ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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What a life! / Imagine / playing with Charlie Parker and / Dizzy at eighteen, 

and saying a few years back,  / young Wynton hadn't paid his dues.


Miles Davis painting by Kaki




Miles Davis CDs

Kind of Blue / Birth of  the Cool / Bitches Brew / Miles Ahead  / Sketches of Spain

'Round About Midnight  / In A Silent Way  / Milestones  / On the Corner  / A Tribute to Jack Johnson

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Books by Lee Meitzen Grue

Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud  /  In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh   / French Quarter Poems  / Three Poets in New Orleans  / Downtown

CD Live! On Frenchmen Street

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By Lee Meitzen Grue


I got so I like his back.


Few people

and some animals, elephants for instance,

prepare us for the appearance of aliens.


We get used to them . . . their difference,

their living in another place.

At the River Tent one year,

my son backstage

got us in to hear Miles free,

but he was so loud

everybody ran outside

to listen.


he was into some kind of electronic-fusion

funk. It hurts our ears, our def vision of ourselves.

Miles had moved on.

We swallowed it, didn't

gag much on the livers or the lights.


Walter Payton,

no mean jazz man himself,

was grateful to get his autograph.

Now how many autographs does Walter want?


And that auto-biopic: self-proclaimed

cocaine head, woman basher.

What arrogance. What bullshit,


What a life!


playing with Charlie Parker and

Dizzy at eighteen,

and saying a few years back, 

young Wynton hadn't paid his dues.


Don't expect artists to be nice,


but didn't I feel the lights flicker,

get low,

an electric power drain

when Miles died.

"Miles" appeared in Brilliant Corners

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By Lee Meitzen Grue

Lee Grue is arguably one of the finest practitioners of poetry in New Orleans' storied history. These superb writs are equal to the upwelling of jazz itself: from Tremé street corners, to the wayward French Quarter, to the carefree vibes of Bywater, all the way to back o' town; this astonishing collection speaks from a mythic pantheon off yowls & beats as timeless as the Crescent City herself. "If you're missing New Orleans, and you know what that means, you need to read Grue's book front to back, place by place, time by time, name by name, everything that breaks your broken heart and asks it to sing. A generous, loving tribute to poetry and to New Orleans"—Dara Wier

 "Lee Grue's work is one of the majestic pylons that keeps New Orleans above water, a pylon woven thickly and subtly from the city's history. Her poetry weaves her personal history to the five centuries of the city's own, a fabric stronger than the dreams of engineers. Lee Grue holds us all on the warm open hand of her music; she emanates the love that raises the soul levees"—Andrei Codrescu\

Lee Meitzen Grue was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, a small town upriver. New Orleans has been home for most of her life. She began reading her poetry at The Quorum Club during the early sixties. There she met musicians Eluard Burt and Maurice Martinez (bandleader Marty Most). Burt had just come back to New Orleans from San Francisco, where he had been influenced by the Beats. Eluard Burt and Lee Grue continued to work together over many years. Burt and his photographer wife, Kichea Burt, came home to New Orleans from California again in the nineties, where the three collaborated on a CD, Live! on Frenchmen Street. Eluard Burt passed in 2007.

Kichea Burt contributed some of the photographs in Grue's book DOWNTOWN. During the intervening years Grue reared children, directed The New Orleans Poetry Forum workshop, and NEA poetry readings in the Backyard Poetry Theater. In 1982 she began editing New Laurel Review, an independent international literary journal which is still published today. She has lived downtown in the Bywater for thirty-five years. After the flood of 2005 she began teaching fiction and poetry at the Alvar Library, which is three blocks from her house. Her other books are: Trains and Other Intrusions, French Quarter Poems,  In the Sweet Balance of the Flesh, and Goodbye Silver, Silver Cloud, short fiction.

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Miles Davis on YouTube

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Miles Master of  Cool and Fusion: Filles and Bitches Brew

By Kalamu ya Salaam


Filles de Kilamanjaro is not only great music, the album is also a major milestone and signifier in the dazzling journey that was Miles’ musical career. Filles is more than a crossroads, it is the last of the cool, the death of the cool. I mean this in the same sense that Miles’ Birth Of The Cool is celebrated as the genesis of that movement, so too Filles is that movement’s ‘revelations’—the last statement opening us to further questions but paradoxically offering few certain answers for adherents of the cool style.

