norbert blei | night notes

19 02 2009

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No.169 | February 19, 2009

NIGHT NOTES: 2/19/09

It’s a line I heard late last night on public radio, the BBC overnight news. About 2:15 A.M. I noted it so I would not forget, come daybreak. I noted both the time and the line–a line I wish I had come up with.

How could I not have thought it? Seen it? Said it? Made the comparison?

The BBC reporter was in Canada, discussing Obama’s visit there today, relating some of the reactions amongst the Canadians. And suddenly there it was, coming over the darkest airwaves at two in the morning in my own living room…there was the line, hanging there… glowing in the dark.

I memorized it immediately. And for safe-keeping, turned on my reading lamp, reached for pencil and paper, and wrote it down:

“Obama is the Miles Davis of politicians,” I heard the voice say.

Jesus! Of course! Of course! Perfect!

KIND OF BLUE…(I reached for my old LP copy)…all the while visualizing the dark man with the bright horn on stage, alone (he was always all alone)…”So What”, “Freddie Freeloader”, “Blue in Green”, “All Blues”, “Flamenco Sketches”.

I switched to the stereo, set the old LP on the turntable, put the arm and needle down on “All Blues”…let the sound envelop the room.

I turned the record jacket over to an incredible little ‘jacket note’ penned by no other than Bill Evans (“Improvisation In Jazz”) …and swallowed the first three paragraphs like a poem:

“There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

“The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see well find something captured that escapes explanation.

“This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflection, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician.”

Obama…the Miles Davis of politicians.

–Norbert Blei/night notes/2/I9/09

ron offen | mike kohler | bill jacobs | miller hanks | poetryjazz quartet

12 03 2008
Poetry Dispatch No. 216 | March 11, 2008

POETRYJazz Quartet

Ron Offen (on horn) | Mike Kohler (Blues vocalist) | Bill Jacobs (on vibes) | Miller Hanks (on drums)



From scratchy 78s with Bird
announcing sloppy chops
could say as much as tight-ass
technicalities of Clifford Brown;

to long-played Kind of Blue
maintaining silences between the notes
could fill the ear as full
as the cascades of Dizzy’s slippery bop;

or ‘Valentine (my favorite work of heart)
flashing more new smiles
as you got lost to find
another shade of colors;

then Bitches Brew’s new voodoo
leaving everything behind
bedeviling the past with tracks
of new and new and new for miles;

until your only groove was out beyond,
the fuse on which you sparked
a wired electric vision — popping,
rocking with a new age horn;

now leaving us again at sixty-four
I hear the rasp of your bemused,
accusing voice put down, well shit!
it just ain’t hip to live too long.

*First appeared in The Mockingbird



Blues TimXes 2, to Ya by Mike Kohler

Never pass up a chance to listen to the blues.
Maybe it is not to your taste,
or there is no time, or the years
have numbed you to the point
all the songs in life are just background noise.
In the darkest hour of your night,
blues dances up the stairs, waits for you
to open the door.
It has a pint of whiskey, a pack of smokes,
and till sunrise to hear everything you have to say.
Even when you are up and life is good
and you can sleep at night
listen to a blues song.
Go quiet as an empty hallway
waiting for footsteps and a knock,
and know the blues will always be there.

I know it would be cool to admit
to smoking tea, swaying to Coltrane and
Mingus, spacing out,
drinking cheap white wine,
pretending its cool to rebel.
Like that time with Kerouac,
all those other beat catch phrases.
Not my bag.
Put some Cream in my tea,
a Spoonful, no more,
Momma needs a new dress,
I need new shoes,
and when I wake up I know
the Thrill Is Gone.
Jazz is after Midnight,
smoky and tired. Blues is
the walk home, eying shadows,
holding the pistol in your pocket.

[Thanks for the poems, Norb. Gimma a poem, gotta have a poem, i needa poem, oh wait, here’s one. Ya need a poem?]



Jazz Chicago / Bill Jacobs

Plugged Nickel

Hunched down, hunkered down
closed in on the horn, the valves like jewels, the fingers like spiders.
The tight smoky eyelids looking in their own direction
oblivious to whoever is listening.

Who cares. So what.

How can disdain sound so good?

Ode to Joe

The low ceiling all black with spots
highlighting the smoke falling down on the stirring crowd
waiting patiently for the music.

And out comes Joe as if announcing a prizefight speaking of
champions soon to set foot in his ring that he calls the Showcase.

The stunning drum set stands silently behind waiting impatiently
to explode.

Sardine Bar

Not five feet away a line of golden tubes fence off Lionel as he wails with
mallets surrounding us in waves of sounds
in the confines of the smallest club in town.

