A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Spring, 2022 Edition

April 7th, 2022

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"See Me For Who I Am" by Corey Barksdale

 

“See Me For Who I Am” is by the Atlanta-based artist Corey Barksdale, who has graciously consented to have a sampling of his work published within this collection of jazz poetry.  To view a complete selection of his work, please pay a visit to his website by clicking here.

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This broad collection is comprised of work by a fascinating assemblage of writers from all over the world – many of whom are regular contributors, while others are either established but new to these pages, or are aspiring (and inspiring) poets. 

No matter their background or style, the contributors have something important in common – using poetic language to share their love of jazz music and its culture, and the impact it has had on their life experience.

As always, thanks to the poets and readers, and I hope you enjoy…

Joe

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At the conclusion of the poems, biographies of the artist and poets contributing to this collection are listed in the order their work appears

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“Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language.”

-Lucille Clifton

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“Poetry and music are very good friends. Like mommies and daddies and strawberries and cream – they go together.”

-Nikki Giovanni.

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“You blows who you is.”

-Louis Armstrong

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A selection of recordings are available to listen to throughout the collection.

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Listen to John Coltrane (with McCoy Tyner, Steve Davis and Elvin Jones) play “Equinox,” recorded in 1960 during the My Favorite Things sessions, but not released until 1964  [Rhino/Atlantic]

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Equinox

Didn’t matter who wasn’t here.
Whether love has withered or not.

I feel the tip of the Equinox
The sharps on the saxophone.

The sushi-stained soy and wasabi
Explosion while Coltrane improvs

And I feel them bite hard
Just as the Shiraz cools

The Equinox is here
Whether what was returns or not.

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by Michel Krug

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Dance naked with your poems and howl at the lilac moon

Shakespeare wooed the moonlight
love with his sonnets.

Emily Dickinson took refuge and
inspiration from her gardens.

Rumi communed with poets,
drunks, and street sweepers.

Walt Whitman sang naked
under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Langston Hughes drank jazz and
the blues … but, you

will you sit in the garden
and wonder,

or dance naked under the
lilac moonlight

while jazz in a violet fugue
howls in your soul?

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by Namaya

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Nica’s Dream

Monk’s Music
Hamp’s Boogie Woogie
Bags’ New Groove
Langston’s Lullaby
Chick’s Tune
Stan’s Shuffle
Cal’s Pals
Delaunay’s Dilemma
Billie’s Bounce
Chu’s Blues
Hawk’s Nest
Parker’s Mood
Miles’ Mode
Giorgio’s Theme
Heard’s Word
And whatever is in Cobb’s Pocket

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by Gloria Krolak

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Something Is Missing

Joie de vivre
is a melody that makes people laugh

An unborn musical piece that was written
during a snowy day, next to a cup of tea

But it is not quite satisfactory,
because it itself isn’t perfect; consciously

You see, it doesn’t rely on relaxation,
as it tries to resemble to “the ode to joy”

But can there be mere joy, when
there is no music?

You know, something is missing…
Maybe joie de vivre should be equal to jazz de vivre

In fact, fulfillment could matter

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by Panagiotis Papanikolaou

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Trio

Fireside coffee,
Ellie asleep by the woodstove:
The solstice is nigh.

Steam curls above my mug,
Bill Evans on the hi-fi,
The cold’s at bay while

The trio’s magic fills
The dawn-lit room:
Savoring so much, I smile.

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by Gene Hyde

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painting by Corey Barksdale

An untitled painting by Corey Barksdale

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Midnite Blue

1960 — could have been
any weekday night,
closing in on 11:30.
Most of the guys
had gone home.
I stayed on the corner
of King and Train,
outside of Aram’s Spa,

After tuning
the old Chevy’s radio
to HDH, I’d take down
one of the metal milk cases
from the stack
at the side of the store,
sit, lean back
against the brick wall
and wait for Midnite Blue
to slide in on Norm Nathan’s
Sounds in the Night.

Like the clouds above,
an occasional car floats
through the indigo haze
and right on time
Basie’s sublime notes
skip from the car
and across the sidewalk
and start my foot tapping.

Like delicate silk
lifted by a breeze,
Midnite Blue ascends,
gracefully transcendent
into the blue / black night.

