Storyville

A tribute to jazz in 1997 with the artist Birtley Aris. Alongside the poems and paintings, a suite of original music was commissioned from Keith Morris and Lewis Watson. As well as being played on a cd to accompany the exhibition, this was performed live with the spoken word.


The Devil’s Music

High days and holidays we play
the devil’s tunes, fill the heavens
with do you wanna hear, do you wanna hear
Ragtime, Dixie. Bud collects race records –
shining black, restricted, fragile.

Down here we don’t go about hitting
too many white keys. And it doesn’t matter,
nothing really matters when we flash
our brass and syncopate right in the eye
of the sun, like a swarm of mayflies

sighing across the waters. We’re Arkansas
Travellers and Turkeys in the Straw.
Bud says the thing about jazz is
you can’t lie; you play from the heart.
And folk listening hear it through their feet.

The girls kick off their shoe leather
and the dust rises up like the dead.
We know how to put the blues to bed;
this music, the only thing we’re slaves to.
The devil’s own horn, that sassy trombone,

Lordy Lordy double bass, those big
fat drums, cool as cool cool water
clarinet and the cotton-picking banjo –
our instruments of war,
our terrible, sweet revenge.

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