Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 3: “Trading Fours”

January 19th, 2022

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Trading Fours with Douglas Cole  is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film

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photo by Francis Wolff/© Mosaic Images

photo by Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images

Horace Silver

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Trading Fours

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Horace Silver’s got a grove. Just listen to that left hand,
like a heart skipping a beat or jumping up to a double-beat,
like beholding something so beautiful you can hardly believe it.
Two notes: two low and two high, looking up with a double-take,
leaping up the stairs as something slips away in “Song for My Father”
before the trumpet hits, a beat that sounds like swamps old as darkness,
old as the longing for lost fathers, back there beyond the fracture.
Donald Fagan heard it, lifted it like a pickpocket and dropped it into
“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” “Number” was a word for “joint,”
“bomber,” “blunt”…know what I mean? But it’s also a connection,
a connector—the number to call “when you get home…”
And not the way Vanilla Ice stole that bassline from “Under Pressure,”
then said “Nah, that’s not the same. Mine’s different.”
We all knew it was a lie, and he paid all the court costs, too.
Jarrett sued Steely Dan for taking “Long as You Know You’re Living Yours”
and putting that bassline and those horns in the middle of “Gaucho.”
They couldn’t deny it. I guess that’s the difference between pop and jazz:
jazz says, yeah, I took that, and thinks of it as an honor both ways—
the taking and the giving—as if to say, you made something beautiful,
I’m going to use it now to make something beautiful, too,
and not a commercial jingle or a gameshow tune or a TV theme song,
but a work of art, another kind of creation with a deep-tethered soul,
and you’re in it from the start. Like sampling, lifting is giving,
honor of ancestors, yet something new, and no post-modern dilemma,
no long shadow of anxiety influence—rather, listen well and true,
then respond—that’s what trading fours really means.

 

 

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Listen to Douglas Cole read this poem

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The following interview with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan first appeared in Musician magazine, circa 1980

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MUSICIAN: Are you familiar with a Keith Jarrett record Belonging,
particularly a tune called “Long as you know you’re living yours”?

BECKER: Yes.

MUSICIAN: Have you ever listened to that up against “Gaucho”?

BECKER: No.

MUSICIAN: I’m not casting any aspersions now, but in terms of the tempo
and the bass line and the saxophone melody it’s pretty interesting.

BECKER: Parenthetically it is, yeah [uneasy laughter]

MUSICIAN: At this point the reporter traditionally asks the cornered
politician or athlete to “go off the record.”

FAGEN: Off the record, we were heavily influenced by that particular
piece of music.

BECKER: I love it.

[Becker and Fagen later approved their “off the record” responses for
publication.]

*From The Steely Dan Reader

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Listen to the 1964 recording of Horace Silver performing “Song for My Father” 

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Listen to the 1974 recording of Steely Dan performing “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”

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Watch a short video comparing the 1980 Steely Dan recording “Gaucho” to Keith Jarrett’s “Long As You Know You’re Living Yours,” which appeared on his 1974 album “Belongings”

 

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photo by Jenn Merritt

Douglas Cole has published six collections of poetry and The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award. His work has appeared in several anthologies as well as journals such as The Chicago Quarterly Review, Poetry International, The Galway Review, Bitter Oleander, Chiron, Louisiana Literature, Slipstream, as well Spanish translations of work (translated by Maria Del Castillo Sucerquia) in La Cabra Montes. He is a regular contributor to Mythaixs, an online journal, where in addition to his fiction and essays, his interviews with notable writers, artists and musicians such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Darcy Steinke (Suicide Blond, Flash Count Diary) and Tim Reynolds (T3 and The Dave Matthews Band) have been popular contributions. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart and Best of the Net and received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry. He lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. Click here to visit his website. 

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Click here for information on how to submit your poetry

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One comments on “Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 3: “Trading Fours””

  1. Love it. This poem is a history lesson, uses rhythm and sound with great skill, and makes a reader want to listen again to great jazz creations. First-rate work.

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