Sunday, December 08, 2013

Stan Tracey i.m. (and History or Sleep)

Round Midnight

Stan Tracey: tribute to Thelonious Monk

The varnished Bechstein
has been polished beyond perfection:
two rows of mirrored ivories
under a spotlight.

                                    He stabs
his first jagged chord, pricking it
with stray notes. But the ghost’s hands
are also at their keyboard, a left
knuckling his right, exactly.

The jumping hands below his bowed head
flesh an illusion, filling
the punched hollows as he watches.

Both pairs
have followed this dance too often
to break formation with the other.

But if one played a sharp where the other
played a flat
we might witness chaos – or invention.


This is posted in memory of Stan Tracey, sorely missed in the jazz world, and here too. This poem was written after seeing his Tribute to Monk tour in 1982 and it didn't make it into Returns my early pamphlet. I think I thought it too close to the style of another pianist, the poet Roy Fisher. It's no worse for that. The last verse found its way into my new autrebiography 'Words', part of 'When' (see my next post on the volume that is now called Words Out of Time) but has since been omitted in favour of restoring the poem, during 2014, to my proposed selected poems, indeed placing it at its head. So chaos and invention, Monk and Tracey, wiill be there at the beginning, representing the period when I saw him perform the most.

Here is a recent video of Stan Tracey and you can see the visual effect the poem is playing with. And he is playing a Monk tune too.