Horn to Horne

Next are two legendary vocalists. First is Shirley Horn: I have these stand-alone: Loads of Love/With Horns; Jazz ’Round Midnight; Light Out of Darkness. Loads is a pair of her early lps – Loads of Love & Shirley Horn With Horns. Both from 1963 & both delightful but like many female vocalists she was working with producers who saw her as a voice not as a person. The songs are are show tunes or jazz classics like Do It Again, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly. 

Jazz ’Round Midnight is a Verve compilation series that includes this one of her. It repeats some of the Loads tracks. Because of her difficulty is working with producers & studio engineers who knew better than some woman she stepped away from recording for some time. When she did return in 1993 with ‘Light Out Of Darkness’ (a tribute to Ray Charles) she was fully in control as producer & arranger.

This is a great set of Ray Charles songs from Hit The Road Jack to It Isn’t Easy Being Green. Her voice has aged well & her takes on the songs is hers. She doesn’t duplicate the Charles versions but remakes them & makes many of them her own in what feels like an effortless fashion.

Next is Lena Horne – strand alone: The Lady Is A Tramp; tucked into an Mp3 collection: Lena & Gabor: Watch What Happens. I enjoy Lena Horne more for nostalgia than as a singer. She was a trail-blazer for black women in film & was considered a great jazz vocalist but to my ear, she’s no Billie Holliday. Tramp is a compilation of ‘hits’ full of jazz standards. Her work with Gabor Szabo is more jazzy – he is a genius guitarist. Recorded in 1968 it includes unexpected current pop songs i.e Rocky Racoon.

Both are excellent vocalists for starting a jazz singer exploration. I do prefer the 1963 Horn compilation. Though Lena Horne’s work with Szabo is more pop than anything Shirley did. I’m such a big fan of Szabo anything he plays on is worth listening to & he certainly plays well with Lena.

Saggy Baggy

‘Hi.’

‘Hi.’

‘Saw you in here the other day. Last week?’ I added soap to the clothes in the washing machine.

‘I suppose so.’ He leaned against them machine two down from mine. His newspaper vibrating on top if it.

‘Good thing all the machine are working today.’

‘Yep.’ he answered without looking up from his paper.

Baggy saggy ass jeans hugged his hips, waist-band of boxers showed above. Glimpse of flesh where his tight t-shirt had slid up some.

‘You live around here?’ I wanted to keep the conversation going. to get him to look at me so I could see more of his face. 

‘No I take a cab here special cause this is such a friendly laundromat.’

‘Sorry I didn’t mean that to sound like such a line.’

‘Well it did.’ He finally looked up. Little trail of dark hair around his chin & up into his toque. Soul patch under his lip.

I wasn’t sure what to say or do next. I needed more text, a comment that was the right tip-off that took the action somewhere. Not that it could go anywhere outside of the laundromat. As much as I enjoyed the casual then lingering street eye-contact I never felt confident enough to ask it into my home.

I retreated to a chair that allowed me to watch my laundry till the light went off that it was ready for the drier. I did a crossword puzzle. Five-letter word for wet snow.

‘Sorry.’

I glanced up. He stood before me. He scratched his hard, flat stomach inches from my face. I didn’t really want to look up.

‘It’s just that guys are always hitting on me for some reason. I’m not … you know … gay.’

‘Life is like that.’

‘Must be some sort of vibe that I send out. I don’t know. Can’t help being who I am. Can I?’

‘No more than some guys can help being who they are either.’

‘Yeah. Right.’

I expected him to move away but he leaned against the coke machine beside me.

‘Funny world. Takes a lot of getting use to.’ He pulled up his saggy baggy jeans.

‘I don’t think one very gets used to it.’

My machine dinged.

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November 1 -30

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November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto


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every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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Holiday Hole Love

Side-by-side on the shelf are Hole and Holiday – style contrasts but women abused by the star industry, drugs &by  just what a woman was allowed to do. Both with distinctive voices that perhaps they never got to fully own thanks to others who wanted to control & exploit & profit from them.

Courtney Love is the voice of Hole – she has great power without sounding forced. Her private life constantly overshadowed her talent. Marriage to Kurt Cobain became & remains her identity. The songs on Live Through This & Celebrity Skin deal with some of that frustration with raw directness. But the industry only wanted to deal with her on its terms not hers & she has never been given an opportunity to be what she could be. She remains a non-conformist.

Billie Holiday, on the other hand, survived by being a conformist. I have various compilations: stand-alone The Billie Holiday Story; lp to cd transfers of God Bless The Child; & Time-Life’s Giant of Jazz box set. All the hits are there. I’ve considered the mp3 collections but do I really want alternative takes etc. What I have is sufficient. I enjoy her work but hearing it every couple of years is satisfying. Having the complete works doesn’t call to me, at least not at the prices they list at.

Her voice has a vulnerability that is hard to resist on songs like Stormy Monday, Strange Fruit. Her sexiness comes through of tracks like Pig Foot & a Bottle of Beer, I Cover the Waterfront. Like Courtney Love, her private life & addictions often over-shadowed her career. She survived and struggled & produced amazing music at the same time. Though I think she was held back by producers who wanted to stick to her strengths rather than challenge her as a vocalist. 

That plaintive vulnerability often turns her songs into one longing note. Her voice became a little more weathered & to me more interesting toward the end of her career. Like Judy Garland her battle with addictions side-tracked her. God Bless The Child who can get free of the mire of fame & reputation.

Eyes

        ‘What do you see?’

        I looked around the backyard. A path had been tracked  through the snow to the gate. The snow lay dirty and uneven from fence to fence, higher along the sides of the path  and melted unevenly in some areas.

        ‘Dirty snow.’ I shrugged. ‘Birds have found a few convenient spots for their business.’

        ‘Good. Not everyone would see that. Anything else.’

        

        I wasn’t sure just what it was my Dad wanted me to see.

        ‘Nope. Wait. The grass is brown like its been burned by the ice?’

        ‘Nice try. But you’re going to have to better than that. I’ll just leave you here. Say five minutes? Use your senses, not just your eyes.’ He went back into the warm house.

        Oh great! I’m going to have smell the rotting winter soil for him. I made my eyes go from corner to corner of the yard. I pretended they were mowing the snow like a lawn mower mowing the grass when it came back to life. Back and forth my eyes moved from fence to fence to either side of the yard, around the edges of the garage and closer to the house till I was staring at my feet.

        What did I see? Our yard. Nothing much changed in it. Snow now, then grass would wake, bulbs would pop up, later the annuals & perennials my mom would plant, then leaves would fall for me to rake.

        It was by the maple tree that I had stepped on the rake tines and cut my foot. The handle of the rake jumped up to hit me on the nose at the same time. I don’t know what bothered me then – the embarrassment, the sudden fear of it lunging at me, or my sister seeing it happen & going into convulsive laughter when it happened. I could have killed her that day and then myself.

        Now there was just that uneven snow. What was under that clump of snow? Ah yes the yarrow that I used to call Queen Anne’s Scab for some reason. A clump of it that had been there when we first moved into the house. We had added some pinks to contrast with the yellow and white.  It was three or four years before I realized it wasn’t a weed after all.

        ‘See something.’ My Dad was behind me suddenly.

        ‘Dirty snow. Isn’t that where the yarrow is?” I pointed over to the clump by the maple tree.

        ‘So it is.’

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October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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