Bryn Fortey is Alien Buddha’s Featured Artist for August 2021


On July 21st 2021, at the age of 83, Bryn Fortey passed away.

ABP’s artist of the month segment typically includes an interview with the honoree. Since that is not possible in this case, I will be sharing some of Bryn’s poetry here, from his book “Crossing the Race Line: Jazz and Blues Poetry”, and from an anthology he participated in, “The Rastaman: conversations with Bob Marley”.



ROUGH RAW AND READY

Bruce Iglauer started Alligator Records
Because no-one else would sign
Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers
And it grew into a major blues label

Hound Dog had six fingers on each hand
But the extra digits were unmoving
So of no help in playing the cheap
Japanese Telsco guitar he favoured

A HouseRockers gig was loud and joyful
And most definitely old school
With the three piece combo
Hitting an almighty groove
In numbers like She’s Gone

It is good news indeed
That such unpretentious juke joint blues
Continues to find an audience

Let the party begin


LEARNING THE BLUES

The first blues I knowingly listened to
Was Frankie Laine’s 1947 recording
Of West End Blues
I’m not sure how I came to have the 78
It was probably a B Side
But became a firm favourite

Frankie really liked jazz and blues
But his big-voiced ballads sold so well
That was what he had to mostly record
His West End Blues though
Set me on a musical journey
I am still following today

Thank you Frankie Laine
Your slice of the blues
Might not be the best ever recorded
But it was my introduction
And I still listen to it today
With gratitude and enjoyment


MUGGLES

Louis Armstrong
Was a lifelong marijuana user
Even serving 30 days jail time
After a 1930 bust
In a Los Angeles car park

Muggles
A popular slang for the weed
Among jazz musicians of the day
Was the title of a1928 hit
Recorded by his legendary Hot Five

When their paths crossed
At an airport in Japan
It is said that Louis got
Richard Nixon to carry
A small case aboard for him
A case that contained
His muggles stash

Good old Satchmo
Taking Tricky Dicky for a mug
I do hope it’s a true story


THE SECOND MRS ARMSTRONG

An early love of the blues led
Lil Hardin to New Orleans music
And to playing piano with
Joe Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band
Where she met and tutored
The unsophisticated Louis
Becoming ambitious on his behalf

Fletcher Henderson
Hot Fives and Sevens
Solo stardom

Lil was the girl who guided
While Louis just wanted to play

Their friendship lasted
Even surviving divorce
And she herself died
Sat at the piano at a
Louis Armstrong tribute concert

It would have been fitting
If her final number
Had been a blues


ELLAS McDANIEL

He would have laughed
At being included
With these blues and jazz guys
Ellas McDaniel thought himself
A rock ‘n’ roller
An entertainer
The man who invented rap
And the psychedelic guitar
The baddest cat in town
But his rock ‘n’ roll and R&B
Were rooted in the blues
With a nod to the field hollers
That preceded it all

Ellas McDaniel
The boy violinist
Who tuned his guitar like a fiddle
And became Bo Diddley


NO JOKE

Saxophonist Sonny Stitt
A Bird soundalike on alto
But his own man on tenor
Was yet another bebop talent
Playing second fiddle
To a heroin addiction
Known for strong arm tactics
When trying to raise funds
And on one occasion
Roughed up the wrong guy
Who by way of revenge gave
Stitt heroin mixed with either
Battery acid or strychnine
But rising young trumpeter
Freddie Webster had come
To play with Sonny
And was in Stitt’s room
At a hotel in Chicago
And the laced heroin was given to him
No-one knowing it was poisonous
April 1, 1947
But it was no April Fool joke
Heart attack said officialdom
And the accidental homicide theory
Was never investigated
But Freddie Webster was dead
No joke


NO VALENTINES FOR THE JAMES DEAN OF JAZZ

Chet Baker burst upon the scene
In the pianoless quartet
He formed with Gerry Mulligan
Cool jazz was “in” and
His looks and swoon era vocals
Seemed to guarantee stardom
But his personality was as fragile as
His poignant and emotionally charged
Trumpet playing
Whatever the questions asked
Heroin supplied the answer
Drifting in and out of drug hampered decades
Baker resurfaced at off moments
Like a jazz mercenary
With a horn for hire
Money always needed for the next fix
Yet there were still occasions
When the music was sublime
Which only emphasized what had been lost
Chet Baker chose the road
From jazz idol to ravaged junky
What a waste


BAD NIGHT AT SLUG’S SALOON

Hard bop player Lee Morgan
Was hired by Dizzy Gillespie at 18
And Dizzy knew a thing or two
About jazz trumpeters
A year later he was part of
Coltrane’s Blue Train sessions
Before joining Art Blakey’s
Jazz Messengers and
Recording with Benny Golson
Even leasing his own group and
Gaining a crossover chart hit
With The Sidewinder
But his promising career
Was cut tragically short
When his long-term girlfriend
Shot him after an argument
At Slug’s Saloon in New York
Where his band had been playing
His injury might not have been fatal
But the ambulance was delayed by
Bad driving conditions following snow
And Lee bled to death
On such things do we live or fie


HORN

Another night
Another club
Another horn blowing
Recycled phrases
Into dark corners
The stale air itself
Expanding
Contracting
Exploding
In staccato misdemeanors
Of false idolatry
Stratospheric brass
Forcing hot excess
Into easily assimilated
Mass hysteria
Or lulling
Into boredom

Another night
Another club
Another horn
The search goes on


RASTA SHAKEDOWN

Bob took Jamaican music
all around the globe
The UK was conquered
Europe invaded
America had been broken
and the rest followed suit

The world was his on a plate
of Agee and Saltfish
The first and foremost
Reggae superstar
but an uncaring universe
looked the other way –
malignant melanoma
under a nail

Said the doctor:
“Mr Marley, you must know,
that cancerous toe has to go.”

But Bob turned down
the amputation:
“He has guided me so far
in the hands of mighty Jah.”

Though he cited his
Rastafarian beliefs
it was also thought
the operation would have
affected his live performance
But alternative treatment failed
and the cancer spread
throughout his body

His last words were to Ziggy:
“Money can’t buy life.”


RIP Bryn. You will be missed.

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