Friday, April 15th
voices I miss
Von Freeman (1923-2012, MCOTD Hall of Fame), “Dig” (J. McLean), live (with Mike Allemana, guitar), Chicago, 2002
By John Koethe (The Swimmer)I was a rock and roll child. I saw ElvisTruncated by Ed Sullivan, listened to Fats DominoSing “Blueberry Hill” and loved “Sixteen Tons,”Which was proto-rock and roll. I still love it,But since you can’t remain a child forever,I cast my net wider, and thanks to my JapaneseIntegrated amp, saxophones wash over me each night.It started with Paul Desmond, who aspired to sound“Like a dry martini,” and went on to bring to lifeThe celebrated and the obscure alike: Spike Robinson,Whom I heard at the Jazz Estate a few blocks awayIn 1992; Frank Morgan, who had Milwaukee tiesAnd whom I wanted to nominate for an honorary degree,A scam set up for local businessmen; and ColtraneOf course, that endless aural rope that curls upon itselfAnd then uncoils. And it wasn’t simply saxophones: ChetBaker’s trumpet, plangent and permanent as he fell fromYoung and beautiful to wrecked and toothless; and Bill Evans,Still perfecting “Autumn Leaves” at Top of the Gate,While downstairs in the streets the ’60s boiled. Von FreemanDied last week at 88. I hadn’t heard of him until he died,And now here he is, filling up my room with “Time after Time.”He believed in roughness, and on leaving imperfections inSo his songs wouldn’t lose their souls, which is how I think of poems.Philip Larkin loved jazz too—a great poet, though disagreeable—But I don’t know if many other poets on my radar do. Perhaps theyThink it’s easy, I say to myself as I put on a record of Mal Waldron’s,To whom Billie Holiday once whispered a song along a keyboardIn the 5 Spot and Frank O’Hara and everyone there stopped breathing.