Yusef Lateef plus

Lee Konitz (1927 – 2020) Brazilian Rhapsody (1995) focuses primarily on Brazilian standards. Konitz is a solid, lyrical sax player – inventive without being jarring. Here he does sweet work with some of my favourite Latino standards: Manha De Carnaval, A Felicidad – romantic without being cloying.

Yusef Lateef (1920 – 2013) Over a 2cd mp3 collection I have Lateef’s complete recordings from 1957-1963 – as well as Towards The Unknown with Adam Rudolph. Plus, in another collection, his later Eastern Sounds, Blue Yusef, Lateef’s Sound, In A Temple Garden & stand-alones Psychicemotus, Golden Flute. Also, in the mp3 collection, just for fun, is Logan’s Run (soundtrack) by Jerry Goldsmith.

I think In A Temple Garden was my introduction to Lateef – an impressionist mediation with temple bells that invokes quiet afternoons in another world – verging on new age but with real jazz underpinnings.  I picked it up as an lp & returned to it frequently. I picked up  Psychicemotus, Golden Flute two of his mid 60’s verve recordings as cd reissues with great liner notes. These are excellent with touches of world music & even a take on Gymnopedie #1.

The recordings from 1957-1963 are a more recent additions. I bought them from iTunes for under $10.00 – many of jazz recordings from the 50’s, 60’s are now public domain & you can find massive reissue collections like this to download cheaply. This one was sorted nicely into the individual releases with covers. Some are dumped with to regard to original lp order.

From 2010 is Towards The Unknown with Adam Rudolph. A fascinating collaboration that includes songs, orchestra & jazz combo – smart compelling modern music. He is a sensitive musician – sax, flute even keyboards – who explores with a lyrical sensibility that is always inviting & rarely dissonant.  If you are unfamiliar I would recommend starting with those Verve reissues.

Jerry Goldsmith’s Logan’s Run is a total delight. I watched the film, again, a few year ago & the synthesizer work is outstanding & totally captures the the early 70’s sound as well as the sense Hollywood had of what the future would be. Both are worth seeing/hearing.  

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My Summer Hero

My Hero

around the corpse

heaped on the ground 

after a fifty floor drop

someone chalks a line 

<>

blanks of violence

fill them in

cart them away

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he’s my hero

the chalk man

when I grow up

I want to be the outliner

I can fill his shoes

testify to broken bones

record the positions

of twisted arms legs

<>

cataloguing 

the final dive

into reality

feb76

I don’t recall any real hero worship going up. I wasn’t a sports fan so there weren’t posters of hockey or baseball players on my walls. A few of pop stars but they weren’t really heroes, or even role models. I was quite fascinated by the astronauts though, I did repeatedly read a paperback I had that told their story. 

More than anything this piece reflects my fascination for the macabre & the pleasure I take in pushing narrative in unexpected directions. The title leads you to expect a poem about a celebrity or some low-key humdrum person who is a role model but instead starts with this image of a body – is this the body of my hero? The language is matter-of-fact almost newswire in lack of emotional content.

Second verse still downplays emotion but with a hint of the sardonic in making the violence mundane. Then comes the the hero – the chalk man. ‘When I grow up’ indicates our narrator is a child, maybe an adolescent but one who is unaffected by the body but who sees the practicality of dealing with it in a detached way – ‘record the positions.’ Perhaps someone who has watched too many police procedurals on TV. In some ways it is a comment on how indifferent we become to violence. 

More recently I’ve seen children’s chalk drawings all over the sidewalks since the pandemic lockdowns in Toronto, Multicoloured flowers, faces, words of encouragement, even a hopscotch with 100 squares! Recently one for the 215 bodies of children found at a Residence. Chalk plays a big role in children’s lives it allows for impermanent self-expression that can be immediate & freeing at the same time. 

The last verse veers into poetics with an ending as unexpected as the actual fall. The finality of death. It moves from the childlike voice of ‘he’s my hero’ into the one of that ‘final dive.’ Again impermanence – an outline that will wash away in the rain. A hero who will always have a job.

