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Chip White: Poetry

"I'm Just the Drummer in the Band" - October 6, 2013

I'm Just the Drummer in the Band is my book of 100 poems about jazz musicians from Jelly Roll Morton to Keith Jarrett, and everybody in between.

It is now available as an e-book!!  You can buy it from Kindle, from Barnes & Noble, from Apple's iBookstore; from Kobo, from Sony, from Scribd.  Over the next several weeks, it will become available for other e-readers. 

You can also buy a printed copy directly from me for $25 + $5 for mailing by e-mailing me.

You can listen to a live radio reading of nine of the poems from the book ("Duke," "Billie," "Nat," "Max," "Lee," "Jones That Is," "Bird," "Bags," and "Trane") by clicking on these links: Broadband connection - Dial-up connection. The music is "The Wizard," from my CD Harlem Sunset. Here are some of the poems: three introductory ones and then several on individual musicians.

The Beat - October 15, 2005

the flow
of motion
in the beat
from the
drum called

the pulse
of time
the flow
of rhythm,
the blood
of life

Jazz I - October 15, 2005

The master
being a vulture
took away the drum
but couldn't suppress
the culture

All the yokes
and collars
could not stop
the inevitable
field hollers

we gave Christianity
a spritual
to keep our
souls alive

New Orleans
the beginning

African concepts played
on European instruments
Creole sprits mixed
with Voodoo communication
with the New American Nation

King Oliver
Jelly Roll
Buddy Bolden
Johnny and Baby

It was a Renaissance
against all
the odds

Scott Joplin
Sidney Bechet
the Hot Five

up the Mississippi
the Chicago Swing
like Duke said
"It don't mean
a thing"

Jazz 2 - October 15, 2005

The music was lifted
then the scene shifted

Kansas City sessions
regional bands
life on a bus
for most of us

World War II
but we knew
what to do

"Be Bop"

first they said
we were lazy
[now - Black Art]
we "must"
be crazy

but we made
our own sequel
which put us

Bird, Dizzy, Monk
and the rest

while those silly
critics thought
"they" knew who
was best

Miles and Gil
[the Cool School]
Silver and Blakey
[Hard Bop]
Ornette and Trane
[the Avant Garde]

why do these
Black Foks play
so hard

400 years of dues
the name of this blues

if you've got ears

Duke - October 15, 2005

From the very
first inning
his was a
royal beginning

although not everything
was easy
growing up
in D.C.

young Edward
learned to take
things in "stride"
especially the piano

a scholarship to Pratt
no, Ellington
didn't want it
like that

music not art
would become
his mistress

in New York
and on the scene
where Willie the Lion
and James P. Johnson
nightly convened

enter The Cotton Club
(brothers, keep your

would become the zenith
for nationwide exposure

a sophisticated man
with a sophisticated plan
his every kiss
had a prelude
an "Indigo Mood"

worldwide acclaim
but nothing
could tame

those nights
and days
he wrote with Billy Strays

thank God
it happened
and we've got
our captain

his body of work
can never be rebuked
we love him madly
he's our Duke

Pres - October 15, 2005

He leaped in
and then
leapt out

Lester Young
always spoke softly
never shout

but left
no doubt
about the Presidency

The Kansas City Kid
of a million sessions
that first famous Basie Band
the logical progression

with the
pork pie hat
and the horn
at an angle

even Hawk
and Chu Berry
found it tough
to tangle

he finally
got his "Due"
although some
said too late

the one word
for Pres
would have
to be


Billie - October 15, 2005

The pulled back hair
that intriguing stare

blood red lips
over smooth
sensuous hips

Her primal cry
the ultimate high

an artistic sleuth
delivering the
actual truth

perhaps the strangest
of fruit

Nat - October 15, 2005

that's what
he is

"Cool" King Cole
The Nature Boy
who sprung from
Montgomery to Chicago
from church choir
to nightclub pianist

Out in California
where his gig with
"Shuffle Along" landed
an act of stolen funds
left the band

He Ssid
"After a while
it got to the point
of playing in every
Los Angeles beer joint"

But there the "Trio" was born
they didn't need
a horn

or a drummer
every night they
worked the audience
into a fever

Downbeat, Metronome awards
and everything

but how about
a drink for
the drunk who
requested Nat sing

The rest is hitory
"Straighten up and
fly right" "Mona Lisa,"
"Ramblin Rose" "These
Foolish Things"
all million sellers

to the world
he became an
International T.V. Fella

that's what
he is

Dizzy - October 15, 2005

In case
you haven't heard

he started it all
him & Bird

Be Bop that is

coming north
out of Carolina
he was a catalyst
for a music
much finer

He took Calloway's Cab
to Mr. B's Band
spent "A Night in Tunisia"
then formed his own
t'was grand

was John Birks Gillespie's
middle name

he was smart enough
to play the
State Department's

Kings, Queens
Presidents, ordinary people
and others

all seemed to be
when with him
like sisters & brothers

(Con Alma)
with soul
he was one of
the fortunate giants
to grow old

Bird - October 15, 2005

"The first
shall be last
and the last
shall be first"

Charlie Parker

came out
of Kansas City
with a thirst
to be first

Virgo pure
opening a new
musical door.

"Be Bob"!

can anything be
ahead of its time?

or is everybody else

Bird blew everyone's

Mingus - October 15, 2005

Charles Mingus
among us

his music
grew and grew
like a wonderful
all encompassing
audio fungus

his psycho-visual
political statements
were no fluke

"Better get it in your Soul"
the heir apparent
to Duke

he had "Nostalgia
in Times Square"

told "Fables of Faubus"
and "Good-bye to
Pork Pie Hat"
and "Remembered
Rockefeller at Attica"

Mingus among us

his music
is the "Cream"

Truly one of the
20th Century geniuses
on the scene

Miles - October 15, 2005

To be in the Vanguard
to be jet black
to be "The Prince of Darkness"
to be never held back

to find Bird, Dizzy,
Monk and Gil

to always seek
musical change
to dress to kill

to set all the trends
and all the styles

to be with the attitude
and the trumpet
that'd be Miles

Jones That Is - October 15, 2005

She sings the music
more better
unmistakably it's Miss Etta
          Jones that is
she really belts the blues
and has paid her dues
          Jones that is

She's fluid on the stand
and swings like
no one else can

like the way she'll
interpret a ballad
until it becomes
personally valid

Her flair,
style and class
make the memory
of each note
last and last

and of course there's
many singers
but none can make
you pop your fingers
like Miss Etta
          Jones that is

Trane - October 15, 2005

It's the "Equinox" man
with the tenor sound
that pulls your coat
to other worlds found

like "India," "Bahia"
and "Africa with Brass"
the "Crescent Impressions"
will forever last

was it a freak? I mean
such spiritual technique
the fact is
he practiced, practiced, practiced

with the Steps of a Giant
his soprano sings
bringing a Love that's Supreme
playing all "My Favorite Things"

and while "Naima" arrives sometime
"After the Rain"
everyday, I say
Thank you, thank you, thank you
Mr. John Coltrane

Deja-Vu - October 15, 2005

it happened

that feeling
you've been there

and after
after and before

a spark
a twinkle
a freeze frame

from an inexplicable
sixth sensory core

concentric energy

opening curved
parallel doors

was it a
preceding orbit?


it happened
maybe, before

it happened

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