A Clockwork Blossom

A litter of soiled and trampled flowers marks the territory of a Mayflower tree that stains an otherwise immaculate jogging track. Could mother nature afford the penalty the municipality would enforce upon such miscreants? May is here and with it dawns the flower laden canopies of the Delonix Regia aka the Poinciana or Mayflower tree.

Spring in the desert is what most would associate summer with, yet when one is in the vicinity of these majestic trees, in a place such as Zabeel park, the severity of the sun is undone. The Poinciana however, with its radiant red flourish celebrates the end of a balmy spell and heralds the arrival of a more ruthless one. Wonder how Nature manages time so efficiently, we certainly need to take lessons from it.

Another peculiarity (a vivid childhood observation while walking to school) that always drew me fondly to the Delonix, is how its petals stood apart. Unlike most flowers that sprout their petals in unison, the Delonix extends its sensory appendages, geometrically, like a toddlers fingers delicately outstretched in bewilderment.

Photographs taken at Zabeel park, Dubai.

Illustrations by the talented botanical artist Shevaun Doherty.

Being back in New York means...

Finding a guy I can be interested in for more than 3 seconds. I mean I live in a city of models and hot people so why haven’t I met anybody yet? I’m also spending a month upstate for school and there might be a diamond in the rough among those suburban boys. And then I’m heading to Poinciana, Florida. I’m still not sure if people actually live there or if it’s just a neighborhood of abandoned houses and I’ve been going there almost every summer. Here’s to finding a cutie patootie this summer.

Poinciana Regia on the Rawson property outside Mackay

Photographer: Edmund Rawson, 1845-1911

Location: Mackay, Queensland, Australia

A description of this tree is contained in Finch-Hatton's Advance Australia!: ‘In the middle of the garden, on a patch of smooth green turf, stands the most magnificent Poinciana tree I ever saw, about sixty feet high, with huge spreading boughs sweeping right down to the ground.’ Harold Finch-Hatton was visiting Charles Rawson at the time.

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Ahmad Jamal: Key Player

“Poinciana” (1958)

In 1957, drummer Walter Perkins was replaced by Vernell Fournier — Ahmad Jamal’s classic trio was set. This lineup worked for two years as the house band at Chicago’s Pershing Hotel, where Jamal recorded his first live album and greatest commercial hit, At The Pershing: But Not For Me. The album’s overwhelming success — reaching number three on the Billboard charts, where it stayed for another two years — was a double-edged sword: the band reached a much wider audience and Jamal even opened his own Chicago club, The Alhambra, but he became the target of some narrow-minded critics. 

But Not For Me remains the must-have Jamal album. The brilliance of the band’s interplay demands to be heard live to be fully appreciated. “Poinciana,” a popular tune in the swing era (check out Benny Carter’s 1943 version here), is transformed into a symphony in Jamal’s hands, becoming his signature. Beginning with Fournier pounding his kit (sounds like he’s using a mallet), Jamal enters playing a syncopated vamp and with each successive chorus the band introduces subtle and complex changes that heighten dramatic tension until after eight mesmerizing minutes, the band reaches an intense and unforgettable climax — referencing Ravel’s “Bolero.” Go ahead… have that cigarette — you deserve it! 

Bluely Noted won’t delve into why some critics attacked Jamal and his band because we only hear what others foolishly refused to: although the Jamal-Crosby-Fournier configuration played only five years together (1957-1962), this trio ranks with the greatest in jazz history.

“Poinciana” (1958)