Sketches

Melvin Maddocks's twice-weekly column for the Christian Science Monitor was frequently a sketch about a leading figure. The two excerpts that follow show how much a good writer can get across in fewer than one thousand words, and how a writer gets at the essence of the man. The first comes from "The Flower of Ice Hockey Takes His Last Turn," written upon the retirement of the Montreal Canadiens' Guy LaFleur; and the second is from "Remembering the Late, Great Count Basie—the Swinging Never Stopped," a column commemorating the pianist-composer upon his death.

Though deceptively strong, he appeared less burly than the players around him, like a figure skater who had blundered in among the heavy hitters. But there was a special intentness to LaFleur. Even when he coasted on the ice for a routine face-off, he brought drama, urgency. The eye followed him, as the eye follows an actor on stage who has the gift of presence. The tempo of excitement lifted just because he was there. When the puck was dropped, LaFleur moved for it with a bright-eyed hunger. He is one of those players so drawn to the puck that the puck seems drawn to them.

Melvin Maddocks

"The Flower of Ice Hockey Takes His Last Turn," Christian Science Monitor (December 5, 1984)

Basie had a subtlety to match his power. His humor was irrepressible. A Basie solo in the middle of a piece often took on the character of a family joke played back and forth with bassist Walter Page or guitarist Freddy Green or drummer Jo Jones, to name three old hands. Modest to the point of deference in these dialogues, Basie nonetheless had a way of getting in the final witty topper. Everything he played possessed a kind of joy so central to his being as to be beyond his power to suppress. Even his blues came out happy.

Melvin Maddocks

"Remembering the Late, Great Count Basie— the Swinging Never Stopped," Christian Science Monitor (May 4, 1984)

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