Steve Dalachinsky


  i’m sitting here listening to some opera on the radio from the time that opera “died.” that would be around the turn of the century about the same instance that “jazz” was born.

  in the final episode of wynton marsalis’ series JaZz we are made to believe that jazz died with duke ellington in 1974 and was resurrected with wynton marsalis.

  i’m sitting here listening to anthony braxton’s town hall concert of 1972, recorded a short time before the demise of jazz & wonder if its demise is what led braxton to attempt to write opera.

  o.k. so my thing’s “the new thing” that grey area within the past 40 years that according to marsalis as interpreted by his gabby hayes-like sidekick, ken burns, never really existed.

  that ragged portion of jazz history, that lunatic fringe that emerged in the turbulent 60's for about a week, involved maybe a ½ dozen participants & just as quickly disappeared, without adding anything to what the great roland kirk ( one figure sadly omitted from this false tapestry ) termed as great black classical music in his attempt, like the art ensemble’s ( where’s the rest of them ken? ), to remove some stigma attached to the word JAZZ.

  bird dies johnny griffin rises from his ashes...this 3rd meditation on race, suggested to burns by marsalis during a lecture on the civil war, mentions all our heroin addicted heroes & heroines & their sad ends, due in part to a racist society, but completely ignores, in the section on bessie smith, then empress of the blues, “student” of ma rainey, “teacher” of billie holiday, that smith dies of the most blatant direct cause of racism. at the height of her career, after suffering severe injuries from a car accident, she was refused admittance into the closest hospital, a white hospital, and therefore bled to death before she could be treated by her “own kind.” ah the good old hypocritic oath... art forms are more readily accepted when they are tranformed into commodities & most of the people in JAZZ, regardless of their finalities, were successful at one point or another. not so the past 40 years unless fusion counts. AVANTE- GARDE or FREE jazz does not exist because it does not exist in the market place. sure, even columbia records makes a bid every 10 years or so to stick some “OUT” stuff on their label & then just as quickly drops them when they don’t sell ...tax write off ?... burton greene in the 60's, tim berne, arthur blythe, who when asked in a radio interview while signed to columbia & after changing to a more commercial style,why? simply stated “i’ve got to feed my family”. then there’s threadgill, david murray, cecil taylor & their latest to be picked up & dropped david s. ware, suggested to the company by branford himself. branford, mediocre trane/rollins clone who had the nerve to bash cecil in the documentary while ken burns who you know never even heard of c.t. allowed it to stay in to complete & compliment the taste of the unholy black conservative trinity of, marsalis (wynton), murray (albert ), & that judas to the music, stanley as in crouch....regina carter is she the only jazz violinist? ask ray nance..stuff smith...leroy jenkins... billy bang...matt maneri...or those europeans like stephan grappelli who i guess didn’t even play jazz. right django....hyperbole hyperbole hyperbole ...another title for the series can simply be THE RISE AND FALL OF JAZZ AS A COMMERCIAL VENUE.. which means no commerce no audience no merchandise sold therefore no existence ..i’m repeating myself as did the armstrong / ellington 19 hour extravaganza . i’ll leave the real facts to the “real” historians & just present a partial list of glaring & not so glaring omissions from this deconstructed & rearranged history put together by excellent footage, some relevant some not, & vectored by a discursive false linearity & security based on this louis/duke equation.. as one friend, who came up in the 60's & played with one of the hero’s of the film put it, “what’s louis armstrong got to do with what we played.” well maybe a lot & maybe nothing but remember louis was avante- garde too. but 15 minutes of one episode devoted to “hello dolly” instead of the relevance of the 60's jazz movement....give me a break. Hello, ESP records. this is Louis, ESP records. So nice to have you pop up when you did.” Even Count Basie’s band played an Ayler tune on one of its record dates.

  so here’s the list & as JAZZ would say, sorry for anyone living or dead we may have missed. .

 ' whatever happened to: eric dolphy, booker little, sun ra, lenny tristano, lee konitz, yusef lateef, blue note which hit the new note ( right lorraine? ), ayler, steve lacy, wes montgomery, andrew hill, all those europeans ( even though that’s not my area ) , george russell, gunther schuller, kenny dorham, lee morgan, fats navarro, roy eldridge, art farmer, even chet baker. bud powell, mentioned as someone monk got busted with though he was monk’s student & the second most important bop era pianist, loft jazz ( you all know who you are ), herbie nichols, randy weston ( if for nothing else his synthesis of african & american rhythms), a host of women musicians who i sadly don’t know anything about, cab calloway ( or did i miss that one? ) , black writers other than langston hughes, i.e. countee cullen, amiri baraka, jayne cortez, & ted joans who coined the terms “bird lives” & “jazz is my religion.” BIRD LIVES didn’t just pop up after parker’s death as we are led to believe. lots of bop & pre-bop people who i’m not that knowledgeable of. horace tapscott..art pepper. that whole west coast contingency. tap as in dance.some newer folks although now i know you think i’m stretching it...william parker, roy campbell, daniel carter, sabir mateen, matthew shipp, charles gayle. more “old” guard like fred anderson, reggie workman, jimmy garrison & his extended solos ....hey where’s milford & sonny murray? what happened to the rest of the chicago scene...sonny clark, more bill evans, wardell gray, soul jazz, bunny berrigan, benny carter, betty carter, lockjaw, male singers such as johnny hartman. hemphill, earl hines, earl garner, j.j. johnson, joe maneri, joe mcphee, sharrock, blood ulmer, rashied ali. sorry for all this messy out of sequence stuff.. i’m improvising.

