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Take The Neon Lights

by Steph Richards

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Juke Box Love Song I could take the Harlem night and wrap around you, Take the neon lights and make a crown, Take the Lenox Avenue busses, Taxis, subways, And for your love song tone their rumble down. Take Harlem's heartbeat, Make a drumbeat, Put it on a record, let it whirl, And while we listen to it play, Dance with you till day-- Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl. --Langston Hughes
My Sad Self Sometimes when my eyes are red I go up on top of the RCA Building and gaze at my world, Manhattan— my buildings, streets I’ve done feats in, lofts, beds, coldwater flats —on Fifth Ave below which I also bear in mind, its ant cars, little yellow taxis, men walking the size of specks of wool— Panorama of the bridges, sunrise over Brooklyn machine, sun go down over New Jersey where I was born & Paterson where I played with ants— my later loves on 15th Street, my greater loves of Lower East Side, my once fabulous amours in the Bronx faraway— paths crossing in these hidden streets, my history summed up, my absences and ecstasies in Harlem— —sun shining down on all I own in one eyeblink to the horizon in my last eternity— matter is water. Sad, I take the elevator and go down, pondering, and walk on the pavements staring into all man’s plateglass, faces, questioning after who loves, and stop, bemused in front of an automobile shopwindow standing lost in calm thought, traffic moving up & down 5th Avenue blocks behind me waiting for a moment when ... Time to go home & cook supper & listen to the romantic war news on the radio ... all movement stops & I walk in the timeless sadness of existence, tenderness flowing thru the buildings, my fingertips touching reality’s face, my own face streaked with tears in the mirror of some window—at dusk— where I have no desire— for bonbons—or to own the dresses or Japanese lampshades of intellection— Confused by the spectacle around me, Man struggling up the street with packages, newspapers, ties, beautiful suits toward his desire Man, woman, streaming over the pavements red lights clocking hurried watches & movements at the curb— And all these streets leading so crosswise, honking, lengthily, by avenues stalked by high buildings or crusted into slums thru such halting traffic screaming cars and engines so painfully to this countryside, this graveyard this stillness on deathbed or mountain once seen never regained or desired in the mind to come where all Manhattan that I’ve seen must disappear. --ALLEN GINSBERG
The Brooklyn Bridge Blues Chorus # 6 World Without End, Ethereal Flower ----and the streets of time & grime without rhyme or dime, all crime, in the blue sad belows of Manhattan, and old dirty black and orange-shit ships with dirt white substructures, and wharves of rusty junk, & barges, and I felt Exuberant I felt I was the only Perfect Man in the World, my virtue 100% my only sin is lust--I like girls--I have no Self---- I have a Buddha Not-Self----- -- Jack Kerouac
Rumor of War 02:51
Awaking in New York Curtains forcing their will against the wind, children sleep, exchanging dreams with seraphim. The city drags itself awake on subway straps; and I, an alarm, awake as a rumor of war, lie stretching into dawn, unasked and unheeded. -- MAYA ANGELOU
The Subway Tired clerks, pale girls, street cleaners, business men, Boys, priests and harlots, drunkards, students, thieves, Each one the pleasant outer sunshine leaves; They mingle in this stifling, loud-wheeled pen. The gate clangs to- we stir- we sway- and then We thunder through the dark. The long train weaves Its gloomy way. At last above the eaves We see awhile God's day, then night again. Hurled through the dark- day at Manhattan Street, The rest all night. That is my life, it seems. Through sunless ways go my reluctant feet. The sunlight comes in transitory gleams. And yet the darkness makes the light more sweet, The perfect light about me- in my dreams. -Joyce Kilmer
City That Does Not Sleep In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is asleep. The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins. The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream, and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars. Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is asleep. In a graveyard far off there is a corpse who has moaned for three years because of a dry countryside on his knee; and that boy they buried this morning cried so much it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet. Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful! We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead dahlias. But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist; flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths in a thicket of new veins, and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders. One day the horses will live in the saloons and the enraged ants will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cows. Another day we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue. Careful! Be careful! Be careful! The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm, and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention of the bridge, or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe, we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting, where the bear’s teeth are waiting, where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting, and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder. Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody. Nobody is sleeping. If someone does close his eyes, a whip, boys, a whip! Let there be a landscape of open eyes and bitter wounds on fire. No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one. I have said it before. No one is sleeping. But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night, open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters. --Federico García Lorca
My Sad Self (Allan Ginsberg)
National Cold Storage Company The National Cold Storage Company contains More things than you can dream of. Hard by the Brooklyn Bridge it stands In a litter of freight cars, Tugs to one side; the other, the traffic Of the Long Island Expressway. I myself have dropped into it in seven years Midnight tossings, plans for escape, the shakes. Add this to the national total -- Grant's tomb, the Civil War, Arlington, The young President dead. Above the warehouse and beneath the stars The poets creep on the harp of the Bridge. But see, They fall into the National Cold Storage Company One by one. The wind off the river is too cold, Or the times too rough, or the Bridge Is not a harp at all. Or maybe A monstrous birth inside the warehouse Must be fed by everything -- ships, poems, Stars, all the years of our lives. --Harvey Shapiro


After her "spellbinding" (NPR) debut record celebrated by the New York Times as a "bold pronouncement" last year, trumpeter Stephanie Richards follows up with a release of her second project: Take The Neon Lights on Birdwatcher records. Using NYC as a backdrop, her compositions are named from poems by icons Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Allen Ginsberg, to name a few. Her music explores a spontaneous prose of grit and brilliance; the ugly beauty of NYC. Featuring James Carney on piano, Sam Minaie on bass and Andrew Munsey on drums.


released March 1, 2019

Recorded at Tedesco Studios, NJ.
Mixed and Mastering by Andrew Munsey (BK Sonic Works)

Steph Richards (trumpet, flugelhorn, compositions)
James Carney (piano)
Sam Minaie (bass)
Andrew Munsey (drums)


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Steph Richards New York

Richards has built a compelling presence in the NYC improvised and experimental scenes, working with masters of the 20th century, from pioneers Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill to cutting edge improvisors Jason Moran and Deerhoof artist Greg Saunier and from Yoko Ono to Kanye West. Her works have premiered at Carnegie Hall, the Blue-note and Lincoln Center. She is a Yamaha Performing Artist. ... more

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