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Five Sweet Mysterians Street

Here’s the next post about a set of mp3 compilations that I put together of old music that was, for the most part, new to me. Many are garage band one-hit wonders, others are psychedelic bands whose lps that never made it to the east coast. Some are ‘oddities’ I came across. Obscure for the most part but all fun fun fun. You can find wiki info of most of them.

Street: Street (1968) – includes: What a Strange Town. This is very Jefferson Airplane. Soaring female lead singer, Anya Cohen, a touch of blues, distorted guitars, harmonies & trippy lyrics. When Airplane many labels wanted their own – this band comes close but there is only one Airplane.

Count Five: (San Jose) Psychotic Reaction – includes -My Generation. The song “Psychotic Reaction” is an acknowledged cornerstone of garage rock. I remember loving that single so much at the time with its mind boggling instrumental break. Then nothing – none of their follow ups made the charts & the lp didn’t make to my local record store. Fun energetic music that I love. 

Popol Vuh: Affenstude, released in 1970. This German band is regarded as one of the earliest space music works, featuring the then new sounds of the Moog synthesizer together with ethnic percussion. Music ahead of its time for sure. Less robotic than Kraftwerk the band produced several great lps. Space music that on later lps becomes almost spiritual. If you like synthesizer check them out.

Sweetwater: Sweetwater 1968 Los Angeles – includes My Crystal Spider. A jazz-fusion band that was supposed to open Woodstock but they got caught in traffic. With lead signer Nanci Nevins, this was another band that was a Jefferson Airplane rival. The expected trippy lyrics about peace, love & social unrest. A fine lp that won’t disappoint if you track it down.

? & The Mysterians: out of Bay City, 96 Tears (1966) (In The Midnight Hour), Action (1967) – the Latino band’s music consisted of electric organ-driven garage rock and an enigmatic image inspired by the 1957 Japanese science fiction film The Mysterians. The lps are energetic & fun & I love them

Clear Blue Sky: Out Of The Blue (1970) British blues prog-rock in the Deep Purple/Uriah Heep mode with a great Roger Dean cover art. If you like obscurity this fills the bill.

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PreAdolescent Burlesque

PreAdolescent Burlesque

<>

we weren’t caught

in the dusty garage

pulling our pants down

to show to tell to see

where all the fuss was about
<>

it started out so easy

somebody’s little brother

scampering naked

down a summer street


looking for a hose

a sprinkler

finding instead laughter

<>

what fun we all had

his small white behind

slipping at the end of angry long arms

back into the darkness

of the afternoon house

<>

we six all saw him

us bubbling under thirteens

scanning the fun

red-faced & giggling

eyeing each other

to see if the sparkle was shared

<>

then someone had the idea

maybe it was me

sometimes I pretend it was

but I’m sure it wasn’t

I was the second to say ‘yeh’

I was the one who knew

where there was a secret space

<>

we called it hide-and-see

with all of us hiding

in one little corner

with all of us seeking

one see-it-all glance

one of the girls said

let’s do it again

we all agreed

<>

it was to be after supper

while the folks smoked

put little brothers to bed

only four showed up

there was barely room for us

thanks to the now parked car

one budding young woman


with three earnest little men

silent in shame

willing to look

but afraid to touch

June 19/76

Capturing the innocence of early sexual awareness was a challenge. Making it too explicit would turn it into child porn. I know many whose early sexual experiences were abuse. Mine weren’t as sweet as this, being fraught with my queer awareness without having words for that awareness. 

I did do some of ‘the pants down in the garage’ play but not as depicted here. The naked behind down the street was not unusual either. In summer we played jumping around the garden sprinkler & squirting each other with the hose. Often some clothing would be discarded to the ‘shock’ of parents. 

I like the way it conveys sexuality without being either coy or frank but in a matter-of-fact way. I also feel my poet’s fear here, keeping it heterosex focused because in 76 I was certainly more interested in men but hadn’t found a way to write about it that felt safe. This poem is mildly daring but totally safe too. 

