Poetry: A Heritage of Trumpets | clivejames.com
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A Heritage of Trumpets

The clear, clean line was always the ideal.
Though there was subtlety in how Miles muttered,
One always ached to hear a song line uttered
With definition, lyrical and real:
A well-timed silence puncturing the swing
Only to add propulsion. Play that thing!

Bunk Johnson used to do that, way back when,
Inheriting the clean articulation
Of Buddy Bolden. The controlled sensation
Of vaulting gold that drove a funeral then
Linked death to dancing people, grief to joy:
The rich, sweet notes rang like the real McCoy.

The open horn was king. There was no mute,
Not even Cootie’s, that could set the measure
Of confidently opened casks of treasure
Lighting the cave, and turning the blue suit
Of tactful mourning to a pirate kit:
The lawlessness, the skipping lilt of it.

Pure gold in Paris after WWII,
Bill Coleman’s open horn proved mainstream muscle
Could still outstrip the nervous, shuffling hustle
Of New York bebop. Louis Armstrong blew
Coherent lines until the very end.
The same requirement applies, my friend,

To you, and all the more so as the day
Arrives when silence reigns, and Bix in glory
With just one passing phrase sums up your story:
The dying voice of silence. Blaze away
Into the dark, bugler. Be sure the night
Reflects your song with every point of light.

The New Yorker, July 10 - 17, 2017