Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Celebration of Lurkers Late















Tom Archia (L) played sax and sang the "Downfall Blues" (R).


According to Gwendolyn Brooks, out there are some folks who "Lurk late" and "Strike straight." While she may not have had jump blues musicians in mind, exactly, (she apparently had in mind "The pool players. // Seven at the Golden Shovel." instead) these are certainly some of the latest lurkers and straightest strikers, ever. Tom Archia, who played with many of the greats, sang the "Downfall Blues," a dirge about the perils of the Drink, then played cool bop & jump horn before there there were appreciated rock 'n' roll musicians, never mind unappreciated rock 'n' roll standouts. In effect, he is the unappreciated of the unappreciated. As was Freddie Mitchell, who comes to mind, too. On his "Sugarfoot Rag" and "Pony Express," it seems as if there's a musician in the back playing his baritone sax "Brooommmp // Brooommmp" in time with the rhythm section. Freddie Mitchell presents a manic horn akin to the (celebrated) excess of Big Jay McNeely, a west coast bar walker and tenor sax R&B man extraordinaire. Mitchell eventually became a cabbie and died in obscurity, whereas these two sides are some of the rockingest music you'll ever hear. Herb Hardesty lurked late behind Fats Domino, and Charlie Singleton lurked late, and a guy named "Dale" lurked late behind Rosco Gordon, who, himself, lurked late by banging the ivories while a whisky-drunk chicken danced atop the piano, and when I say "lurked late," I mean they waited, and waited in the song, until it was time to blow the daylights out of their horns, i.e., time to jump, and they did, "Lurk late" and "Strike straight." Morris Lane, Big Joe Houston, Chuck Higgins, Johnny Sparrow, Tab Smith, Lee Allen, Joe Morris on trumpet, and so forth. Gwendolyn Brooks wrote that her lurkers late did "Sing sin" and were "Thin gin." It's tragic, of course, at the end of her great poem, "We Real Cool," that the pool players -- "We // Jazz June. We // Die soon." -- may perish young, and it's tragic, in real life that raw, brash jump musicians (some of whom died young) never got credit for the social & emotional riot they blew out the bells of their horns. As if they were the "bad kids" in the poem whose anger and rebellion, in effect, were expressed, without compromise, in their music. We need more of that ("raw art") today. It is sorely lacking in our Land of Corporate Sameness. Hoy Hoy.

5 comments:

Dan / Daniel Gutstein said...

The DG 6-CD jump compilation is available to all who inquire, within reasonable limits accourse. ----BA

mark wallace said...

Well, Yockadot. I don't think I can say anything more fair than Yockadot.

Dan / Daniel Gutstein said...

Yockadot is a word that others have exploited for their own purposes -- without even knowing what it is. I'll say no more, but I share in the spirit of your comment. ----BA

mark wallace said...

Well, that's right. Sometimes, people say Yockadot. But do they know Yockadot? That's a big question.

Dan / Daniel Gutstein said...

Sung by a great musician and then co-opted by pencil-necks. ----BA