Boss Tenor

Out Christmas shopping yesterday, your editor lucked into Gene Ammons’s Boss Tenor for $6. Bet you’ll get gone if you go here and listen to the first track, “Hittin’ the Jug.”  And here’s the rest of the gift: Amiri Baraka’s spontaneously lovely liner notes.

I suppose Gene Ammons is what you could call a real hybrid. His playing is a perfect (albeit weird) assimilation of two widely opposed ideas of playing the tenor saxophone. Gene somehow manages to sound like he comes right out of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, the two farthest poles in the business of playing the tenor saxophone.  

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Mandela’s Eyes

Don’t play around the course he got the took
the rook the crook the snook all were
pasted upon him like a long vicious learning
there is all of Africa all of night all the
every trace of sweet hurt distilled like
cobalt turned into night the distant moon
a door to where no one wants to go Mandela’s
face is naturally political like the disposition
of an Angel the smile a postage stamp of
verifiable desire Love glowing & objective
What amazes our enemies is that we all
fit into his suit so elegantly

and alive

Originally published in First of the Month in 1999.

 

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Louis Reyes Rivera (1945–2012)

People are always talking about The Creator, meaning some great abstraction beyond ourselves for whom and to whom we give deference to if we don’t want to cop to God. (When we were in the organization we use to call our weapons “Gods” so you can understand the relativity of the term.) But for all our talk about the Creator, we rarely use that term for those moving among us whom we could concretely use that word to describe. And whose creations are knowable, tangible, though wonderful even if we could stand in a bar and have a beer with them. It is as if our familiarity with humanity downgrades its profundity. Like the only truly heavy stuff is what we don’t understand. Like the economy, what’s truly valuable is what we don’t have.

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Jesse Jackson and Black People (Redux)

We’re honored to reprint Amiri Baraka’s reflections on Jesse Jackson, Dukakis and the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta, which he composed in 1988-1989 (and which we originally posted at First near the start of the Obama era). This is an essay for the Ages but the history Baraka witnessed in 1988 has a special resonance in our time. Baraka’s meditation begins (artfully) in medias res…

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