Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas on Sugar Hill


There was a book written a long time ago
That talked about a new kind of sound
The pages between the covers
are now yellow and brittle

Staring at black vinyl
spinning round and around
In between the cracks and the scratches
Was that new kind of sound

It's followed me forever
From the clubs at Vaughan and St Clair
To Old Montreal

From Chicago's California Avenue
to San Francisco's North Shore
From open air festivals
To open mics at midnight

It lives through me
and it always will
Seeping through my pores
As I dance the Second Line
On New Orleans' Bourbon Street

I've cooked to Charlie Mingus
Rhapsodized about the Monk
Witnessed the birth of a child
As Baker played his trumpet

One night in Harlem
After I'd seen it all
I opened my eyes
And saw it all
for the very first time

It was a week before Christmas
Up on Sugar Hill
The sweet life beckoned
Playing it's notes
In syncopated fury

What better gift
This holiday season
Than lending an ear
And meeting St Nick

Picture in your mind
What image do you have?
I'll give you a hint
Just think about jazz

That picture in your mind
That image that you have
That is the image of jazz
That is St Nick's at Christmas time

Sat at the bar
With the love of my life
Surrounded by friends
I didn't know that I had
Surrounded by ghosts
Of the friends that I have

Bird was there as he had been before
So was Dizzy and Tatum
The Duke would arrive
on the A Train before long
He always had an encore or two
up on Sugar Hill

As we stumbled out into the night
it had now become morn
The sun was cresting over the horizon
And the wind blew so chill

I held you closer
To feel your warmth
And we walked the few blocks home
From St Nicholas and West 145th

It was a week before Christmas
Up on Sugar Hill
I had followed that star
And it led me to you.


— Mark Butkus