Thursday, September 22, 2011

We Have Jazz


We have jazz we
have Caribbean drum beats we
have trumpets trombones from
Civil War military bands we

have clarinets played by Jim Crowed Creoles we
have the soul of the island the regimented
march the classical lilt we
have jazz. We

have Louis Armstrong Satchmo
descendant of slaves
abandoned child Back of Town so poor he tried
to sell throwaway food to restaurants in an effort
to keep his mother off the streets. He
had the hallmark raspy voice like
a scratchy long playing 33 1/3 record the signature
trumpet and cornet almost like
Gabriel’s horn. We
have jazz. We

have the elegant Edward Ellington
so debonair and dapper they
called him the Duke. He
had the full expanse of the keyboard
black notes and white notes and blue notes
from Satin Doll to Take the A-Train. Solitude swings
never sounded so smooth and majestic. We
have jazz. We

have Benny Goodman so small he got
the clarinet so it would fit in his
delicate little boy hands. He
had ebony and ivory long before
Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney
sang their shared praises
black and white trumpeters and trombonists and clarinetists
and sax players and drummers on his very stage and brought
harmony out of dissonance. We
have jazz. We

have the conversion of sinners’ music
why was it ever called sinners’ music
so sacred its sound could only reach
the churched soul. No call
without response no response
without call no salvation without immersion. Into
the depths I search for thee O Lord. We
have jazz. We

have Billie Holiday the blessed child
so blessed she had the small but
soulful range. She
had the orchid in her hair God bless
the child who has who has her own
who has her own
death like drowning on dry land
more brutal than a life of
back entrances drink drugs jail. We
have jazz. We

have a legacy old like
those rivers traveled and dreamt of by
Langston Hughes we
have the patchwork quilt stitched by
slaves and noblemen and street children and matriarchs we
have the indelible image
like the one on Veronica’s veil.

We have jazz.


— Lori D. Nolasco


("We Have Jazz" by Lori D. Nolasco was one of six poems composed especially for Rochester's Women in Music Festival . The poem was written in response to singer-songwriter Whitney Marchelle's rendition of Billie Holiday's, "God Bless the Child" and Marchelle's original composition, "What Jazz Is." An educator, poet and vocalist, Lori is also on the Board of Latinas Unidas and a member at the Rochester Hispanic Business Association. We thank her for sharing "We Have Jazz" with the Bar None Group.)