Chet drops by the jazz cafe Alto

surprise guest jazz night

Amsterdam 88 early May

a halo of blue gingham tables

loaded with Amstel and Grolsch

pincers the stage


glasses chink, there's chattering,

ashtrays overflow with roaches

dissolving smoke rings melt into fug


my shirt is peppered with pin-prick scorches


a latecomer asks,

‘is this seat taken?’


I shrug, she sits

she’s okay to look at

we don’t talk


a pianist plays Art Tatum standards

on nicotine ivories

he ends to a trickle of polite applause

deserves more


a trumpet pokes through

dusty velour blackout curtains


a ripple of reverence

and gasps

as we nail a giant,

limping the stage


I smile across the table

the woman ignores me


a stool is found - Chet sits –

hunched against the trumpet weight

his standing days are done

his abscessed legs can’t sustain

his emaciated frame


his horn, always mellow

always melancholic

now croons tears


is he reliving farm boy days

before the demands of fame

and needles making tracks?


Chet sings, “they're writing songs of love

                    but not for me

                    a lucky star's above

                    but not for me...”


the words slow slide from his mind

he dries - scatting fills the blanks


as the crowd wills him

to be magical


I’m grasping elusive

twenty year memories

Montmartre nights - by the heel


‘he’s not what he was

but he is, he still is,

that’s alright by me’


the broken falling idol

is cruising yet handing out plenty


they won’t go home hungry

they’ll tell envious friends

they were ‘at the Alto when’


the crowd goes ape


he leaves the stage

my tablemate follows


I guess we were never meant to be.


RIP Chet Baker 13/5/88 outside

Prins Hendrick Hotel, Amsterdam




◄ I only have eyes for you



Sat 16th May 2020 17:36

Funny thing - my neighbour and good pal, Andy promotes music - so I told him I just wrote a pome about Chet Baker and asked if he'd heard of him - his reply, "Trumpeter, smack head, saw him in a club in Amsterdam sometime late eighties." Small world eh? 😃

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