jazz, free-jazz and improvised music

mark weber | nuances

Drawing by Mark Weber


I’ll venture a line, a sort
of speculation, spectacular,
sepulchral, purely a set of
words that caught my ear

And call it an opening gambit
upon which to improvise, or
as we say in jazz: to riff

Not to be confused with riffs, those
infamous background taunting phrases
from a Kansas City horn section

No, I mean riff in the sense
of taking a joy ride into a subject
and experiencing along the way
all of the conjunctions the words
bring up, surprisingly

Pure invention, even then is nearly
impossible given the freight our words
have gather’d over centuries, ghost
meanings that loom behind
the scenes, making language

Such a deep mountain lake, what
do they call those in Utah? a cirque?
crystal clear lakes in the high
altitudes, dark reflecting a blue sky
or frozen solid, say

As starchy as the dowager battleship
who decides to sing at table in
a Marx Brothers movie

You wince, you look for
an exit, and there’s a tip-toeing Harpo
showing you the way out

Maybe at this point you crumple
the page and toss it
into the fire, decide to put
on Sonny Rollins Lp CONTEMPORARY
LEADERS, which
is loaded with inspiration, maybe
of it will rub off?

You tinker with some
of the earlier stanzas
realize you didn’t mean “sepulchral,”
my inner ear overshot the word “spectral,”
a word I associate with William S. Burroughs,
same as I associate “ennui” with Henry Miller,
same as I associate hundreds of other
words with the writers who have
worked with them,
“sepulchral” could work, in an
off-handed kind of way, like a tomb
for dead words, words
that hit a dead-end
their meanings will dissolve, various nuances
will be divvied up between 17 other words, new
and old, plunder’d
the English language absorbs
everything in its path (a similar characteristic
of jazz)

How many times have I lookt up a word
in the dictionary only to find myself thinking that
the lexicographers missed something, that
there’s a nuance still lurking in
the shadows

An ancient penumbra surrounding
a word, like fire, or maybe smoke is the more poetic
nuances still lurking in the shadows, cackling
like one of Steve Richmond’s gagaku demons

BUT! Words are still only the
conveyance, not an end in themselves
(unless, you find interest in what the “language poets”
concern themselves with,
and this “concrete poetry” where words are
very much an end in themselves, a fascinating
field of writing, really, but
I have bigger fish to fry — I know, you’re
waiting like e.e. cummings for me to
close this parenthesis, but maybe I’ll just
keep whispering, only if to add a dash of mystery? —
contrariness has a welcome place
in poetry

There are 3 things I can say
about that last stanza:
1) Strunk & White quite correctly advise us
to avoid the word “really”
2) yoga also is not an end in itself, even
as much as it could be, generously
3) this poem is becoming much too long

Maybe a 4th comment could be some-
thing I thought about yesterday, chuckling
to myself how incredible Todd Moore is with
short poems: presently, we’re
working on another installment of our
Noir Jazz radio show, and
how Todd can write more poetry in one or two
weeks than most poets can write in a
lifetime, it’s as if he has a
faucet that he turns on
and out comes pure poetry
over-flowing with pathos, narrative, back story,
front story, humor, menace, flower-sniffing dogs, you
name it, he’s got it all going, and all
with a mere twenty words or so

And then, what about inspiration?
Well, presumably that’s the fuel you run on
when it fizzles out, you
or maybe draw funny squiggles on paper
and send them to Klaus to adorn the margins
of this poem

— mark weber – 25jan10

Drawing by Mark Weber


  1. ronald baatz

    beautiful poem, mark. and you are certainly right about todd moore. i’ve always had great admiration for him.

  2. Dudessa De Albuquerque

    Absolutely love this one. I am looking forward to the noir show as usual. You and Todd. Always a treat.


  3. Kirk Silsbee

    Wow! That’s quite a joy ride, Mark. The dowager that the Marx Brothers riffed on in their best movies was Margaret Dumont. Nice poem.