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by Russell Dupont

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Life Is Not A Bitter Mystery
………………….a triolet, for Jonathan Schwartz

You give us Brooklyn 1955, Leonhart, Torme, Sinatra & Ella
…..Music that you keep alive, necessary music, keeping us sane
……….….Since the baby monitor, the composer’s son, just a NYC fella
……….………..You give us Brooklyn 1955, Leonhart, Torme, Sinatra & Ella;

Your cultured voice, through melancholia, subtle sadnesses, well, uh,
…..Our lives so enhanced by your station, diminishing life’s pain
……….….You give us Brooklyn 1955, Leonhart, Torme, Sinatra & Ella
……….………..Music that you keep alive, necessary music, keeping us sane!

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by Phil Linz

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Timeless Nostalgia

mid to late 1980s, stopped at the light on Villa and 53
‘XRT on the radio dial
(wasn’t/isn’t that always the way it was/is with me)
And this came on

Synthesizer (jazz sacrilege some might say; 80s zeitgeist I reply)
Baron Brown’s bass play – rest your recently departed soul –
And of course, electric violin

“That was Jean-Luc Ponty and his song
‘Faith in You’” said Frank E. Lee

I remember that day. I remember that song. I remember you.

We still meet from time to time and talk about the 80s, talk about now.
When we do, I think about that song. That day. Those times.
And always always always you.

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by Dan Franch

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New Jersey Jazz

In boogying New York I heard of
Bridge & Tunnel crowds from Jersey,
With no desire to be among them there

But then a friend moved to unhip Hoboken
And I dropped in – we sat up all night with
Bill Evans, Christian Scott, Chet Baker

On the radio, all the windows agape
To clear our hazy tobacco smoke, and
We gabbled about music and being cool

And flashed back on trendy nightclubs
And the downtown scene – we were
Middle-aged and smooth, listening to jazz

Like swinging hipsters with our cigarettes
And black unsweetened coffee – and then
Later in the morning we raced to a cafe

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by Martha Patterson

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A World Full Of Beautiful Songs

There is a world full of beautiful songs
Out there and everywhere;
Each more sweetly silencing, or
Bringing forth more tears than t’other.
Mellifluous as fragrant honey,
Money cannot buy it;
So lyrical you cry at
………………………………hearing.

The child, innocent of harmony and note
Looks on songs she’s learned by rote,
With warmth and ardor.
Learned by heart, not hard to memorize.
Their beauty of itself a chord
The size of don’t-know-what,
Sweet song or hot.

A taste for this, a taste for that,
It is the song that gives it sweet and reassuring (dancing) feet,
This world of word and meter.
World of euphony and melody to sing about.

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by Arlene Corwin

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All Music Has A Story

James Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” my hips
bounce like bobbleheads. My friend saw
the Godfather of Soul beat
his wife in the back seat of her cab.

Jubilee song “Wade in the Water,” drums
toll deep blue for Harriet Tubman, signaling
slaves to avoid police dogs. Sock cymbal
serves the backbeat and the soloist testifies.

Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”
makes me cry. Projects in Trenchtown,
Jamaica grieve like ghost buildings
in my old neighborhood in the Bronx.

This white woman sax player, plays
“race music,” black erasure. Prance
around, flip your long sweaty mane, twirl
a towel and toss it to the stoned fans.

The wilder you get, the better the show.
Play high and fast enough and make
the right faces. Real passion beats fast
notes every time.

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by Jean Fineberg

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Friends

On the front row must have been 50 or so
……….photographers with metal cases,
rucksacks, shoulder bags, tripods, spare
……….cameras around their necks
like some sort of punishment. Each held
……….a lens about 9” long in black
(although I noticed one was splashed
……….with various shades of green)
pointing to Phil Woods & Friends roaring
……….through some standards
from the American Songbook like I’ve Got You
……….Under My Skin, Summertime
& Let’s Fall in Love. For the whole set
……….cameras clicked at the quintet
of Phil Woods & Friends & I never realized
……….before that jazz was so popular
or that there was such a demand for still
……….photographs of musicians in full flow
or, indeed, in close-up. After the bands
……….last song, World on a String,
the photographers left for the bar, to find their
……….own friends or buy the “specially priced” album
& Phil Woods & Friends
……….left through curtains that had been rubbed
with stardust for wooden steps
……….down to Atlantic breakers crashing
against a wall of petrified volcanic crests
……….asking impossible questions
& dissolving into the silver of a different world.