                links man links where are the links? i ain’t misbehavin’ i just want more links.

                hey i just heard a rumor that wynton got dropped from columbia ‘cause he wasn’t selling enough...

  yes folks, it’s a wonderful world & music is the healing force...

nyc 2/2001

St. Lucy @ THE OPERA ( LIFE on its own terms )

Life’s a big place or so i think
& “the river deepens when it gets down to the sea”
i hold my eyes on a plate
& hold up the world for an instant
this is beauty in the ugliest sense
& not some would be pretender-to-the-thrown
just trying to be grotesquely glamorous

Life”s a big place
as i discovered just yesterday
& only sick people work in hospitals
& poetry like urine flow comes in streams
& sometimes you strain
& sometimes you don’t
& sometimes you start
& sometimes stop & then sometimes
you start
sometimes you empty your bladder all at once
only to discover moments later
it was not fully emptied
& sometimes there’s the sensation
of not having emptied completely
this can be referred to as incomplete emptying
weak stream
straining noctura

in the evening i carry my eyes into the world
& am met by frequent sometimes urgent looks
sometimes looks of longing & lust
& sometimes looks of love &
i am blind so what i cannot see cannot hurt
me & what my eyes see they no longer
share poet is a 4 letter word like love & lust &
fuck & hate & kill

Life is a big Place & sometimes the weather
determines my day
i can’t believe that i’m so naive as to think that
by plucking out my eyes
men would no longer desire me
i can’t believe that i’d ever say out loud that i’m
ashamed to be a human being
i can’t believe i’d ever step into a subway car
on a cold & lovely eve
& there find a young & seemingly gentle &
handsome man
who offers to read me the signs
yes read them to me i say
first he reads a poem of spring & then he reads
that if ever i see anything suspicious
i should call the terrorism HOTLINE
that’s 1-800-T-E-R-R-O-R-I-S-M
that’s unlikely i say
& my heart’s tongue whispers
read them to me again for LIFE
is a Big Place
& since i am blind
& since i cannot see i cannot really say for sure i’ve
ever seen these things before
you may hold my plate for awhile
if you like

Life’s A BIG place
& in this room without gravity
the clock tells us how much sunlight
an umbrella holds
weight is heavier than it seems
& my eyes grow sleepy

art is more important than man
it is our footprint
it reminds us we’ve been here
but even art remains only for as long as we allow it
hurricane flood fire & MAN

my eyes grow sleepy in their chambers
& in the chamber that is my mouth
there remains a dry line
where the ocean has receded
a picture of memory’s movement
a stranded swimmer
after hrs my mouth opens
to expell the wind
that has been locked there like a
strongman’s grip
unable to lift itself
or balance itself in accordance with the law
what is the law?
a rundown clock that barely gives the time
but somehow makes me feel that i’ve only just
a wind that falls like stone
onto the swimmer’s feet after a long day
of laps?
what is the law?
the circling breath of a man
caught within a gravitiless euphoria
heavy as a shadow that taps a melody as soundless
as a sunlit umbrella
on the concrete of a distant star?
rewinding the camera
without exposing the film?
winding the old victrola &
playing one’s favorite tune?
not to kiss me if you are married?
not to flirt with greed
unless it means a meal ticket?
not to catch sunlight in your umbrella
but if you do please let it go
or save some for a time when the weather
might determine your day?
i must be falling in love
can i have my plate back now?

it takes the clock forever to move just minutes
in this room without gravity
it is stuck somewhere between time &
this space i am in
feels a bit like being trapped within the petals
of the ranunculus
its folds enfolding me
& in its center lies a weightlessness
heavy as a star

i open my mouth to walk
& the timeline that is me rattles
like a tin can or a bell
i fall
i cough
i swallow doorknobs
& open the sounds that crawl inside my belly
my mouth grabs itself like an inhaling balloon
as i try unlocking the 1st gate


what is the law?
to stay afloat on this island for as long as i can
& never forget i’m in space
this is beauty in the ugliest sense

but now i will lift my eyes
& listen more closely to the OPERA
& never end singing with a

what is opera?


   where are the words when we need them? trapped inside the mouth
                                                                       like a draught in the ocean
                     & if the opera is a success we thank the composer 
                      & if the opera is a flop we blame the libretto.

                                                    5/02/03    from fragments written 4/03

Poet/collagist Steve Dalachinsky was born in Brooklyn after the last big war and has managed to survive lots of little wars. His book The Final Nite (Ugly Duckling Presse) won the PEN Oakland National Book Award. His most recent books are Fools Gold (2014 feral press), a superintendent's eyes (revised and expanded 2013 - unbearable/ autonomedia), flying home, a collaboration with German visual artist Sig Bang Schmidt (Paris Lit Up Press 2015), The Invisible Ray, with artwork by Shalom Neuman, from Overpass Press, "5-COLOR ASSORTMENT" Chameleon Too from Redfox Press, and FROZEN HEATWAVE with Yuko Otomo, from Luna Bisonte Prods. His latest cd is The Fallout of Dreams with Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach (Roguart 2014). His poem “Particle Fever” was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize.
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