“Thinking of Herbie” – a poem by Daniel W. Brown

May 1st, 2024

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The cover of the 1987 Mosaic Records collection of The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Herbie Nichols

 

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Thinking of Herbie

I was thinking about jazz masters
who died too young– private accolades for
America’s unknown legion, perished by
addiction, illness or accident—
Herbie Nichols I didn’t forget you.
Dead of leukemia at 44:
your delightful Harlem bop tone poems conjured up
smokey pig feet and chitlin rent parties,
an old dented upright sitting in the corner,
dipping, clicking, twirling hoofers,
beautiful sensual Lady Day,
small nickel and dime gigs
where you played your heart out
despite the small change gain.
Your trio music contains
the warp and woof momentum
of a big band. Yes, I hear it ;
The Herbie Nichols Orchestra,
under your fingers, inside your mind
as plain as pain each day.
The music you cared so much for
has filled more tribute albums
in your honor than all the music you recorded,
not all the music you desired,
aspired to and lived.
Playing your music
is my small way of sharing your love
like a diminished note hanging in the air
long after it ends.

For you my simple epitaph:
Hooray for Herbie!
if only life had brought
your greatest renown.

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Daniel W. Brown has loved jazz (and music in general) ever since he delved into his parents’ 78 collection as a child. He is a retired special education teacher who began writing as a senior. He always appreciates being published in journals and anthologies.  At age 72 he published his first collection, Family Portraits in Verse and Other Illustrated Poems through Epigraph Books, Rhinebeck, NY.  Daniel writes daily about music, art and whatever else catches his imagination.

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Listen to the 1956 recording of Herbie Nichols performing his composition, “The Lady Sings the Blues,” with Al McKibbon (bass); and Max Roach (drums). [Universal Music Group]

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Click here to read The Sunday Poem

Click here to read “A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Winter, 2024 Edition”

Click here to read “Ballad,” Lúcia Leão’s winning story in the 65th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest

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