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Lay for the Day
14th May

A song to commemorate the birthdays of two of the great musicians of New Orleans jazz: clarinettist and soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, born in the Crescent City in 1897; and Zutty Singleton, born in Bunkie, Louisiana in 1898, who led one of the first bands that Louis Armstrong played in and later recorded under Armstrong's leadership as a member of his Hot Five (on such classic sides as ‘West End Blues’ and ‘A Monday Date’).
Singleton, along with Baby Dodds, was a founder of the art of jazz drumming. He played with an incredible array of musicians – with early luminaries like Bechet and Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller; with the New York modernists Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and later on, in California, with the pioneer of electric blues guitar, T-Bone Walker.

New Orleans of the Mind [see it on YouTube]

Flirtatious melodies
Twine round the balconies.
You’re captured by the sunny scenes you find
In your New Orleans of the mind.
Dancers are dancing there
To echoes out of Congo Square.
The tunes are hot and yet they are refined
In your New Orleans of the mind.

You know that the river’s muddy,
You know that the ground is bloody
Underneath the pale magnolia blooms.
Human souls were bought and sold
Where the clouds are lined with gold,
Where the brass band’s bass drum boldly booms.

Time has nowhere left to go,
Moments just overflow,
Everybody wears a watch they never wind
In your New Orleans of the mind.
Ladies are strutting there,
Masqueraders take the air,
Tail feathers flutter on the second line
In your New Orleans of the mind.

Things are never what they seem like.
All your days float off downstream like
Paper boats beneath low-hanging branches.
Who’s the girl with eyes that glitter?
Could be the devil’s babysitter.
All the evidence is circumstantial.

Notes out of shiny horns
Become bodacious forms
Where the blind man blows his harp for dimes,
In your New Orleans of the mind.
Mary Jane is meeting you
Down on Tulane Avenue.
Every movement is immaculately timed
In your New Orleans of the mind.

You can hear the church bells ringing,
You can hear the fat man singing,
Seems the celebrations are commencing.
The ship of death is sailing by,
The kings of jazz are wailing high,
Giving joy the powers of invention

In your New Orleans of the mind.…


Words and music by The Children


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar

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