Ode to Lord Buckley|
I played piano for Lord Buckley, and spent his last night and early morning with him. A few hours later, a friend called up and said he had passed on. I have never forgotten him or that time many years ago.
Lord Buckley was the consummate performer, having total command of his instrument, which was his voice and his ability to be all the various people that inhabited the world he created for his memorable performances. He was one of the first to combine Shakespeare, the Bible and the poetry of the streets.
For many of us, he was a combination of Walt Whitman, Charlie Parker, Baudelaire and Lawrence Olivier.
Like Whitman, he was always Iyric and grandiose. He reminded me of Charlie Parker as he created new stories out of thousands of unique patterns with spontaneous flights of fancy and one-time-only improvisations drawn from the moment. He seemed to relive Baudelaire's spirit as a mad, burning passionate poet, always romantic and worldly, in spite of the overwhelming setbacks that would have destroyed almost anyone else. Like Olivier, he could create and become any number of unforgettable human beings and make you remember them forever. Lord Buckley was much more than his defined role as a comedian and entertainer. He was a visionary and a true American original who influenced a whole generation. All who heard him recognized him as an underground genius of spontaneous American poetry and humor.
He captured the great joy and the great melancholy of the 1940 s and 1950's.
The alto saxophone is an instrument that bridges the classical American tradition created by Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker, whose amazing creativity, like Lord Buckley's, had no precedent. I felt a concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra would be a way of expressing homage to the era I grew up in.
I will always be grateful to Ken Radnofsky, Bruce Hangen and the Portland Symphony for making it possible to write this piece and have it performed.