Caught by the River

Jeb's Jukebox

Jeb Loy Nichols | 30th August 2017

I Don’t Care Who Knows It
Duke Pearson (featuring Andy Bey)

Blue Note
Recorded 1969 and released 1996

We have, near our stream, a nesting heron. It arrives in the spring and spends the summer doing its long-legged herony type tricks. Which consist mostly of standing in or next to the water and not moving. Much. The heron looks strangely hunched, as if having suffered a blow to its back. We had, yesterday, the heron and I, a disagreement. The heron told me that he had a great curiosity about what it is to be us. I told him to forget it. I told him not to think about it. I told him there’s nothing a fella like you ought to know about people like us. When it attempts to fly it’s as if an age frozen old man is attempting some hopeless feat of gymnastics. It twists and hunches and flaps and struggles. It looks as I feel, bone locked and immobile. But just as I’m about to look away, something happens; the wings widen, the neck lifts, the feet untangle. One thing becomes something else but is still the same thing it always was and still is. It’s slowly airborne and not at all clumsy. It becomes not an old man but a weightless thing; as it ascends I tell the heron this: in 1465, when George Neville was appointed Archbishop of York, he served four hundred herons to his guests.

I learned a new Welsh word today. Cynefin. Meaning the area grazed by a particular flock; a place where the flock will remain, even though it’s unfenced. It’s come to mean My Place, my home, my piece of land that is, to me, like no other.

Which made me think about the world where I grew up, currently suffering the indignities of Trumpery, and the clashes, last weekend, of white supremacists and anti-fascist activists. I saw one thing that cheered me: some idiot had written WHITE POWER on a wall, and someone else had added, in front, the word BARRY.

For that person I play ‘I Don’t Care Who Knows It’ by Duke Pearson, featuring the very wonderful Andy Bey. Andy Bey does that rare trick: every time he opens his mouth it makes you pleased to be human. You stop and marvel. You feel just a little less hopeless. Check out everything he’s ever sung; with Gary Bartz, with Horace Silver, with Max Roach, on his own records. Every time he opens his mouth. To you, Mr. Bey, I say thank you.


Jeb plays the Caught by the River stage at The Good Life Experience on Sunday 17 September. Buy tickets here.

Here’s his website and Twitter account.

Jeb’s Jukebox archive/Spotify playlist