Doctor Dee on Jazz

I met over drinks with some friends recently, one of who was wearing a porkpie hat. We talked about the name, then moved on to the jazz musician with the nickname “Pork Pie Hat’ – saxophone player Lester Young.

As we talked about the name, I recalled the Charles Mingus composition “Good-bye Pork Pie Hat”, written as an elegy to Young, who had died a couple of months before Mingus recorded it on his album “Mingus Ah Um”. There at least two sets of lyrics, one written by Joni Mitchel, one by Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

Two other tunes written by jazz musicians about jazz musicians quickly came to mind.

Benny Golson wrote an elegy for Clifford Brown – “I Remember Clifford”. Brown had already make his mark on jazz, when he died at age 25 in an automobile accident.

“In Walked Bud” was composed by Thelonious Monk, as a tribute to fellow pianist Bud Powell. One of the stories about the tune is that Monk wrote it as a work of appreciation for coming to Monk’s defense during a police raid on the Savoy Ballroom in New York City.

There are others, of course – including several by Dave Brubeck that appear on his album “Young Lions & Old
Tigers”: “Roy Hargrove” (written for Hargrove, of course); Michael Brecker Waltz”; “Here Comes McBride”; Joe Lovano Tango”; “Joshua Redman”; “Moody” (James Moody); “Gerry-Go-Round” (Gerry Mulligan); and “Ronnie Buttacavoli”.

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