- The Jazz Farmer and: Flared
The Jazz Farmer
for Art Farmer (Aug. 1928-Oct. 1999)
Blades bled pain in his voice When he mentioned the wings he grew Flying to Stockholm, then Vienna To cultivate his art. After his last set at the Regatta bar, The pressure of his large palms Made an imprint on mine.
America has been a difficult terrain for farmers. Black hands plowing land to raise home-grown crops were bulldozed, blocked, black-marketed. Art’s talent dipped in shadow, a rigged world where toilers are spat on. What he produced was not brash, his melodic lines strung deep peace with penetrating healing. Europeans salivated over his taste: Organic, full-bodied, round with an edge.
Through his trumpet or the flugelhorn Art farmed his own art causing bopping heads to swim into the music. Ears, like butterflies fluttered by his lifting and reflective sound. I closed my eyes and felt the music traveling; sometimes like an albatross, or prowling like a cheetah. Blood rushed, spines shivered warm notes filtered to the solar plexus I became butter.
You took us there, a baptism of musical grace, Art Farmer and Clifford Jordan waded in silk blues, blowing sunflower and apple seeds from golden horns into top-soil ears. I grew into your field of organic phrasings, as your trumpet and flugelhorn morphed into a hybrid voice, trident and yet mellow. Your flumpet became singular, your permaculture.
Warm melody, two masters in a field where rhythm, lodged bone-deep, helps ferment and hybridize as if composting compositions in mycorrhiza-like terrain. Soul feeding. Feeding your soul, your soil, your fertility. [End Page 386]
Eyes closed, rich brass paradise, nourishing on lyrical tones, until someone shouted: “YEAH! Art Farmer the master.” You humbly replied with a simple thank you as you bowed, offering your flumpet while praising in a deep soothing voice: “the one and only Clifford Jordan.”
The tenor was sharp, C sharp sharper than a sickle it became the chalice of pure sound. Jordan roasted his horn crisp, holding the mouth-piece so his tongue could: panmpa pahda peedee panh won bon.
Soft fire, sounds of passion that blazed out anger with music planted in the center of hearts. Keep me in the warm rain of your sound that reigned-in snapped ropes of your birth-land, where maestros of division rot-gutted souls, plotted against your skin. Still, you blew angels.
Farmer blew to ocean core, fishing out ancestral notes from every scale, every cell. Sowing restrained, a tight swing. I reaped the Farmer’s notes. Elements cultivated from a tradition: Fresh, pure and bittersweet.
When I heard of Art Farmer’s death, I picked up my dormant trumpet and tried to blow “bloodcount.” But my lungs were empty of notes.
For a moment, all stood still: No breath, no shouts, just the sweat-filled Air. A canister clicked, pin dropped. Feet dashed, hooves sounding On the hot pavement, then screams. Thick lachrymatory agents invaded the air, Penetrated throats, gagging. Fits of coughs drown out birds’ calls, We cried, begged for water.
Shoes, sandals left behind. The sun blasted its rays, flared. Doors slamming shut as men In battle-gear flared the air [End Page 387] With more tear gas canisters¾peppery. Fearful of blindness, I pulled my swimming goggles From my camera bag as masked phantoms Closed in. I backtracked from the crowd, A few geared heads turned, an ugliness stamped In the mind like blitzing bats in the night. [End Page 388]
Patrick Sylvain is a poet, writer, social critic, and photographer, and is published in several scholarly and creative anthologies, journals and reviews. He earned an Ed.M. from Harvard GSE, an MFA from Boston University, and he is pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Brandeis University.