The album Filles is actually a composite of two different recording sessions released as one statement. “Petits Machins (Little Stuff)”—June 19, 1968; “Tout De Suite” (alternate take) and “Tout De Suite”—June 20, 1968; and “Filles De Kilimanjaro (Girls Of Kilimanjaro)”—June 21, 1968, all feature the last great quintet: Miles, Wayne, Herbie, Ron and Tony. “Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry)” and “Frelon Brun (Brown Hornet)”September 24, 1968, feature the transitional quintet in which Chick Correa is on keys and Dave Holland on electric bass, along with Miles, Wayne and Tony.

In any case, Miles was not simply transitioning to another quintet. Classic combo days were over, within a year the sound would be overwhelmingly electric and polyrhythmic with the addition of Airto Moreira, and later James Mtume. And that electro/percussion line up fed directly into the rock energy that occupied the majority of Miles’ recording career post-Filles.

Alas, even though he commandeered Charles’ Lloyd’s band (Keith Jarrett on keys and Jack DeJohnnette on drums), among black audiences Miles was never able to become as popular or sell as much as Herbie when Herbie turned to funk. And at the risk of being totally misunderstood, it is important to realize that after Bitches Brew , Miles Davis recordings were never as influential as those of some of his former sidemen, especially the Zawinul/Wayne Shorter Weather Report collaboration, and the aforementioned Herbie Hancock Headhunters and beyond forays.

After Bitches Brew  Miles Davis was through as far as shaping the future of music. Miles had abandoned mainstream jazz, had never been heavy into the avant garde, was more a legendary figure than a real influence in rock music, and was never a major force in funk music. I understand that some acolytes point to On The Corner and a couple of other albums as influencing the aesthetics of some rap producers, however without denying a contribution, on the basis of rap recordings from that period, Miles did not significantly influence the direction of rap.

I know that assessment sounds extreme but facts are facts. . . . I’m not saying this is better than listening to Miles Ahead  or Sketches of Spain but I am saying that this live version of "Aranjuez" is absolutely sublime.

Miles never fully shook his petit bourgosie upbringing, hence his expensive taste in the accoutrements of wealth such as elite foreign automobiles, high fashion clothing, and yes, trophy women. Regardless of his public persona, Miles Davis was never a street cat without formal education who survived by relying on mother wit. . . .

The age-old truth about our people is our ability to adopt and adapt other cultures thereby creating not only something new but also creating incredibly beautiful hybrids. Hendrix envy notwithstanding, Miles Davis was a master of sophisticated cool jazz, and was never a master of rock or funk. The beauty of Bitches Brew  is that the recording ushered in the fusion movement, which ushered to the frontlines musicians and forms that never otherwise would have been considered jazz. I say “beauty” because the immense strength of black music is that the music can genuinely make room for everybody regardless of their ethnic or class background.

Fusion music with its heavy backbeat never intended to swing, moreover in the long run as all the jazz fusion records make clear the predominant influence became rock rather than funk. Many of us old jazz heads have major issues with fusion jazz, not the least of which is the absence of swing but like Courtney Pine said about some Eastern European jazz cats, they had no intentions of swinging. And that’s ok, that’s their prerogative.

We don’t have to trash post-Bitches Brew  Miles because we love cool Miles. To quote another R&B cliché: different strokes for different folks. I don’t disparage fusion Miles, I just don’t dig it. I wear my allegiance on my sleeve: cool Miles for me, and except for the live recordings from Trane’s last tour with Miles, I’ll take the music of the second great quintet quick as a Tony Williams heartbeat.

Just as Miles never found a second horn voice to match either Trane or Wayne, after Tony Williams there was a barrage but no match in terms of subtly shifting the music. Make no mistake Jack DeJohnette is a powerful and beautiful drummer but a great lake is not the ocean. . . . As far as I’m concerned, after Filles, Miles Davis the master trumpeter takes a backseat to Miles Davis the innovator who was searching for new directions in music.

Although Miles had a whole bunch more to offer, as a trumpet stylist this was the last hurrah—the last of the cool. After
Filles it was into the hot, into some other kind of/different kind of vibe whether you could dig it or not. But no more hip, tortured, acoustic trumpet solos that left you sitting in the dark, tear streaks on your inner face, contemplating some unforgettable emotional catastrophe that indelibly pockmarked your internal heart, the one that most people never ever felt, saw or heard, that heart that Miles’ horn unlocked with the brilliant cobalt blue trumpet sound of the cool.

Source: Breath of Life

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.

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Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 9 May 2012




Home   Lee Meitzen Grue Table  Lee Meitzen Grue Tribute  Music and Musicians    Langston Hughes Table

Related files: Miles Davis Poem (Kalamu)    Miles Davis (Sharif)