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No Eyes: Lester Young by David Meltzer

These three books continue that long-established reciprocity between poetry and jazz.

David Meltzer’s No Eyes: Lester Young is a book-length jazz performance. In this tribute to Lester Young, Meltzer borrows Young’s “trickster, hipster,” phrasing to get the mood right-you dig? It is a meditation on the author’s yellowed newspaper cutting of Prez seated on a hotel bed, and you cannot help but notice the weary, impenetrable eyes of Young in the photographs throughout the book. Meltzer’s solos “lean into” one another as he returns to the leitmotif of the lyrics he famously supported in Billie Holiday’s Columbia recording sessions. Familiar phrases such as “all of me” form an eerie juxtaposition with Young’s hastening to a death at age 50: “One way is to stop eating in between drinking/waste away yet stay wasted/you dig//vanish except in photographs/disappear and reappear on album covers/how to leave but still be in the air/all of me.”

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