The Green Mill

The Green Mill
by Howard Levy

In the temple of jazz,

the only smoke is that of cigarettes

and incense the vapor of alcohol.

The musician priests bless the cover-charge congregants

as they blow their way to heaven on their horns.

Many 12 bar hallelujah choruses resound and filter through the haze,

escaping through doors and cracks out into the oblivious world.

But they ring within the souls of some still tuned to truth,

whose ears can hear what eyes can only guess.

May, 1993 I wrote this about a club where I often play in Chicago. For lovers of music, a smokey bar can be a temple.


Trane, what’s in the sound of your name?
Like a candle that’s lit by a flame,
Your horn was reborn every time you blew life through its bell,
Showing us there’s a heaven as well as a hell.

You went through so much pain
in a life full of darkness and rain.
You found light in the night and you flew
to a place where the great always do,
and you played from the heights with your heart and your mind
showing us what was true.

Inspired, with a sound that never grew tired,
you could whisper the tenderest tones,
or wail in the farthest out zones.
Space and time were your friends-
paths without ends rolled out of the bell of your horn,
and your children were born.

Aug. 22, 1992

I wrote this poem on the road with the Flecktones just before a concert in California. John Coltrane was my number one source of musical inspiration when I started to get into Jazz in 1968. Unfortunately, since he died in 1967, I never heard him live, but the album Crescent made a huge impression on me on first hearing. I had what you might call a religious experience while listening to it (something that many people felt when listening to Coltrane live or recorded).

As I wrote it I was hearing the words as a 12 Bar minor key blues. “Your children” in the last line refers to both his musical ideas and to those musicians who studied his music and were inspired and educated by his ideas. What I really was talking about was the legacy that he left us.


lyrics by Howard Levy

If you blink just for a minute then you’ll miss it
’cause the melody is flying,
like an apparition not a composition
falling from our fingertips.
Now it’s reaching higher like a flame whose fire burns without its ever dying,
then it spirals down to touch the ground before it rises up to fly again.

If you blink an ear you might not hear the notes are speeding toward a never-ending,
where the circles turn in ever-changing time and colors never stay the same.
In that place where music lives my soul
flies through my fingers that are hot and burning with the
fire and heat and beat of Blu Bop.
From the hills of Ireland to the New York subways
people feel the same emotion
When a melody takes flight into the night and
makes your mind and body dream.
Flying on the wings of song your heart can sail
across imaginary oceans
It’s a fantasy ride,
freeing your mind,
Leave pain behind,
Look and you’ll find,

Blink an ear, you might not hear the notes are
speeding toward a never-ending
Where the circles turn in ever-changing time
and colors never stay the same.
In that place where music lives my soul flies
through my fingers that are hot
and burning
With the fire and heat
and beat of

I wrote this in ’91 after the Flecktones recorded this tune on the Cosmic Hippo cd. It fits pretty much syllable for syllable with the notes in the melody of Blu Bop, which I co-composed (and which was nominated for a Grammy). A lot of my own “instrumental” pieces have lyrics, but this is the only Flecktones tune I ever put words to. It pretty much expressed the way I felt when we played it.

Make Your Heart a Garden

Make Your Heart a Garden

Make your heart a garden
where things take root and bloom.
Accept the fact that some must die
in Autumn’s afternoon.

Accept the the weight and cold of snow
that falls in Winter’s night.
It melts away in Spring’s sweet thaw
on mornings filled with light.

All time is not a summer
Nature gives and bends.
Your heart will bloom in bursts of song
you think will never end.

The melodies come pouring out
like sweet wine from the glass.
But gradually theses tunes will change-
how true- all things must pass.

But don’t neglect your garden.
Please keep it free of weeds,
and make the soil rich and loose
so life can plant its seeds.

Make your heart a garden
where love can grow and bloom,
and stop to smell the roses
on a Summer afternoon.