  4. Mark Weber

    playlist KUNM Albuquerque USA
    January 28, 2010 noir jazz @ Noon
    Host Mark Weber — guest TODD MOORE
    1. theme “Joe Friday & Hotfoot Lady”
    2. Buddy Morrow “This is the Naked City” 1959
    3. Todd “i used to know”
    4. Buddy Morrow “Riff Blues” 1959
    5. Todd “dynamite”
    6. Buddy Morrow “Richard Diamond” 1959
    7. Todd “shot”
    8. Buddy Morrow “M Squad” 1959
    9. Todd “the switchblade”
    10. Frank Sinatra “It’s a Lonesome Old Town” 25may58
    11. Todd “hold it”
    12. Johnny Mandell soundtrack I WANT TO LIVE “Poker Game”
    13. Todd “mikey sat on”
    14. Todd maybe”
    15. J. Mandell w/Gerry Mulligan “Main Title” ibid.
    16. Todd “burning”
    17. Art Pepper “Winter Moon”
    18. Todd “dick’s 22”
    19. Bob Belden BLACK DAHLIA “Genesis” 2001 fragments
    20. Todd “two ton” & “riley was” & “chino was”
    21. Bob Belden “Genesis”
    22. Todd “lenny had”
    23. Keith Ingham “Don’t Explain” MELLOW BIT OF RHYTHM, 1997
    24. Todd “the cops”
    25. Todd “it wasn’t”
    26. Donald Byrd “Cristo Redentor” 1963
    27. Todd “the bet”
    28. Dominic Frontiere “Theme to The Outer Limits” 1963
    29. Todd “watching” & “largo shifted”
    30. Jazz @ Movies Band “This Gun For Hire”
    31. Todd “shorty was”
    32. more Outer Limits music
    33. Todd “four aces”
    34. Leith Stevens “Windswept” w/Shorty Rogers Orchestra
    35. Todd “out in jimmy’s”
    36. Terence Blanchard “Strike Packs Up” CLOCKERS
    37. Todd “the only thing”
    38. Leith Stevens “Private Blues” w/Shorty Rogers
    39. Todd “why is it”
    40. Steve Turre “Twilight Dreams” RHYTHM WITHIN
    41. Todd “i hate”
    42. Buddy Morrow “Highway Patrol” tv theme
    43. Todd “sager walked”
    44. Mundell Lowe “Naked City”
    45. Todd “the radio”

  5. Todd Moore

    The trick is to get inside without thinking about getting inside, just somehow going there like the door is already open and waiting for you. And, you got there way ahead of everyone else.

  6. Mark Weber

    by Todd Moore

    sager walked

    into little reds
    w/a knife
    in his back
    the bar girl
    sd doesn’t
    that hurt
    shot & a
    draft sager
    sd little red
    came out of
    his office
    which was
    the last booth
    in the joint
    & sd yr
    blood all
    over my floor
    sager took
    a glock
    out of his
    coat put it
    on the bar &
    sd you don’t
    mind if i die


    the bet

    was ten
    bucks that
    sonny cdn’t
    stay on
    top of
    the car
    hood for
    one city
    block while
    mick floored
    it so when
    he hit
    the alley
    he knew a
    deep pot
    hole & aimed
    for it the
    sent sonny
    into a long
    row of black gar
    bage sacks
    where a
    foot was
    sticking out



    jimmy the
    out little
    bill sd
    & then
    little bill
    his finger
    i poured
    into his


    the radio

    was tuned
    in to the
    jazz show
    & bird
    was right
    in the
    middle of
    some long
    riff when
    the guns
    went off
    & doghouse
    frank thought
    it was
    funny that
    he was
    in blood
    til he
    that it
    was his
    & fell
    in it



    my old man
    sd pouring
    a shot of
    there’s fire
    in this he
    sd holding
    the glass
    up to
    the light
    fire &
    & murder
    & blood
    he dipped
    a finger
    into the
    & marked
    my fore
    head sd
    to all the
    ways that
    we burn

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