Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Song of the Caged Bird

¡Hola! Everybody... So, I was running around yesterday doing some errands and when I get back home, I hear that Jazz great, Freddie Hubbard passed away. I was saddened because when I was a young man seriously considering a career in music, Hubbard was one of my favorite trumpeters. He and Lee Morgan were the archetypical cocksure horn players -- horn players who played with a balls-out-testosterone-saturated verve. I loved that type of playing and tried to emulate that approach on my own horn.

Among musicians, trumpet players are considered kinda weird. You had to have a certain type of personality to make it as a jazz trumpet player and there are countless stories regarding the legendary exploits of trumpet players.

Hubbard combined a big sound with an almost scary technical expertise that was a pleasure to listen while Morgan had more gut to his playing -- an intuitive sense of what to do next -- but could also rip off a series of runs that were dazzling.

Morgan died in the early 70s -- shot by a spurned lover while playing onstage. Hubbard passed away yesterday.

RIP Freddie...

In keeping with the art motif, today I’ll feature a poet that not too many people may know about. Many people know Maya Angelou’s memoir I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but not as many know of the poet who inspired the title, Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first African-American to gain national prominence as a poet. He died much too young, at 33, but his work is as fascinating as it is beautiful. Two side notes: he fought throughout his career to publish in Standard English, while publishers would only accept poems he wrote in Black dialect. The thing is, he was brilliant in both. Also, his wife, Dorothy, an accomplished poet herself, wrote complementary poems (I think this documentation of their love was collected into a volume called Oak and Ivy -- not sure).

With that, I leave you with...

* * *

-=[ Sympathy ]=-

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

-- Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

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