Sonntag, 29. August 2010


Heute vor neunzig Jahren wurde Charlie Parker geboren. Er war einer der berühmtesten Saxophonisten des Jazz. Er hatte ein kurzes Leben, fünfunddreißig Jahre später war er schon tot. Der Penguin Guide to Jazz von Richard Cook und Brian Morton widmet ihm dreizehn Seiten, einer der längsten Artikel in dem Buch. Nur noch Miles Davis und John Coltrane kommen da seitenmäßig heran. Unser berühmter deutscher Philosoph Theodor Adorno kannte die Musik von Charlie Parker überhaupt nicht, wie sein Biograph Stefan Müller-Doohm sagt: Wir haben den Jazz gegen Adorno verteidigt. Wir waren der Auffassung, daß Charlie Parker, Miles Davies, Theolonious Monk Avantgarde-Musik gemacht haben. Wobei man sehen muß, daß Adorno wenig Kontakt hatte, den Bebop kannte er überhaupt nicht. Er bezog sich eher auf Benny Goodman, es war da sehr schwer mit ihm Kirschen essen. Und so konnte dieser Geistesriese, an dem sich eine ganze Generation abarbeitete, auch sagen Jazz hat mit Kunst überhaupt nichts zu tun. Andere waren da anderer Meinung.

He breathed in air
He breathed out light
Charlie Parker was my delight.

hat Adrian Mitchell gedichtet, einer der Liverpool Poets. Dichter und Schriftsteller sind immer wieder von Charlie Parker fasziniert gewesen, er ist häufiger in die Literatur gewandert als zum Beispiel Don Byas (obgleich ich den sehr gerne höre). In P.J. Kavanaghs The Perfect Stranger: A Memoir findet sich eine Szene, wo der junge Kavanagh nachts mit Charlie Parker durch Paris wandert. Man glaubt beim Lesen, Charlie Parkers Saxophon in den stillen Straßen zu hören. Und Clint Eastwood hat einen ganzen Film über ihn gedreht. Bei dem Soundtrack hat man aber das Saxophon von Charlie Parker mit einer anderen Band unterlegt, vielleicht hätte man das besser lassen sollen. Ein amerikanischer Dichter namens Joseph Pacheco hat ein langes Charlie Parker Gedicht geschrieben (in der Sammlung The First of the Nuyoricans: Sailing to Sanibel 2002), klingt ein wenig wie John O'Haras Gedicht auf Billie Holiday (The Day Lady Died), nur länger. Falls Sie das gerade nicht parat haben sollten, tue ich es mal hier hin:

The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly new world writing to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the golden griffin I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the park lane
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a new york post with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 spot
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Pachecos Gedicht verdankt John O'Hara einiges. Aber es ist schön, sehr dicht, man könnte es nicht besser sagen. Vor dem Lesen sollte man natürlich unbedingt Ornithology von Charlie Parker auflegen.

The Night Charlie Parker Played Tenor at Montmartre Café in Greenwich Village

Like I knew when it was happening
that fifty years after
I could still tell you about it
and you still wouldn't really believe me: It's one 'clock in the morning
and I wander into Montmartre looking
for Tom and Rod so that we can go over
to the White Horse, play chess and drink 'arf n arf',
the half-stout, half-lager house special they serve
that's ten times stronger than the watered down rotgut
they are serving here in Montmartre
because the place is backed and being run by the local dons
who can't run anything strictly legit,
even when they are trying to cash in
on the bohemian craze
and the success of the coffee houses
like Rienzi's and Pandora's Box
and the jazz places like Vanguard
who every night pack in tourists
coming to look at us locals
dressed like bums with our long hair, jeans and sandals,
our uniforms of art and protest,
nursing the cappuccino or the stein of beer
while we carry on our business
of bull----ing each other up and down
the Kierkegaard, Sartre and Zen Buddhist block,

Rienzi's, Pandora's and the Van are making money
like no one was supposed to,
including Tom's place, which is the Café Figaro,
but the guys running the Montmartre
don't like the locals because they dress "sloppy,"
can nurse a drink all night
and try to smoke joints disguised as cigarettes,
which they call "bombers",
so they stop letting the locals sit at tables,
institute (would you believe) a dress code
and now every night
there are fewer tourists to stare
at the handful of better dressed locals
who have bothered to try to make it past Ruffino
the bouncer maitre d' at the door,
who is also my childhood buddy
and who tells me,
"it's slower than Ernie Lombardi tonight,
but something's happening with the jazz guys
in the front." Tom and Rod wave at me,
bursting with excitement like kids
watching the neighbor's wife undress
with the shade up, and I know
it's not a chess move but something real cool and unusual coming down.
Tom points to the musicians, a jazz quartet
Montmartre hired on the cheap,
and they are moving an extra chair onto the stand
and the tenor sax player is handing
his horn and strap to a fat guy in a rumpled suit
who looks just like and is
Here at Montmartre!
And he is going to blow tenor, not alto.

He warms up for a minute with runs and arpeggios
that any sax player would die for
but as a former tenor man
I can tell his tone
is no threat to Byas or the Hawk
and he will thin the tenor into an alto
with his first blow.
The other musicians wait in reverence,
as if they are standing before St. Peter
waiting to be admitted to heaven,
the leader and the Bird nod at each other
and off they fly into Ornithology,
with the Bird trying to teach everyone
just how high the moon was, is, and will ever be
and how high he is now.
He zigs and zags through ins and outs of chords
in quantum leaps of invention,
he follows a two-note "mop mop"
with a five-hundred-notes-a-minute-
leaving us breathless from listening,
segueing back to the melody
and to the other musicians
who have been happy just to listen,
keep the beat and play the chords

but now with encouraging nods from Bird
they try their own tentative solos
which get more confident as they go along
for now they can tell everybody,
agents, other musicians, their children
and their children's children
fifty years after, just like I'm doing now
that they played with Charlie Parker...
Bird grabs the tenor again
and the room bursts into one great haze
of waitresses pushing drinks,
tourists not knowing just where they're at
or what they're listening to,
management and stoned locals wondering
what's the big deal with this Fatso
and when can we close up,
but Tom and Rod and I and just a few others
inhaling and savoring this hippest
of puffy fat black dying junkie miracles
glowing and blowing at the center of the haze
like Orpheus unbound,
know as we gaze at each other
in the coolest of surmises
that we are living in a moment
like no other in jazz and human history
and which most of you won't believe
even fifty years after:
Charlie Parker playing
a borrowed tenor sax for free
in Montmartre Café in Greenwich Village,
a few weeks before he died.

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