Laura Nyro Genius

Let me state that I think Laura Nyro is a genius. Her story is amazing, tragic, uplifting & she deserves to be more than a top 40 footnote. Her songs are amazing, tragic, uplifting and often challenging. Things that a pop diva was not supposed to be and then she got buried. Oh, yes, she was lesbian, too – which may account for her premature burial.

greybooties

save the children’s booties

In my collection I have: Eli & The 13th Confession; Gonna Take A Miracle; New York Tendaberry; Smile; Nested. And a tribute album: Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro. Plus many of the hit covers by Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat & Tears (& others) of her songs: ‘Stone Soul Picnic,’ ‘Save The Children,’ ‘When I Die.’

Laura wrote soulful but pure pop music – her recordings are dynamic. Her vocals are astonishing, compelling & delightful. Like Janis Ian she started in her teens, made it big fast, then pulled back. Drugs, sex & rock’n’roll producers got in the way. Her early work is full of sweet horn work, almost gospel momentum, deep heart lyrics ‘Lonely Women’ & arraignments to weep for. She knew what she wanted & the men in industry didn’t like that, I guess. Those songs of her that were hits were almost note for note replications of her charts.

knitted

miracle of the scrunchie

Her best charting single was from “Miracle’ the lp she recorded with Labelle – it was Up On The Roof’ a Carol King song from this great set of covers. Her work was always challenging too – Tendaberry is raw, almost frighteningly direct at times. Her live album Lights is excellent.

She dropped out of sight for a few year & resurfaced mellower with Smile & Nested: two of most romantic, emotionally seductive albums I can think of. Her later Mother’s Spiritual & the posthumous Angel in The Dark show her matured musically, some covers of her favourites, originals with various approaches, her alone on piano, some horn & strings – very Steely Dan at times. Tori Amos owns her a deep debt. All of them are highly recommend.

blackbra

wet & black

The tribute album doesn’t really reimagine her as much as I would have expected. Sweetly jazz for the most part but too respectful & tasteful. But those songs are timeless. Her death in 1998 was too early.

sample

Sweet Smell of Success

‘Jill, did you do this?’

‘Why Mr. Nunn? Is there something wrong with it?’

Jill was never comfortable when confronted by her supervisor. Especially when the supervisor was holding the file she had worked on the day before. Jill became defensive, insecure.

‘It is good work. It looks like you are ready for something more complex.’

More complex! Jill felt her heart beat faster.

‘Well, yes after a year in this department you must be familiar with things around here. This basic stuff is for the newer staff to cut their teeth on.’

‘But … ’ Jill didn’t think her teeth were sharp enough yet to tackle anything more than she had been accustomed to these past several months. The work demanded just enough most of the time and for the first time since getting this job she began to feel she could handle it.

‘You don’t seem to have much confidence in your abilities.’ The supervisor put the folder down.

After years of being told she was stupid, lazy, fat, unattractive she never trusted people who told her the opposite. She immediately began to suspect their motivations. Men who told her she was attractive just to nudge her towards her purse moments later; men who would be gone if she had no money for more booze or cigarettes; men who would only seek to satisfy themselves and then leave her; men who she would hear snicker to their buddies when she entered Moe’s Tavern; men who would tell her they really weren’&t keen to be seen with a fat stupid bitch like her.

Now her boss, who smelt so clean and fresh, was telling her she did good work only to follow that up with what he was really after. To make her work harder, to demand more of her than she was ready to give, to demand more without giving her anything in return.

‘Thanks Mr. Nunn but I’m pretty happy doing this stuff.’ she smiled up at him.

‘Why? Your last job review said you were capable of much more. Don’t you want to get ahead in this company.’

Ha, she laughed to herself, get ahead by giving head. I know what you’re really after and I won’t put up with it or put out to get it.

‘I realize that Mr. Nunn but I’d like to stick with what I know till I think I’m ready. Can’t I make that decision for myself?’

