of a gang? We hear tell there’s all sorts of you people on these trains, stealing wallets and such.”

Finally, Number Three, cracking his knuckles, bellowed, “ARE YOU DEAF, LITTLE GIRL?” They surrounded her now. Sweat on her brow, dripping into her basket of homemade muffins. (C’mon, Mr. Ellington, make the A Train go faster.)

They ripped down the top of her hoodie to reveal her spectacular dreadlocks, woven by her mother since age five. “Looky here, boys, we got us a real Jamaican girl. Say, why don’t you teach us to dance? Do you know any Bob Marley?”

Her stop was coming. “Well, I can’t dance with you,” she said to the first cracker, “because I don’t like guys in flannel shirts. And you,” she pointed to Number Two, “are racist and just plain mean. I don’t think you like yourself much.” By this time, the grannies had all surrounded the group, ready to take action with purses and canes if the men got too close to Shaniqua. She was somebody’s granddaughter, after all.

“And you,” she said to Knuckle Cracker as the train pulled into her stop at 171 and Fort Washington. “You are so pathetic you’re wearing a Mets cap to Yankee Stadium, you have a mullet, and your pants are hanging so low my pastor would kick you out of the church. You’re a wannabe with bad underwear and a butt-crack.”

As they stood slack-mouthed, she hopped off the train. “And you don’t pay attention, because you missed your stop. Go back to 161st Street and catch the B over east.” Then the grandmas smiled knowingly at each other. It was going to be a long trip to the stadium for the non-residents of Harlem.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Trifecta: Unlimited words, rewrite “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
Photo courtesy of www.littleafrica.com.