Arthur Blythe: Lenox Avenue Breakdown

6 Mar

Arthur Blythe

Arthur Blythe's Basic Blythe


There aren’t many streets in  New York celebrated by Langston Hughes poems and jazz songs, but Harlem’s Lenox Avenue is. Hughes did it in more than one poem, and Arthur Blythe, a native Californian, did with his 1979 song Lenox Avenue Breakdown (live 2003 link below).

Hughes died in 1967, before Blythe moved to New York, before Hughes probably could have heard Blythe play the sax. And yet Hughes said, “The rhythm of life is a jazz rhythm” as if he had, in his poem Lenox Avenue: Midnight.

Twenty years after Hughes died, Malcolm X Boulevard was added to the name of Lenox Avenue. Blythe is 70 years old and has an extensive resume, including being one of The World Saxophone Quartet.

From Hughes’ poem “The Weary Blues:”

“Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway …
He did a lazy sway …
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.”

From Khephra Burns’ liner notes to Basic Blythe: “Arthur Blythe has traveled and has explored numerous avenues of musical expression within the jazz genre.”


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