Blues for Gérard (mon frère Gérard)

I first met Gérard in 2001. Alexander Pierrepont brought my wife Yuko and me to his radio show to be interviewed sometime in the middle of summer in the middle of the night. We immediately hit it off, both of us loving jazz and justice just equally. I always made him laugh… we always understood each other despite my non-existent French and his almost non-existent English. We would see each other every time I went to Paris, and I'd always go to a concert he'd booked at Sunside/Sunset or La Java. He was very generous to me and would always give me CDs from his incredible label. I had already had some LPs on Marge/Futura but knew nothing about the man behind the label; as I said, we became fast friends. Sometime in autumn around 2013 Gerard offered me a gig at La Java. He said there would be little if any money but that I could have all the drinks I wanted and that I could bring merchandise to sell and any musicians I wanted. He had only one request. Since I was opening for French band that played Chicago blues, he asked if I had any blues poems and if not could I write/read at least one to help please the audience. I’m laughing. "But Gerard, mon frère, of course I'll write you a blues poem." And I did. The musicians were Sabir Mateen, Sylvain Kassab and Cathy Hayden -- three avant-garde reed players.

Well, the audience hated us and we didn’t much like them either. They showed their disgust by talking through the entire set. I'm amazed they didn't throw tomatoes at us, or maybe they did. But the gig was actually pretty good. I expected not to sell one book or CD to this hostile crowd, but to my amazement there was one American, one Australian, and I don't remember who else in the audience who came up to me afterward, but thought our set was amazing and amazingly enough bought tons of books and CDs.

The other great thing that happened that night was that I learned about Picon (the drink of old men I was told) which I have now indulged in quite a few times while in Paris. One of the last times I drank Picon was when I went to another gig that Gerard had booked the following year at La Java. It was also the last time I saw Gerard and sadly all my attempts to contact him after that were futile. By that time he had become even more frail and I already knew his health was failing. I also had the privilege about five years ago of hanging out with him when came to New York to do a recording session for the label; we had a great great fucking week… Okay, here's that blues poem a bit updated for this solemn occasion -- adieu, mon frère, Gérard Terronès...

Blue Marge d’soiree blues for mankind important my friend please pardon my French too hot to sell in sync the solo the style the change regard the blue blue night Gerard’s chapeau tipped down low so come here mama turn your lamp down some mo’ -- some people carry old faces and the blues puts out my fire some people leave no traces but Gerard was never for hire -- "don’t complain, just let it rain," said Bessie as she stepped in to muddy waters… key to the mystery is the key to life to take care of your pets without regrets the more that you spend on eating food the poorer it means you are but if life is lush and the weather is green it don’t matter what happens to the stuff in between -- mon frère Gerard the BLUES fall down...

There's a pigeon on my roof a miracle a restless rage Blue sky Blue skin Blue eyes it’s so nice not to look for the dead as they surround you as you surround us now with you smile with your teeth with your one-of-a-kindness your genuine kindness and your chapeau and your smile la futura la futura for GERARD -- the thought of the sunset seen only by one man another song sung the bridge reached then crossed the folds within the folds the hanging on and the hangin' in and the hangin' out a place where the cymbal was born and birthed other symbols and there began eventually the speaking in tongues a written oratory the sweat of the brow the enslavement of souls not far from this place but so far indeed and color was born out of water and the promise of freedom our full blown freedom mon frère Gerard as you are finally released but from what to where to what -- ah, how I miss you already ah how I mourn the loss of not being there as you chased another dream another note another challenge another musical… now chain the ashes in Per Lacaise … and the sky the blue sky and the light inhabiting dark places as the sky begins to cry the blue sky as the darkness paves the way for revolution a revolution you helped create maybe never to come again… you paved the way just as darkness itself has done before you… your life helped pave the way your revolution helped show a way out the push and the pull… the way opposites attract and apostle's are born the way magnets merge and the blues are born the way the blues are born the blues are born on the riverbank asleep for so long the blues open up and sing this song as we open up our weeping hearts and speak in many voices the key to mystery the key to life solo the style the changes hung upside down sweet brother Gerard… as your soul remains here somewhere everywhere in this book in this universe in this dream in this lowest land this highest plateau this flawless world where only the outlaws can spread the news we're only the outlaws can sing the blues where only an outlaw can save us now and Jazz is what makes us mon frère Gerard and Jazz is what takes us… life solo style breath chapeau changes changes changes… so let it rain Gerard… let it rain Gerard… let it rain. - Steve Dalanchinsky

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Photo by courtesy of Christian Ducasse

Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Dalachinsky is a writer, poet, and jazz expert. He's released numerous collections of his poetry, including the PEN award winning The Final Nite & Other Poems: Complete Notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook 1987-2006 (Ugly Duckling Presse) and a 2008 collaboration with Matthew Shipp, Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue (Rogueart).

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