Artie Shaw

By the time I got to it,
the clarinet was odd;
a quaint small instrument for guys
who never got the girls
(even the ones who played
and sat in the same orchestra rows
day and day, year after year),
who shuffled in the back
behind the trumpets
and saxophones.

It wasn’t really a manly thing
at nine or ten years old
to play.
But that was after Artie
set it down, and Benny
stopped “Flying Home”.

Used to be the clarinet was king —
and guys who played it
led the bands that fellas killed
to get into. Not the “sweet” bands
(although even Miller’s band cashed in
on clarinet by chance, with
Moonlight Serenade, and Welk’s band
was the only place you’d see a closeup
on those nickel keys)
or the “money” bands, per se,
but the bands where you had to be
great to even get a note in.

To me, that was the reason why
I played that black and silver stick:
because of Artie Shaw
who even out swung Gene Krupa.

30 DEC 2004

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