Jazz in Words and Music

After an idea by Kurt Neumann
Camera and Film Concept by Ivan Koytschev
For the Literary Quarter of the Alte Schmiede (The Old Smithy)

Montag, 14.11.2011  20 Uhr,
Literarisches Quartier – Alte Schmiede Wien (Kunstverein Wien)
Schönlaterngasse 9     A – 1010 Wien

Words by Harry Kuhner
and Music by the No-Nonsense Band
Rudi Wolf, tp
Herbert Wurzinger, ts
Paul Schuster, p.
Manfred Markovski, gt.
Peter Strutzenberger, b
Harry Kuhner, d
with vocals by Harry
& Elinor Mora

Literature and jazz have always been essential to me,
and I’ve always sought a way combine the two.
I like to think that I structure my literary work like a jazz piece,
bringing out the music and rhythm that are innate in language.
I had the good luck of playing drums in my teens,
in a swing band at Lawrenceville School
but years passed before the opportunity arose again.
Sitting at a drum kit and playing with other musicians gave me the key.
Communicating through the medium of music propelled me
into using the verbal medium for jazz themes.
I’ve had a bumpy ride as a writer,
but jazz has always provided me with joy and solace.

I wanted to say thanks to the great bandleaders,
sidemen and singers who have enriched my life,
and I felt that I finally had to put my gratitude in words.
There was no thanking them personally
since, for the most part, they are no longer with us.
I knew that expressing my adoration in words
would not be an easy task, but I had to try.

Thinking about the death of Lester Young got me going.
Before he died, he moved his lips as if he were playing.
The last thing the great tenor man did on this earth
was blow a silent solo, “a solo that only the angels could hear.”
That solo accompanies me along with the many licks and riffs
that can be heard on records.
There’s no way of describing the love that went into Lester playing
and the joy and sadness he expressed.

I had to say thanks to the Pres for what his music means to me.
That’s how Lester’s Last Solo, the first poem I wrote, came to be.
It is befitting that I should have begun with the Pres.

– Herbert Kuhner

* * * * *

Lester’s Last Solo

On March 15, 1959 at 1 a.m.
Pres moved his lips.
It must have been one of the slow numbers
he was playing.
Was it Polka Dots and Moonbeams?
Or was it Mean to Me?
He blew a solo that only the angels could hear.

Pres went out playing.

At the end of the number
the greatest tenor man of all time
was dead.

He’d never don
the pork pie hat
or tilt his sax up again
on this earth.

Even though his career
was cut short at the age of forty-nine,
the Pres stands alone.
Is he jamming now with Chu, Bean or Ben?

In later years he wasn’t always up to par.
Too much alcohol and nicotine
had taken their toll

His excesses
could only be characterized
as suicide on the installment plan.

That session with Sweets
is one I can’t bear to hear.
When the body is abused
even the great ones falter.
You need strength to be steady.

And it must be said
that no great musician
played badly as often
as the Pres.

But even in his decline,
there were occasions
when he played
like the old young Pres.

I hope that there are
celestial jam sessions.

I‘d like be able to thank Pres
for all the pleasure I’ve had
listening to him.

No one but Pres
could put me in a happy or sad mood
so well.

And I want to ask him if I can sit in.
I know that I can’t hold a candle
to Big Sid or Jo,
but I’d give him a good background beat.

– Herbert Kuhner

Lester Young