Great Women Jazz Instrumentalists + “Jazz” poems by Langston Hughes and Jayne Cortez

Mary Lou Williams: jazz pianist, composer, arranger_1910 to 1981

Mary Lou Williams: jazz pianist, composer, arranger_1910 to 1981

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Juke Box Love Song
.
I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue buses,
Taxis, subways;
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem’s heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl;
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day…
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.
Clora Bryant, born 1927, playing  trumpet in this 1954 photo

Clora Bryant, born 1927, playing trumpet in this 1954 photo

Langston Hughes
Life is Fine
.
I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn’t,
So I jumped in and sank.
I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn’t a-been so cold
I might’ve sunk and died.
But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!
.
I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.
.
I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn’t a-been so high
I might’ve jumped and died.
But it was High up there! It was high!
.
So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love–
But for livin’ I was born
.
Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry–
I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.
Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!
. . .
Langston Hughes
Dream Variations
.
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me:
That is my dream!
.
To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening,
A tall, slim tree,
Night coming tenderly –
Black like me.
Dorothy Donegan_multi-style pianist, 1922 to 1998, shown here in 1989_photograph © Paul Bergen

Dorothy Donegan_multi-style pianist, 1922 to 1998, shown here in 1989_photograph © Paul Bergen

Jayne Cortez (born Sallie Jayne Richardson, 1934-2012)
I am New York City
.
i am new york city
here is my brain of hot sauce
my tobacco teeth my
mattress of bedbug tongue
legs aparthand on chin
war on the roofinsults
pointed fingerspushcarts
my contraceptives all
look at my pelvis blushing
.
i am new york city of blood
police and fried pies
i rub my docks red with grenadine
and jelly madness in a flow of tokay
my huge skull of pigeons
my seance of peeping toms
my plaited ovaries excuse me
this is my grime my thigh of
steelspoons and toothpicks
i imitate no one
.
i am new york city
of the brown spit and soft tomatoes
give me my confetti of flesh
my marquee of false nipples
my sideshow of open beaks
in my nose of soot
in my ox bled eyes
in my ear of Saturday night specials
.
i eat ha ha hee hee and ho ho
i am new york city
never change never sleep never melt
my shoes are incognito
cadavers grow from my goatee
look i sparkle with shit with wishbones
my nickname is glue-me
.
take my face of stink bombs
my star spangled banner of hot dogs
take my beer can junta
my reptilian ass of footprints
and approach me through life
approach me through death
approach me through my widow’s peak
through my split ends my
asthmatic laughapproach me
through my wash rag
half anklehalf elbow
massage me with your camphor tears
salute the patina and concrete
of my rat tail wig
face upface downpiss
into the bite of our handshake
.
i am new york city
my skillet-head friend
my fat-bellied comrade
citizens
break wind with me
Dorothy Ashby, Jazz harpist and composer_1930 to 1986

Dorothy Ashby, Jazz harpist and composer_1930 to 1986

Jayne Cortez
Make Ifa
.
MAKE IFA MAKE IFA MAKE IFA IFA IFA
In sanctified chalk
of my silver painted soot
In criss-crossing whelps
of my black belching smoke
In brass masking bones
of my bass droning moans
in hub cap bellow
of my hammer tap blow
In steel stance screech
of my zumbified flames
In electrified mouth
of my citified fumes
In bellified groan
of my countrified pound
In compulsivefied conga
of my soca moka jumbi
MAKE IFA MAKE IFA MAKE IFA IFA IFA
In eye popping punta
of my heat sucking sap
In cyclonic slobber
of my consultation pan
In snap jam combustion
of my banjoistic thumb
In sparkola flare
of my hoodoristic scream
In punched out ijuba
of my fire catching groove
In fungified funk
of my sambafied shakes
In amplified dents
of my petrified honks
In ping ponging bombs
of my scarified gongs
MAKE IFA MAKE IFA MAKE IFA IFA IFA
. . .
Editor’s Note:  Ifa = a system of divination developed by the Yoruba of
Nigeria, based on the interpretation of cowrie shells tossed on a tray.
. . . . .