A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Tongue Fluttering, A Pork Pie Hat & A Handy New York
Thursday, October 22, 2009

When Charlie speaks of Lester
You know someone great has gone
The sweetest swinging music man
Had a Porkie Pig hat on.

Joni Mitchell

The saxophone
carries 18 to 21 brass keys,
and as many keys of harmony
as two and a half octaves can contain.
Press these keys, people dance
and dream of children
and the means to keep them alive.

From Prez - Homage to Lester Young by Jamie Reid

Gavin Walker told me today that just about every third blog has a picture of Rebecca or I mention her. The fact is that from the very beginning, some almost four years ago, I realized that my blog was going to be about self-discovery and that it was going to be a self-discovery based upon my attempt to get to know and understand my granddaughter Rebecca. Just about anything I do, on any given day, I can relate to her. I sense this even when I talk with Rosemary. We are re-living our youth by experiencing the excitement of one who is young and full of an interest in undiscovered things.

If I play a CD that Rebecca has not ever heard in the living room on Saturdays or in the car, she will invariably enquire. For as long as she keeps enquiring I will look for CDs that she will ask about that may have an interesting story.

So it was last Saturday that I put Joini Mitchel’s homage to Charles Mingus, Joni Mitchell- Mingus, who was in Cuernavaca, Mexico dying (he died on January 5, 1979). The CD starts with a strange Happy Birthday and I then is followed by one of the most beautiful jazz tunes ever composed, Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. In the CD, Mitchell composed lyrics for the song and sings it. Rebecca said nothing. Later in the car I played the definitive version of it from Mingus’s 1959 album Charles Mingus/ Mingus Ah Um. Rebecca was all ears. There is a remarkable tenor saxophone solo by John Handy III, where he seems to play more than one note at the time. I would have called it harmonics but Gavin Walker explained that Handy had played trumpet in high school and he had good control of what he could do with his mouth. The technique is called flutter-tonguing.

I found out a few days after Saturday that Rebecca had told Rosemary that she really did not like Joni Mitchel’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat and preferred the Mingus/Handy version.

This Sunday Rebecca and I will be attending the Abraham Rogatnick Memorial at the Law Courts and Gavin Walker will be playing an alto saxophone solo of Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof. “I look forward to meeting up with Rebecca,” he told me.” And then he added, “I will be sure to mention to her that I approve of her taste for music.”

I have no photographs of Mingus (whom Rosemary and I saw perform so many years ago at Oil Can Harry’s on Alberni and Thurlow) nor of anybody wearing a pork pie hat. Gavin Walker told me that Mingus wrote the song in homage to saxophonist Lester Young who had died a couple of months before. Lester Young had a fondness for pork pie hats.

I had to find an excuse to write about this and with no pictures at hand I remember that I told Rebecca last week that the sound of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is the sound of New York on a cold and melancholic rainy evening. It is the sound of a city going to sleep. It is the sound of a New York that I have visited twice. It is a sad sound for me. I will someday correct that feeling and make it a happy occasion by discovering New York again in the company of Rebecca.


Previous Posts
NIna's Dainty Footware Part II

A House of Ill Repute

That Shoebox Guitar

A Breviarium In Codex

Bif & Nina's Dainty Footwear

Emily Carr's Melancholy Ron Burnett

Bloom's Spoons

Pole Winner

I'm Not For Anti-halation

Lauren & Pancho El Esqueleto

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