In my pants down show & tell play I was more interested in what the boys had to show. I don’t know if I felt shame but more the fear of being caught. It was fun being naughty but the fear lead to guilt. It wasn’t until decades later that I found out this sort of adolescent ‘sex’ play was normal. I’m grateful for not being caught which would have turned this into some sort of parental outrage trauma as opposed to a sweet recollection of an event that didn’t damage my sexual journey of discovery with lectures & shame for being a child.

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Euonymus

euonymus over an invasion of lilies of the valley

The big garden job this past month was clearing the weeds & grass that had invaded one of the garden beds. By weeds I mean things like violet, lily of the valley, ferns, crab grass & euonymus. Some of which are considered, by many, weeds but they are sure & steady infiltrators that can push out other plants.  They all spread with underground root systems which are virtually impossible to dig up completely. 

The euonymus was the last to go. It had climbed the fence &  had gone from ground cover, to vine, to insidious eyesore. I remember it was a freebie decades ago, a shoot that took quickly. The green & yellow leaves are pretty & the area of the garden I put it in was in need of colour. I let grow unimpeded for decades.

Late this spring I cut back the lily of the valley & violets & the various root systems of both were so intertwined I thought it was time to let go of the euonymus. It was impossible to plant in the area without dealing with the roots. Like the pandemic house purge, in which I let go of stuff: books, scrap paper, lumber, screws, clothes – that were all perfectly good but no longer served a purpose. So it was to do a garden purge too. 

The house purge resulted in empty spaces that I probably won’t fill. The garden purge doesn’t quite do the same thing as nature will constantly sprout things in empty spaces. The euonymus will be back – the will to live is unstoppable. It, & the violets, ferns & lilies of the valley will pop up were I least expect them to appear. In future I may be less tolerant.

In purging my writing archives I found many old poems, short stories whose roots are still resurfacing in my writing today. Those old hurts, old attitudes, old frustrations have grown, taken on new shapes. In the process of inputting some of those pieces I saw where I had changed for the ‘better’, where I had moved on, where I had let idolized teenage romantic fantasies continue unimpeded for decades.

euonymus bites the dust

My Back Yard

<>

I dig in my back yard

not a farmer tilling soil

to replenish the food supply

or even a fancy gardener

putting the exact right plant

into the perfect alkaline soil 

for maximum growth

<>

I dig

shove in whatever 

selective only as to color

I know a bit about shade plants

verses those that require full sun

but sometimes even then

I don’t care

let the plant do what it can

I’ve given it all the help I can

found a spot 

keep weeds at bay for a few weeks

<>

I dig

maybe a foot deep

you want that in metric

forget it

I’m not that deep

never deeper than a foot

sometimes

I come across 

roots of trees

sometimes bits of shale

rocks sand

once pieces of blue willow china

<>

I dig I plant

I water when necessary

but count on the sky

to provide rain

for his plant children

I stop to marvel at how deep they dig

at construction sites

centuries of strata revealed 

there is no bottom

glad 

when it gets covered over

tar the shameful flesh of the dirt

concrete the private parts

to keep them safe 

from further plundering lunging 

greedy construction

<>

I dig I plant

I enjoy washing the dirt off my hands

clean my finger nails

I feel connected

I even feel connected 

through concrete 

on the 20th floor

it doesn’t matter

the force of this earth

reaches to me

I feel safe surrounded in touch

yet when I am in a forest

any forest

I feel alien unwelcome 

hunted haunted

wondering 

if I dig here

what can I plant 

I dig I plant

eventually

I purge

July 2008

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Hollyhocks

I love hollyhocks & am always happy to see them in bloom. During World Wars I & II families were to replace flower gardens with Victory Gardens of vegetables. Hollyhock was the only flower allowed. They were vigorous self-seeders, hardy &, most importantly, attracted pollinators. The range of colours is astonishing – I’ve seen them nearly pitch black, deep purple & even a parchment brown. These shots are all of the hollyhock garden at the Danforth end of the East Lynn Park in Toronto.

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13 Elevators to Fifty Foot War

The next five pop music posts will cover a set of mp3 compilations that I put together of old music that was, for the most part, new to me. Many are garage band, one-hit wonders, others are psychedelic bands whose lps that never made it to the east coast. Several are ‘oddities’ I came across. Obscure for the most part but all fun fun fun. You can find wiki info of most of them.