Sleek, sexy, chromium accents set off the pale gray walls
containing the brilliant colors pouring forth from the
tenorman’s horn as he takes the tune to the next level.



by Miller Hanks


August 17, 1999—the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’, KIND OF BLUE.
Bill Evans & Wynton Kelly on piano; Cannon Ball Adderly. on alto sax, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Paul Chambers, bass & James Cobb on drums…

Evans wrote the liner notes on the old vinyl album comparing Miles’ artistry to that of Japanese sumi painters who practice a lifetime the discipline of getting it down right in a single stroke.

Before the recording session forty years ago, Miles made a few sketches concerning what he wanted them to play.
And each man went his own way
Without exception, said Evans, every piece in the album was recorded in one take.

“So What” “Freddie Freeloader” “Blue in Green “ “Flamenco Sketches” “All Blues”

Nobody knows where the time went.
It was all over.
It’s still here.

KIND OF BLUE is the best selling jazz album in the world and still sells 5,000 copies a week. No one can quite explain its popularity.

Except it is something close to perfect…
the beautiful imperfection of jazz.

Be in the dark,
Hear the blue prayer

Broken Wing

Chet tells it in
his auto bio graphy:
(The Lost Memoir)

Tells it as he lived it
once, early on, playing trumpet
in the 6th Army Band…
It’s all about flying
Finding the music
With both feet on the ground.

Tells about that time in the army band,
his second hitch, when the foot soldier musician
had played just about enough grounded omp pa pa
and sought a discharge
like some of his other mad-hatter friends in the band
who had feigned a way to freedom..

“Right about that time two
flute players had managed to get out,” says Chet. “One guy
put himself in a trance & was carried out,
no stretcher,
stiff as a board by two army corpsmen
who jabbed a pin into the bottom of his foot
to no avail.”

The other guy told the band leader:
“There’s a little man inside my flute.
and he’s playing all the wrong notes.”

Both flute players went free, discharged.
While Chet admitted smoking grass,
chimed to shrinks about lack of privacy on the toilet ,
took tests where he always chose
the most feminine answer,
till he couldn’t claim less than life anymore and
went AWOL—a third of the band following suit.
only to turn himself in in time, come clean,
spend three weeks in the stockade and be given a
general discharge,
deemed “unadaptable to Army life”

And so returned and sentenced himself to a life of jazz instead

joining Stan Getz’s band for awhile…
then finally footloose and free…
freeing himself in his own sound:

Chet Baker & Strings, l954
Chet Baker Sings, l954
Alone Together, l955
Reunion, l957
It Could Happen to You, 1958
Chet Is Back l962
Cool Burnin’; l965
Into My Life, l966
Blood, Chet and Tears, l970
You Can’t Go Home Again, l977
Broken Wing, l979

Forever hooked and flying higher (“as though he had wings”)
till Amsterdam,1988,
flying through a second story hotel window
3 in the morning…
fallen notes
broken wing

unto the earth’s return
without a sound…
save what he left up there
in the night sky
down here for us


dave etter | two jazz poems

29 02 2008


The Lighthouse jazz club, Hermosa Beach. Photo: (c) William Claxton

Poetry Dispatch No. 211 | February 28, 2008

Two Jazz Poems by Dave Etter

JAZZ JUNKIE by Dave Etter

How come when I
come to your house
what you got on
is always some Louis Armstrong?
There are other trumpet players
out there, you know.
Where’s your Dizzy,
where’s Clifford Brown?

I’ve met some of the big cats
like Dolphy, Gil Evans,
Dexter, Bird, “Lockjaw” Davis.
Shelly Manne asked me one time
at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach
did I have a light?
I gave him two matchbooks.
He said, “Hey, I’ve seen you here
the last three, four nights.”
And we shook hands, talked about
Chet and Chico Hamilton
and what Max Roach was up to.
When I got back to Chicago
I put his face on my wall
alongside Bud Powell
and “Fat Girl” Navarro.

Look here, brother,
I most never go
anyplace anymore,
don’t even make the club scene,
I’d rather stay in my room
and dig Pharoah Sanders,
Illinois Jacquet,
and Elvin Jones.



Didn’t like the party
didn’t like the people there
tossed down my whiskey
put on my corduroy coat
passed some tacky tycoons
country club bumpkins
double chins double gins
yanked open the thick front door
lit a fresh Cuban cigar
went down white stone steps
went down crooked walk
went spinning round and round
goodbye to Wall Street weirdos
bigoted Republicans
bad hearts sick with greed
glad to be out of there
turning and whirling
dancing dancing like Monk.

crp003_t.jpgfrom I WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOU, Cross+Roads Press, 1995, 35 pp. $6.


some selected Lighthouse recordings…