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by Rodney Wood

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Listen to the 1933 recording of trumpeter Arthur Briggs performing “Grabbin’ Blues” (with Freddy Johnson on piano)

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If Only In His Mind
……………..(For Arthur Briggs, Black jazz musician
and Nazi prison camp survivor)

Taking away his jazz
they thought to drive him crazy
little knowing the music
lived within him
feeding his soul
keeping him whole

Even in the dark dankness
of their rat-infested dungeons
he thrived on the rhymes
playing in his mind
the syncopated rhythms
no manmade terror could halt, alter

Like a modern-day Samson
he grew stronger and stronger
until at last, no prison could hold him
and breaking free he escaped
the daily tortures and humiliations
of his imprisoners

If only in his mind
where the jazz lived
thrived
sustaining him
while all around fell victim
to concentration camp madness.

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by Antoinette Winstead

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Eubie’s Hands

They stretch octaves
across the sheet music
and the decades
of “Charleston Rag”
fingers like twisted bent tree trunks–
remembered rivers of antiquity
flowing through his veins–

there’s about a million
of them
when he gets going–
playing good old shuffle along
white teeth ragtime
for broadway dicty uptown folks–
as he secretly with a left hand
as uniform as early morning chorus lines
tapping

sat in bemused silence
and ageless joy,
peeking over his glasses
with swollen tree trunk fingers
and currents of cerise creation that
slowly stripped the buffoon clown mask
varnish from America’s face
and painted a portrait of slow rising freedom,
hardly noticed over time,
that America can’t look away from
(although it tries)
much less ever diminish.

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……………(Originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician, Feb. 8, 2022)

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by Dan Brown

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Coltrane

I sit on a balcony,
a cup of coffee held for warmth
on a chill spring morning,
as waxwings and vireos flit and flash,
percolating with song.

Earbuds dam back the world
with Coltrane’s “Alabama,”
while in the room behind the
sliding glass door, the news speaks
of Ahmaud Arbery.

Coltrane’s sax melts mournful,
keeping the base and percussion
percolating in the background at bay;
desperation and defiance blend on the reed,
build, expand, become manic,
pressing back against the growling chaos of the baseline,
before collapsing, weary and spent,
one final wail into the darkness, then
Coltrane’s liquid gold tapers,
a final, lingering note fading
into full silence.

Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson
would be sixty-nine-years old now.
Carol Denise McNair would be sixty-six.

Trayvon Martin would have been twenty-five
Eric Garner would be forty-nine,
Sandra Bland thirty-three.
Ahmaud Arbery will never be twenty-six.

I sit on a balcony
and think about a treadmill world,
where even the warbling of birds
cannot hold back the darkness
of a world stuck on repeat.

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……………(Originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician, Feb. 8, 2022)

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by Paul Juhasz

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Lost Blues

I hear jazz
riding the subways
No head
Phones
To supplement
The wheels churning
……….Chugg a chugg
……….Chugg a chugg
……….SKREEEEEECH
……….Screeeech
……….Chuggg
………A luggggg
………Skreeech

Lost blues by
Musicians
Passed on
Slowly

Dennis Charles holding
burlesque beat to
every passing
woman.

Jerome Cooper mentioning
Rosario Dawson’s grandmother
hatching the roof
to drown Jerome’s
drumming’;

Roy Campbell mentioning
Patience Higgin replacing him
at Lenox Lounge as
I watch the girls
at the bars chatting
to men:

Will Connell Jr. beating
his old dented
sax for not
giving him
the right tones;

……….Chugg a chugg
……….Chugg a chugg
……….SKREEEEEECH
……….Screeeech
……….Chuggg
………A luggggg
………Skreeech …

Jameel Moondoc drunk &
wanting to party at
Hammons DUMBO apt
on New Year’s eve;

Ornette Coleman losing @ pool to a young Justice;

Hamiette Bluette scaring two young girls
locked in his loft space;

……….Chugg a chugg
……….Chugg a chugg
……….SKREEEEEECH
……….Screeeech
……….Chuggg
………A luggggg
………Skreeech …

Bern Nix mentioning no gigs tonight;

Billy Bang ratatattating rattatating Vietnam War;

……….Chugg a chugg
……….Chugg a chugg
……….SKREEEEEECH
……….Screeeech
……….Chuggg
………A luggggg
………Skreeech …

Elizabeth Atnafu mentions, “I taught Miles to paint”;

………Chugg a lugg
………Chugg a lugg
……….SKREEEEEECH
……….Screeeech

Amiri Baraka saying dat,
“What will the critics
say about my play,
“Tarzan & Jane?”;

David R. Lowe’s only
theme for
Charlie Rose
every night
mentioned once
how beauty
can exist;