13th Floor Elevators (Austin, Texas): Psychedelic Sounds of (mostly live) (1966) includes You Really Got Me; Easter Everywhere (1967) – includes  Postures (Leave Your Body Behind). This band claims the first use of the word “psychedelic” in reference to the music so I had to have them, right? Goofy love songs, anti-war rants with heavy reverb, wha-wha, distorted vocals & slithery guitar work. Perfection.

Fireballet: Bald Mountain (1975) – we can thank Emerson, Lake & Palmer for the flourishing of 70’s Symphonic Prog. This British band, produced by Ian McDonald (King Crimson), is a mild version of ELP, The bass sound is a bit ‘thin’ but they work hard, churning out pretentious fun including their 20 minute take on Night of Bald Mountain. 

Archie Bell & The Drells (Huston Texas): Tighten Up (1968) includes Midnight Hour, Knock on Wood. This is the retro odd-one-out. Sweet, soulful, funky & refreshing. Like so many groups of the time, regardless of genre, they did covers of the new standards i.e. Midnight Hour. 

Another legendary band is Fifty Foot Hose (San Francisco): Cauldron (1968) plus Rare tracks. They are remarkable for featuring a variety of homemade synths. This is truly trippy music with speaker-dancing engineering, echo, mystic lyrics, fine singing & spacey instrumental passages. It reminded me of how I thought how music should sound when you’re stoned.

Finally on this compilation is Eric Burdon declares “War” (Long Beach) (1970) includes Tobacco Road, Spill The Wine. Eric Burdon re-invented himself several times, always with fascinating sonic results. This time with War for a couple of great albums full of experimental, almost prog-rock work but always with a blues, r’n’b underpinning. This lp gave him, Spill The Wine, one of his few top ten songs after he disbanded the Animals. Smooth, funky fun. The follow up, Black Man’s Burdon – which I have in another compilation is less funky but still great.

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Chrysanthemum Summer

Chrysanthemum 

<>

1

<>

the sword

as sunrise

highlights

the water

flash cuts of red

<>

2

<>

a silver bird

a black curve

at vision’s edge

cautiously circles

hedges preflight bets

against a perfect landing

<>

a black curve

of the slowly formed oval

figures into connections

liniar sensibility

practices the new motion

the cutting motion

of ends realized

<>

3

<>

I’ve caged

with sun & steel

the silver birds 

I hope

to dissect their eyes

to find what they see

beyond my sight

<>

I know they see more

they feed from other hands

I will not rest

till I’ve emptied

their hollow bones

of soaring fluids

I must know more

than the aching birth of flight

I must feel more

than the caress of turbulence 

I must have their sight

<>

4

<>

a feathered rhapsody

in a shimmer celebration 

of a perfect landing 

on an endless spiral

of consecrated breath

breath held

as long as possible

the released 

to form a lined cloud

<>

5

<>

I’ve released

the silver birds

they soar & shimmer

beyond all edges

black round flickers

their eyes intact 

they see black curves

they fly spirals

the black curves are death

a vision I leave to them 

till my own bones

are so hollow

all that remains

is the silver

<>

6

<>

from behind the cloud

a silver bird

wings on straw bones

a floating airfoil song

a crescendo of invention

in a shuddered moment

a moment of escape

a curve of celebration 

for this perfect landing

<>

7

<>

the vision

as heartbeat

reflects

the edge

fresh curves of black

<>

June13/77

This poem reflects my adoration of Yukio Mishima. His life, writing & death were inspirations to me. Over the years I have read nearly everything of his translated into English, as well as biographies & critical studies of his work. Through the piece are mentions of his works – Sun & Steel is his book about samurai culture & ritual. He saw suicide as an artist expression. He was also queer.

The opening & closing are like Japanese water colours with a few simple brushstrokes creating a vivid image in blank space. The in-between verses are like chrysanthemum – multi-petaled with repeated words, images, analogies that reflect, then vary as they move like a kaleidoscope to form then reform new pictures.