Last year’s queer music blogs:

June 2 Billy Strayhorn http://wp.me/p1RtxU-L0

June 9 ‘Hangin’ On The Telephone’ http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Ll

June 16 Tea Room Tramps http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Mg

June 23 Ned Rorem http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Mx

 

 

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thanks

Gary Burton

I’ve had Gary Burton in my jazz collection for decades but didn’t discover he was gay until recently – he’d officially come out in 1994! Not that his music itself says ‘I’m queer’ – the way pop can but to have a major jazz icon out is pretty amazing.

frame

the empty frame

In my collection I have Country Roads/ Turn of the Century/ Crystal Silence/ Reunion/ Matchbook and probably more as he played as sideman with other icons: Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Ralph Towner (& many, many others.) Jarrett & Corea being two of my favourites – both of whom I also had the hots for.

greygrease

after taste of the Danforth

In the late 60’s he was promoted as rock star – the lps have tripy lettering, he appears in leather fringe jackets – the group does covers of Bob Dylan etc. This is when he caught my ear. A fusion pioneer but much closer to traditional jazz than, say, the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

He’s recorded some stunning work with Chick Corea and also Ralph Towner – chamber jazz of great calmness, sweetness and spiritual longing that I’d recommend to anyone. Crystal Silence with Corea is an amazing lp, as is Matchbook with Towner.

transitselfie

transit reflections

Jazz isn’t noted for being overly phobic but the rep of most major players is very hetero. Burton has written about his closeted years, the fears of what being out might do to his career.  So he waited until he was firmly intrenched before being public. Another story of how the closet effected creativity. Another musical figure who might have provided me a role model when I had none.

Not that his reputation needs a boost, but I’d love to hear him work some of modern out pop groups like The Irrepessibles or even an icon like Elton John.

sample

Unrelated Kitchen Scenes

‘Dad that has been there since we moved in five years ago.’

Jim looked down at his father. His father was down on one knee rubbing a small black streak in the tile of the kitchen floor.

‘Then it’s time to start cleaning up around here.’ His Dad’s face gleamed red with the exertion of bending over. ‘Never could …’

‘It’s no use.’ Jim resisted the urge to haul his Dad to his feet. ‘We’ve tired everything. Next step is to replace the tile.’

Steadying himself on the counter top Jim’s Dad pushed himself up right. ‘You got some varisol?’

‘Tried that Dad. Please. just go in the living room and …’

‘What about that Dim Sum stuff on TV. Cleans anything.’

‘Have you cleaned behind your ears?’ Jim knew the only way to get around this was a joke.

‘What …’ his Dad half reached behind his ear and stopped. A grin broke out. ‘Sorry. I guess I want everything to go well. You know how your mother is about stuff being just right.’

‘Dad I know how you are about it and that is more that enough.’

‘Nice job. So far.’

‘We’ve been doing what we can.’

‘Too bad about …’

‘It takes time. You should know that by now Dad. Besides there’s no rush to make this a perfect house.’

*

‘It’s big.’

‘I suppose it is.’

‘After that space-saver kitchen I’ve been using for the past seven years this is like moving into an stadium’ Pam took a few steps from the fridge to the sink. ‘There’s actual distance between things. Before I could turn around from the fridge and be right at the sink. Now movement. Now steps.’

‘Yes. think of the weight you’ll lose with all that moving around.’

‘Bitch.’

*

Tim pushed the chair over to the counter. He climbed up & could reach the cabinet over the sink.

‘Just what are you up to young man?’

‘Nothing,’ he turned to face his mother and as he did he slipped off the chair to land with hard bump on the floor.

‘How many times do I have to tell you to keep out of trouble.’

‘I wasn’t getting into trouble I was just getting a glass of water.’ He stood up rubbing his bum.

*

6 cups Royal Cremeshire w/ matching saucers. Hand painted in the Sandy Rose pattern number 145. Small crack on one saucer otherwise in good to excellent condition.

9 soup bowls Royal Cremeshire. Hand painted in the Sandy Rose pattern number 145. Chipping around rim of one with signs of use in all. in fair to good condition.

11 dinner plates Royal Cremeshire. Hand painted in the Sandy Rose pattern number 145. Two with major cracks, one repaired badly, one broken in half. Remaining in excellent condition

5 Egg Coddlers Royal Darby. Hand painted in the Broken Wing pattern number 158. Sterling silver screw tops. All need washing, caked with egg & stained with milk and pepper. As is poor condition.

14 Elephant base salad bowls Royal Darby. Hand painted in the Cranky Bride pattern number 973. Found stacked under sink. Some water damage in top bowl. Large oversized nearly 15 Inches across. Red stains on rim of bottom bowl.

3 sugar bowls Royal Dalton w/ matching tongs. Hand painted in the Bitter Lemon pattern number 432. Covered in ants, some with jam instead of sugar and one with no bottom. Bitter Lemon is the rarest of the patters having been produced only in 1856.

