Mose Allison, Harry Belafonte, and a poem from France

It would seem that, even here in Southern California, autumn is upon us. It may reach 74 degrees today, but the morning was grey, damp and a mere 56; and it takes little more encouragement for me to disappear wholly into the fall’s implicit mandate.

I have been invited to become more consistently present on this, the airwaves of our time, and I will try my best to do so. What might you want to know? I swear I don’t have any stock tips: all my money is tied up in a dog racing venture in Palm Desert. (They race in the dark and cool of night, chasing only cardboard cutouts. No rabbits or recent reality show runners up are injured in the course of an evening’s festivities.)

Try this: I have just finished producing a record for the great jazz singer and songwriter Mose Allison, and that was one for the books. I spent nearly a year baiting him into the basement of the Garfield House; but once here he, at 82, seemed quite content to abandon his sworn oath never to record another studio album.

Likewise, I started what promises to be a more sprawling, multi-layered venture with Harry Belafonte (you heard me). He is also 82 and could likely kick my ass and your dad’s, even if we weren’t fighting fair. We have thus far recorded only one song together –a collaboration with the great Baaba Maal, of all people- and I would suggest that my association with Harry has already proved life changing.

I expect to be touring in earnest in March of ’10, and am looking forward. In the mean time, there is much to do, and I will do it; but mainly my goal will be to keep the holidays at bay. They slide in so devilishly once a grey afternoon but lets its guard down; but I prefer this strange suspension: when one season is down and still being counted out, while the comer is still anxious and panting in its corner, awaiting the inevitable. That’s when the air really smells like something.


P.S. A drft of a poem to follow

Piaf’s house at
La Frette stands
the river.

It is crooked
and looks to be
made of shells.
The street

has pushed
up to the gate
as if progress
were a tide

might soon pull
every remembrance
out and down

into the muddy
A brown
police dog, thin and

gray at the
walks the dirt yard
hungry, neglected

and near
blind. She
stands, forelegs
against the

the wire fence,
and barks at
my passing
-white marbles

for eyes
rolled back
towards heaven,

hear that?
there is
blood even
in the
forgotten song.

By Joe Henry © 2009
(La Frette du Seine, France)