Words were carefully picked for sonics & meaning & poetic vibrancy. ‘feathered rhapsody’  ‘crescendo of invention’ are Dylan Thomas candy. I had some brightly coloured Java Temple finches at one time so I’m sure they were inspiration for all the bird imagery. I must have seen a documentary on bird feathers & bones & that relates to their ability to fly but it is possible I made that stuff up too.

T

hey learn to fly by being pushed out of the nest – it’s either spread your wings or die trying, discover their perfect landing or become part of the black curves. Poems have to pushed out the nest to fly into the lives people that the poet often never meets. We writers never know where our words will land once we set them free.  The vision one has of oneself as a poet, as person, also has to leave a nest, though unlike birds we have more options to try as we learn to negotiate life & often never find that perfect landing.

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Loyalist Memories 3

A follower asked what did we do a Loyalist for five days – as if there so little to writing one only needed a day or less to get the fundamentals. The structure was the same each year – morning lecture about an aspect of plotting, world building – & discussion of those aspects. Newbies were most curious about getting published & how sell a million copies of their book.

The more experienced where most interested in polishing their writing & the workshop critiques in the afternoon were where the real learning happened. It was after the first session of this that if someone as going to drop out they would drop. Some signed without fully realizing the amount of time reading & commenting on one another’s work would take. I know the first year I expected to have time to write new chapters for my current project – ha! I barely had time to blog – lol.

I was one of the few in the class that actually stayed on campus – the others lived in the area, had friends who live din the area, or preferred the full comforts of a nearby motel. I roughed in one of residence units. I brought breakfasts, snacks, & suppers for the stay. Without a car eating off campus wasn’t going to happen & what fast food there was closed at 4. I wasn’t rushing to hit Tim’s before they closed just to get a bagel.

Over the years I attended I brought chapters from my various nanowrimo novels Lazarus Kiss, Coal Dusters & Picture Perfect. Feed back was productive & when I got to doing edits of those novels I incorporated many of the suggestions. Asking for feedback on sections that appeared at say, the 100 page mark, in a novel did present the challenge of context – some fellow work-shoppers realized what wasn’t explained was probably already explained – other floundered not being able to make that leap. I did include a very brief recap one year.

The biggest thing I learned was that, to me, the writing is more important that publishing – one attender was dismayed they had to sacrifice their dream project after good a start because they couldn’t find a market for it – clearly the dream was the market not the project. Others discovered that once published they spent so much time on promo that they had no time write anything new. 

I hope the follower who asked what we did isn’t disappointed to find out there were no blood offerings to the moon.

The Reparation Room

<>

he acted as if I owed him something

for the way he was treated as a child

by someone I didn’t know

in a city I’ve never been in

because I was old white guy

I was the one to blame

I was the one who had to dig down

to make it up to him 

money wasn’t going to cut it

he wanted to see me hurt

as much as he had been hurt

there was no way to defuse this anger

to step back from the situation

no way was I capable of making him feel whole

<>

was the trade off

the memory of his pain

in return for the memory 

of the pain he might inflict upon me

how many times 

would he have to seek this opportunity

how many times would he have to strike out

before he realized causing pain

never removes the pain one feels

making me hurt as much as he hurts

won’t change his hurt

might numb him to it for a moment

then he’ll have to live with what he’s done

what he feels compelled to keep on doing

making me hurt as much as he hurts

won’t change his hurt

might numb him to it for a moment

then he’ll have to live with what he’s done

what he feels compelled to keep on doing

hitting out spitting out taking it out 

till it would finally consume him

<>

I don’t know how to lead him out of this cage

can’t tell him he’s a slave 

to a problem I didn’t cause

I refuse to be held responsible for it 

yet cannot deny his right 

to seek some sort of reparation

for his past

I’m not the one to apologize

not the one to pull out my wallet to pay him off

I have to witness his struggle

acknowledge it

know that I can’t undo

what has been done

try not to add to it in any way

but it seems no matter what I do

I add to it

just being present brings it all back to him

not being present 

seems to him like I’m hiding out of guilt

<>

neither of us can leave the room

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