Milt Edward’s Orchestra
by Milton P. Ehrlich
A Saturday night in ‘48,
as instruments unpacked,
and monogrammed stands
were set up at the National Dance Hall.
The air was perfumed, a mix of honeysuckle
and the scent of pompadours
saturated with Vitalis.
Zoot-suiters from Greenpoint
jumped and jived to “Take the A Train,”
belting rum and coke between sets
trying to staunch the flow of sweat
in an era before A.C.
Wound-up marionettes jitterbugged
imagining they were auditioning
for an M.G.M. Donald O’Connor musical.
They recovered with a languorous fox-trot,
immersed in a radiant rendition
of “Harlem Nocturne,” as satiny smooth
as a sip of Glenfiddich straight up.
The star of the band, on an alto sax,
was a strutting seduction artist
with a Clark Gable moustache
and an Ipana-white smile.
He mesmerized the dancers,
tempting fox-trotters to stop and listen,
wide-eyed, at his pyrotechnic soloing.
The last song of the dance
was always “Good Night Ladies.”
As the final refrain faded, a jealous
group of burly brass-knuckled goombahs
from Sheepshead Bay, mounted the
stage, splattering fists and cymbals,
leaving blood spattered sheet music
and our talented sax player with
his mouth busted wide.