Happy Birthday, Myself

Everyone is entitled to a vision of paradise, especially on one’s birthday. Pretty much this is mine.

Ben Webster on tenor, Barney Bigard on clarinet, Rex Stewart on trumpet, Tricky Sam Nanton on the slide trombone, Ray Nance on the fiddle, Sonny Greer banging away at the drums, and – of course – the Duke just beaming at the piano (“There is a smile of love,/ And there is a smile of deceit,/ And there is a smile of smiles/ In which those two smiles meet” – William Blake on Duke Ellington). Individualistic, yet convivial; improvisational, yet with discipline and art; happy, yet not without a grounding in the blues; noble (the Duke!), yet deeply democratic; stylish, yet without idolatry of fashion; a bar nearby; three in the morning; a menu that advertises “if we don’t have it, you don’t want it” as well as “lunch – 23 cents”), a bevy of snazzy beauties; and – this is crucial – everybody in a sweet, sweet hat except for the bald guy. The lyrics added to C Jam Blues sum it up pretty well.

Baby! Take me down to Duke’s place.
Wildest box in town is Duke’s place.
Love that piano sound in Duke’s place.
Saxes do their tricks in Duke’s place.
Fellas swing their chicks in Duke’s place.
Come on get your kicks in Duke’s place.
You find yourself a seat,
And when you wanna eat,
You look around and yell,
“Waiter!”
You fill your cup chock full of dreams
And drink it up,
You’re jetting along with your girlie
It’s after three o’clock
But, baby, it’s early!
If you’ve never been to Duke’s place,
Take your tootsies into Duke’s place.
Life is in a spin in Duke’s place.

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