Thursday, May 21, 2009


A great, great man died today. Jimmy Cannon, my music teacher, and an Imperial Valley institution, the one who showed us how to hear. Who took us to Mardi Gras, whose jazz bands during the 70s lit up every stage they played. Whose mad presence filled up a room. I used to try and get to school as early as I could just to hear him play his horn every morning. Whose favorite horn player was Clifford Brown. Who used to say: Lopez, better quit ditching those classes. And: Mexican horn players got the chops. And: Lopez, you gotta big, round sound, but you gotta learn the words to the tunes if you want them to come out your horn right. Who sat us down the day Miles died and had us listen to Miles Davis tunes all afternoon.

Jimmy Cannon. Jimmy Cannon.

Here's a poem by another former teacher that was written for Duke Ellington, and now, Jimmy Cannon.

MAY 24TH, 1984
for Duke Ellington

that day began with a shower
of darkness calling lightening rains
home to stone language
of thunderclaps shattering the high
blue elegance of space & time
a broken-down riderless horse
with frayed wings
rode a sheer bone sunbeam
road down into the clouds

spoke wheels of lightening
spun around the hours high up
above those clouds duke wheeled
his chariot of piano keys
his spirit now levitated from flesh
& hovering over the music of most high
spoke to the silence
of a griot shaman/man
who knew the wisdom of God

at high noon the sun cracked
through the darkness like a rifle shot
grew a beard of clouds on its livid bald
face hung down noon sky high
pivotal time of the flood-deep hours as Duke
was pivotal being a five in the nine
numbers of numerology
as his music was the crossroads
the cosmic mirror of rhythmic gri-gri

so get on up & fly away duke bebop
slant & fade on in strut dance swing riff
float & stroke those tickling gri-gri keys
those satin ladies taking the A train up
to harlem those gri-gri keys of birmingham
breakdown sophisticated
ladies mood indigo
so get on up & strut across gri-gri
raise on up your band's waiting

thunderclapping music somersaulting
clouds racing across the blue deep wisdom
of God listen it is time for your intro
duke into that other place where the all-time
great band is waiting for your intro duke
it is time to make the music of God
duke we are listening for your intro
duke let the sacred music begin

-Quincy Troupe


b. said...

I remember I met him once when I was in elementary school. :(

Anonymous said...

That man was pretty good friends with my dad.

VMT said...

this is beautiful, paul. i remember you speaking of a favorite music teacher while in college. played with count basie?

Manuel Paul Lopez said...

V, I'm impressed with your memory. That's so cool!

Anonymous, who's your dad?

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