FeaturedNew York City YearsSoul Ramblings

Slickhead Rick vs. Sonny LeBain

Greg Powell adds to the Mad Man Jams series about a sax duel
Slickhead Rick vs. Sonny LeBain

The Duet of Ra Man vs. Sonny LeBain

I.
Story’s been told
In tales and song
Of an Afro-Blue duel,
Lasted all night long

In a South Side spot,
Royal women and men
Romance and sex dance
Sip cognac and fizzy gin

Drunk dude in corner
Blues is all he got
Head tipping from tap
Of a whisky shot

Dashiki garbed player
On stage, sax blazing
Bright as sunlight
Smoke billows make hazy

Calling down Ra gods
crowd implores for more
When Holy Ghostly elder
Shuffles through the door

II.
Cotton field beard
Down to his chest
Hair standing high
Like a crown or crest

No one saw him enter
Except the dude on bass
Who recognized the spirit
In the man’s crusted face

Strapped across chest
Was a scratched-up sax,
For every big tree
He packed his small axe

He bellied up to bar
Ordered a drink
Leaned into the music
Old head began to think

Bass man whispered to Ra Man
Blowing chants of love and doom
Heads up brother, check the bar
A god is in the room

III.
Ra Man peeked and nodded
Giving props to Sonny LeBain
Who before he disappeared
Jammed with Bird, Rollins and Trane

Ain’t been seen in years
Many figured he dead
Souled his soul to the devil
‘what some church folk said

Once showed up at Rosa’s
Where the blues is played
Made the stage a killing floor
Ecstatic souls were slayed

The stepped out into icy night
Still playing his horn
Tones so tortured and sweet
The sky began to mourn

Ra unleash hot house notes
Like a hurricane wind
Cosmic tone from omniverse
Made time and minds bend

IV.
Sonny nods and takes out sax
As bass and keys play blues
Ra Man offers the first eight bars
Sonny’s brow furls to refuse

Says, “Go ahead son,
Play it sweet and fast,
And the. I’ll take my turn
So the best comes last

Ra blows eight bars of heaven
Fills the room with sound
notes rained from sky
Raised gardens from the ground

He growled tones crying
From a dream decayed mire,
Breath pressed brass wailing
Field shouts of fire

Rears back reigning/straining
Blows way out loud,
Sonic lightning streaking
Through cigarette cloud

V.
When Ra was done
And returned from the sun
Sonny quickly smiled
came in on the one

Telepathic taunt
Came from Sonny LeBain
“Son, hush up now and listen,
Gonna make it plain’

‘you can play that sax
Just about good as hell,
You talkin loud/ saying nothing
While mine got tales to tell”

‘Bird and Trane gone/ I’m king,
A crown I aim to keep,
When this old brass speaks
bow your horn and weep

‘so step aside now man,
And listen to me play,
And maybe learn something
While getting blowed away/

VI.
I dig your cosmic vibes
You trip space fantastic
But I play wind and waves
Melodic and elastic

You got the glow
And your flow is dope
But you never had to face
The lynchers rope

So do your thing Son
And I give you mine
Your gold soul is whole
Mine is refined
You play from space
Which you claim your birth
I play from a place
At the core of the earth

Ain’t one better than another
All belong to Jah
Said holy ghostly Sonny LeBain
To young Lion Ra

VII.
Ra let loose
A raging fuselage
So deep in the music
He seemed like a mirage

Lord, Ra played and played
For all he was worth,
Like crazed Pharaoh tweaking
Tones of silken mirth

And head started nodding
Holy amens to beat,
Serenading sweetly
Souls of stomping feet

Then he stopped, sipped some tea
And wiped sweat off his brow,
Haughtily pranced across the stage
And took a regal bow

Ovation rocked the room,
Knifing through the heat,
Shook Sonny out his peace
To tempo he tapped his feet

VIII.
Horn consumed by lips
Scarred brass in wrinkled grip
Arpeggios commence to rip
Old knees dance to dip

LeBain played his brand new thang,
Baptized the room in sound
Shadows began dancing but
They feet weren’t touching ground

He preached screeched and cursed,
Ancestral voices and raves,
People rocked, shouted glory,
Risen from their graves

He stopped and they collapsed,
Souls stripped down to nude,
Roaches came, clapped their hands
In heart welled gratitude

Ra got caught up
He knew he was done
Knew Holy Ghost had won
Joined Sonny on the sun

IX.
Yeah, two poets blowing
Intense and insane,
Ra Man caught in glory
Of Sonny LeBain

Wasn’t dueling for money
Naw, no such thing,
But only for glory
Of being crowned a King

Then Sonny’s sax spoke
Lay out Son/ your solo gotta end
Your song a sweet gentle breeze,
Mine’s a spirit wind.’

‘your song ain’t telling nothing,
What ain’t already been told
Ain’t worth counterfeit pennies,
Mine be altars of gold.’

Ra knew he was through;
Tears drizzled from his eyes,
He sadly bowed his brass axe
And cut loose mourning cries

X.
Sonny smiled and bid farewell
To smoke filled south side spots
Deep night cutting sessions
Where sound terrorists plot

Scarred lips kissed mouthpiece
Blew Bird cries of love
Hands and heads lifted
Drenched by sounds dripping above

He blues marched down the street
Riffing in a trance
Corner Gangsters dropped their guns
Feet commence to dance

Walked across eroded rocks
Blew arpeggios of bliss
Waves rose to embrace him
Sonny blew the waves a kiss

Sonny stepped on stage of air
Walked on the waves
Brass bell breaths calling
Chants of ancient slaves

XI.
Sonny reared back and shouted
“Baby we all win!”
Leaped into the darkness
Was never seen again

Said he reared back/ cried out
“Baby, we all win!!!”
Danced into the dark
Was never seen again

Part of the Mad Man Jams series, and if you're ready for more, read Broken Legacy next!