“Short Jazz Mass for Mop City” — a poem by Joel Glickman

August 23rd, 2021

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photo by Marc Wathieu/CC0 2.0/(original version in color)

photo by Marc Wathieu/CC BY 2.0

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Short Jazz Mass for Mop City   

              
…..For Helen (Halpern) Glickman, Julie (Halpern) Isaacson, Zadie Halpern,
..Uncle Paul, and to all the rest of the scattered (but not lost) Halpern
…..tribe, too numerous to mention.

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…………………………..Introit

 

Missa brevis —a little requiem. At most I know
perhaps forty Latin words and have already used up
four of them. Maybe not too bad for a Jew boy.
And besides, editors of poetry are always carping:
Keep it short. Post-postmodern attention span
is quite limited as is journal space and our patience
with the prospect of wading through some swampy
epic which is already awful from line one. Point taken.
Let’s get to it then.

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…………………………..Kyrie

Praise the Lord! Mop City is or was a barbershop and
a record shop down on Ninth Street in Rock Island
Maybe they did shoeshines too, and if they sold other
things, I was not aware and didn’t care. Davenport is
across the Big Muddy on the Iowa side. Rock Island
Arsenal sits between them in the stream. My cousin
Julie, the better poet, says Abraham Lincoln once gave
a speech there. One hot and river-bottomed summer,
I worked right across the street from where stands
or stood Mop City, at Halpern’s Department Store.
My mother is a Halpern, nearly a hundred now. So
praise the Lord and God of Abraham again! But that
needs to be a different prayer and prayed a different way
some other day, and furthermore my knowledge of Hebrew,
Yiddish and Aramaic is even less than of my churchy Latin.
I spent my breaks, and any green and sweaty folding money
I managed to amass, across the street on LP vinyl records
the likes of which I had never seen anywhere, nor have I seen
them since, including Hubbard Street (Chicago).

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….Requiescat in pace—Trumpet One

But the world is even smaller than it was, and my world,
smaller yet, and good luck finding new LP’s which shrunk
down into shiny tiny audio CD’s, also disappearing as I speak.
Lee Morgan is on one of these, to which I listen now on a blue
Wisconsin Road—Art Blakey, Jazz Messengers, Blue Note 4003.
It has two takes of Bobby Timmons’s Moanin’ and Morgan has
first solo on each one, neither better than the other. Each one grabs
you by the heart, the throat and privates all at once and takes you
down river in double time licks. Grant him rest but better yet, God,
if You listen to jazz or to anything or anyone, go back to the fifties
or as far back as You need, and take away Lee’s needles and his H
and his wife’s likewise and also the gun with which she shot him
dead on the bandstand—at a gig.

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……Trope on the Epiphany of Dave Finkelstein—Trumpet Two

And this part too is obviously not a section of the standard requiem,
but it is my poem so I get to call the tune. Finkelstein is or was from
one of the boroughs of NYC and was in the marching band with me
at UW Madison. Everyone, including him, from the Apple played
jazz much better than me, no matter which horn. It isn’t a fair fight,
but this is not a tale of envy. And the crux of it is that he told me
that once he went into a music store in the City and bought a jazz LP,
and the guy who rang it up was the trumpet player, Kenny Dorham.
Taken aback, Dave’s jaw dropped open and he asked him what he was
doing there, and Kenny said times were tough and he had to earn a living.
Jazz, good people, unlike Friday’s child, is not loving nor is it giving.

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…………………………..Almost Done (Postlude, Recessional)

Please bear with me. It’s hard to play two tunes at once and strike a balance and get the changes right as well. I’m heading back across Ninth Street, to my job, in a jaunty and idiot summer when I didn’t limp and rock along jaywalking back to Halpern’s. I am carrying the last record I remember scoring from Mop City-white guy jazz-good though! Rare: Dave Brubeck but with W.O. (Bill) Smith on clarinet instead of sublime and breezy Desmond on the alto. And when I get back in, my mother’s father, another David, and her brother, Paul are still doing verbal battle over those ladies shoes, arguably out of style (moldy figs in jazz lingo) since the Civil, if not the First World War. I can hear those riffs right now, all these sweet and screwed up decades later, two voices banging out like Blakey’s sticks upon his kit of drums and one last hit on the ride cymbal, left shimmering with a mixed atonal pitch in the air of time gone by. (Go in peace-
mass is ended-ite missa est.)

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Joel Glickman taught music including jazz history and the jazz band at Northland College, Ashland Wisconsin, from 1974 until retirement in 2017, where he has resumed teaching about jazz again, part time. He has written and published poetry over a wide range of subjects. Primarily a classical clarinetist and folk singer-song writer and banjo player, his jazz and saxophone skills lag behind these. He resides in Ashland with wife Susan and their Bichon, Madeline.

He can be reached via email at [email protected]

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“Moanin'” is from 1958, and includes Art Blakey (drums), Bobby Timmons (piano and composer), Benny Golson (tenor sax), Lee Morgan (trumpet) and Jymie Merritt (bass)

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