*

‘Burger. Fries.’ Slurred the drive-through speaker.

‘Repeat please.’ Britt leaned closer to hear more clearly.

‘Burger. Fries.’

‘Burger. Fries.’ she called back for confirmation.

‘No! Burger. Fries. Jesus …’

Britt turned to call the order to the kitchen behind her. The thick steam of onion washed over her and she felt queasy. It’s just a job she reminded herself.

‘Britt can you give Ranji a hand with the Big’Uns. He’s getting behind.’ the supervisor snapped at her.

‘Yes sir.’ She hated going into the muggy stainless steel kitchen. After fifty years of marriage and four kids she felt she’d had enough of cooking yet here she was still slogging still.

Last year’s queer music blogs:

June 2 Billy Strayhorn http://wp.me/p1RtxU-L0

June 9 ‘Hangin’ On The Telephone’ http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Ll

June 16 Tea Room Tramps http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Mg

June 23 Ned Rorem http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Mx

 

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

mirror

Billy Strayhorn

I’m jumping the jazz queue for this month; with Pride coming at the end of June I thought I would look at some gay music icons. In jazz there are fewer than one would expect, other than divas like Bessie Smith.

bury what’s been hid

On my shelf is ‘Lush Life’ a collection of Billy Strayhorn performances – solo, combo & with Ellington. He was an out gay man all his adult life – David Hajdu’s biography, also called ‘Lush Life’ goes into great detail about Billy’s career, accomplishments & his out life. Read it.

He was Ellington’s arranger, composer & co-composer for too many songs to list. It’s like seeing how much Cole Porter wrote. Amazing. Take the ‘A’ Train & Satan Doll – two of the better known.

reflection Danforth reflections

But he rarely took the spotlight. It’s not clear why not in the biography – perhaps being queer in private life was fine but being so & on stage at the same time wasn’t possible. He developed drinking and drug problems – standard for the frustrated.

The music is polished, full bodied and varied. He sings a few songs on this CD and has a good jazz voice – a bit like Chet Baker. His piano playing is superb. His lyrics are pointed, sometimes sad, and reflect his frustrations.

glass not even half full

Lush Life being a prime example: it starts: ‘I used to visit all the very gay places/Those come what may places’ and ends ‘Romance is mush/ Stifling those who strive./ I’ll live a lush life in some small dive/ And there I’ll be while I rot with the rest/ of those whose lives are lonely, too.’ Alcoholism killed him.

samples

hush

 

a song

melody

notes float

hover in the air

a voice

perhaps a voice

I don’t listen that closely sometimes

nor do I care

listening is transport

to another place and time

without movement

without language

 

a song

voices merge   separate

violins twine cautious   then fully

power throb of choke hold that slackens

tightens

another note

another coin hovers

a flute

oboes

they join with the violins

the deep brass of coronets

also joins

a race

run around a melody

stomp it

hide it

suddenly

speak it

plain simple

a single plucked

string

reverberates with melody

 

hush

 

not too long

as I sit   listen

my heart beats in the hush

rapid with expectation

the large rush

several all whole

hundreds

how large is that orchestra

how can it fit in my little speaker

how can it be contained by my ears

 

another listening

another day

another hour to sit

guitars pile metallic gratings around me

drums scatter around my eyes

move so quickly

the ears can barely follow them

to sort them out from the rapid flame guitar

cannot separate them from the voice

the soft gentle silky voice

the rough gravel voice

the several voices

all voice

in all songs

do the same thing

they merge   submerge

dance around destroy displace

replace enhance melody

the linger flicker of notes

take the strings of the heart

the voice of the heart

that flow follow through

a tease becomes sooth anger

dance

caress

slabs of guitar

scour the air

weld the steel of strings

to the windows

fill the corner

as full as full can be

stir memory

promising so much more

then over

 

silence

 

hushed again

waiting for something to follow

sit in the comfortable chair

hear the melody

written before I was born

recorded before I was born

words before I could speak

a sound that speaks to me

to people I will never meet

people with better things to do

people who hear but don’t listen

people who deny this moment

this sound

this joy

 

another song wait

it doesn’t exist till I hear it

till it merges with my life

with my moments of

being the one to hear

the one to command

to relax   slip

into where it will take me

 

I give the music permission

to move me

touch me

take me

where no human can or will

I surrender to what I don’t understand

why that melody reaches out to me

why that guitar

why that voice

why that violin

why those chords

no tongue can describe

tree02 winter sky

WPMY14