Monday, August 11, 2014

Jazz it Up!

Life, he said,
is a set of chords
and looked at me sideways
along the piano,
you might even say
the solo itself.
It runs the ancient
inner stairways,
first to fifth
to fourth to first.
Many I've known .
are a popular song,
those thirty two bars
and the bridge lifting through
its cycle of fifths.
Others are given
a shorter course,
the twelve bar blues
with three chords only
or a few substitutions
to smooth out the curves.
Some shorter ones
are free form purely,
a few are fixed
in a single mode.
Life for most
is major triads,
standard sevenths -
a few have flattened
ninths and fifths.
And time, he said,
is mostly common –
4/4, 8/8.
Some are waltzes;
the smarter ones
incline at times
to the harder fractions,
that style of thing.
Choice of instruments
is crucial.
Some thirty twos
are tenor sax always,
fibrous and strident –
others I've seen
are clarinet only,
skating exactly
the same round of chords.
Certain lives
are blues throughout,
a muted trumpet
growling in corners.
Some should always
have been a flute -
then end up tuba
in Dixieland.
We're all of us solos
one way or another.
Haven't you felt it
certain mornings?
You're running up fast
to the middle eight,
the drummer goes for his
fancy fill,
your trumpet hits
the top note from
the next chord on
just to lift
the height a little.
Or weren't you once
like me, he said,
the last held chord
of a Gershwin ballad,
a glassy arpeggio
floating up slowly
and off the piano.
The number of choruses
varies a bit
but the freedom of
the notes is endless -
scales of the chords,
scales of the scales,
passing notes
you get away with,
chromatic runs,
infinite splittings
of the beat.
So many solos,
so many patterns ...
He stared at me hard
and hit an F7.
Life, he said,
is a set of chords –
and God, of course,
a jazz musician.

Geoff Page, "Parable in 4/4"

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