1964 - 1968
Things in America were changing fast.
Jazz was becoming passé or too abstract –
something dead you put under a glass
in some fusty museum and study.
A lot of people were blaming the way-out
"free thing" that cats like Archie Shepp,
Albert Ayer, and Cecil Taylor were playing.
It didn’t have a hummable melodic line.
A few years back, the music we played
was on the cutting edge. I was gaining
strength and pop audience acclaim.
Folks would line up to hear us for blocks.
We were stretchin’ out on the modal thing.
Folks dug the swing, the easy loping grace,
how we served up blues without thick chords,
the straightjacket of thirty-two bars.
The white crickets had been so busy
lookin’ for a new place on their legs to saw
they’d pushed free jazz over the edge,
were reduced to chirpin’ in a closet.
Trane was the voice of rage
to the Panthers and angry blacks
and everyone was chantin’ "Burn, baby, burn!"
while we were put on some back burner.
Jazz lost its broad appeal to rock.
The British Invasion copped its chops
from black R & B, so these Mods
sounded half-assed new, half-assed hip.
White pop music suddenly got balls,
a little gyration. Elvis the Pelvis
put Big Momma Thornton over the top
and copped the royalties is all.
Suddenly that sorry-assed Doris Day shit
has its skirt up way past the knees.
Elvis and Jerry Lee are slippin’
a whole new generation of boppers the bone.
Motown and Rock ‘n’ Roll are it
and are here to stay, but, hey,
it’s all black music up in their bodies
and while hard rock is on its way
it ain’t nothin’ but amplified blues
and simple three-chord attitude.
They had a perforated president and Nam
til they did Malcolm and King.
Bloods be disappearin’ off the block,
comin’ home in boxes in bigger numbers
than white rich kids for years.
Still, the Kennedies had started something.
The industrial-military complex be tumblin’
with the death of them white boys
and Malcolm and King, for all their differences,
had turned some kind of blue-eyed tide.
Trane was playin’ love-ins for white folks.
Les Paul cranked up the volume some,
but I had these badass new bloods
showin’ me electricity. I’d turn the corner –
and take the motherfuckers back to Main Street
cos there ain’t been no drummer like Tony
to get a fire under my ass. No bassist
like Ron Carter to keep us in the pocket.
Wayne was a badass free horn player
who liked to play within the forms.
He never got to cut loose too much
with the badass Jazz Messengers band
but he had tightened up with Art
and he’d deliver the news for me.
He composed like a motherfucker too
and Herbie could do anything he could do.
This quintet would blow the doors off
my Cannonball-Trane quintet,
I just knew it. We got so tight
we were a different band every night.
We played the old book faster.
Plugged the Plugged Nickel whirlitzer
like whirling dervishes, we were so bad.
Were ensemble players in a broke world.
I made six studio L.P.s in four years:
E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer,
Nefertiti, and Filles de Kilimanjaro.
After that, we had no peers.