Witness to Genesis

 First to see. Like Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman. 1933. Debut to beat the band. To be there. To be not square there. Ella singing scat with Dizzy in the 40s. Using her voice like a horn, playing with it, like a mad cat running up and down a tree. Running up and down and all over town.

Billie wrote a lot of songs. A lot of people don’t know that. Or care. They just want to hear her sing. And, maybe feel like they’re cool for liking her, knowing about her. Yeah, it’s cool if you’re hip without pushing it. A Zen thing. A Taoist dream thing. Like, you gotta float and move fast while you’re standing still. You gotta be strong as you’re bending with the melody again and again. You gotta flow with the wave that covers you with yourself. Inside you release the knot so the notes can fly.

When Ella sang with Duke Ellington, she hit perfection. She was supposed to be singing his songbook, but she made it her own and then some. Winsome scat. Wind song Jazz. Coolness at the Cote d’ Azur.

Ella and the Duke. 1966

Democracy of cool. Equality of cool. Patience when everyone has the turn to be genius for a moment. Patience and respect for craft, for fine, chiselled, sweet, saltry, hothouse song. Bluesy tune, meets feeling it. Billie feels it. As she looks at the band, at Hawkins and Mulligan and Young and Webster. They’re all feeling it, like the night come down on them soft and mellow.

Fine and Mellow. Billie Holiday.

The sublime is sacred. Dance bop slide . . .


Witness to Genesis
Scroll to top