……..Chugg a lugg
……..Chugg a lugg
……..SKREEEEEECH
……..Screeeech

Al Loving shakes
Hettie Jones dance
steps on the
bowery loft space;

Milton Graves skipped
a heartbeat
with no gallery show;

Chares Searles colorful
sculptures not known
to Frank Stella or David Smith;

Terry Adkins mentioned the N-word many times;

……..Chugg a lugg
……..Chugg a lugg
……..SKREEEEEECH
……..Screeeech

Sheila Allson never published
her grandmother’s
Cossacks dreams
in Russia;

Pedro Pietri rode a plane to heaven;

Butch Morris’ conduction of poets;

……….Chugg a chugg
……….SKREEEEEECH
……….Screeeech
……….Chuggg
……….A luggggg
……….Skreeech

And
there is not
enough time
to
write
about lost
blues

I hear jazz
riding the subways
SKREEEEEECH
Screeeech
Chuggg
A luggggg
Skreeec.

Play that Jazz
In a panic-demonic
chaotic
social media
to build no housing
for
Poor
Homes
Lessnesses.

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by Susan L. Yung

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"Proper Bebop Blues," by Corey Barksdale

“Proper Bebop Blues,” by Corey Barksdale

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Ascent

It’s so quiet
………….you can hear a heartbeat
in the distance
………….a sound
………….a siren
………….a whistle or a bell
the wood walls
the gray windows looking out
………….onto street level
………….feet passing
………….tires hissing
time ticking
………….on an old clock
trio on the bandstand
………….a bass player
………….piano player
trumpet player smoking
………….his eyes full of gage

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by Douglas Cole

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The Fire In The Kitchen

a quiet woman she is
brow furrowed back bent
shoulders stooped voice
barely more than a whisper

yet when the fiddle
and guitar strike up
a tune from out the past

she is a keening flute
she is the breath of woman

her loves her losses her silent grief

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by Michael L. Newell

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Sunshine Morning

She vocalized every morning
with warm-ups so fine
even the cardinals stopped to listen
as her range floated
from alto to coloratura
in a scat sequence that stimulated
the sun to smile,
golden rays surrounding her face,
highlighting her auburn mane
that swayed to vocal rhythms
rippling the air,
driving away my drowsiness
as I listened,
shaking early dawn from my brow,
the morning timbre ignited in my heart,
“you’re the music in my day”.
She smiled, opened her eyes
and I became entranced by her magic,
a cumulus float enveloped by sunshine.

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by Michael Keshigian

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Listening to Round Midnight Under Quarantine

Kid, you come ’round midnight like a nightbird, sometimes, like
A sweet dream, more like a fairy, leaving moonlight, like dust
Taking the sounds of the street and turning them into your symphony
In the blink of an eye, chaos transforms into wonder and peace becomes possible
Even inevitable, you are the saint of the piano keys

Making jazz your star spangled anthem, your heart is a people’s republic, one nation
Under bliss, under your jazz umbrella, one finds safety and liberty
Like Billie Holiday, I don’t explain my woes to you; I just find bliss
Lingering after a satin doll moment; sweet lady of melody, of thee I sing !
Ecstatic, you swing your story, so that even Lady Liberty would envy
Taking the strife of nations and covering then in a jazz balm of brotherhood
Take your song like Tinker Bell and sprinkle it like sugar on the world

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by Erren Kelly

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Three Parts Of A Tune

Tilting –
off a note edge.
Sound of a space breathing.
Suspended between b and c –
tumble.

Low tendrils of sound
draw in, knot, and multiply;
Accumulating
tempo, piling rhythms. Light
leaks are appearing in here.

Golden highs shimmer
in, shake air like heat, scatter
in syncopation.

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by Meisha Synnott

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Villanelle For Coltrane

Flights of fancy, pulsing power
Play what you want at your command
Cascading notes like a shower

Came the night, the right hour
The great leader on the bandstand
Flights of fancy, pulsing power

Musical lines, sweet and sour
A new vision that you have planned
Cascading notes like a shower

As a king up on his tower
Shows strength with a wave of his hand
Flights of fancy, pulsing power

“An angry tenor,” sounding sour
The critic could not understand
Cascading notes, like a shower

Full of beauty as a flower
A reverence your music demands
Flights of fancy, pulsing power
Cascading notes, like a shower

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by Joel Jacob Todd, Jr.

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Listen to the 1959 recording of Chet Baker performing “Alone Together,” with Bill Evans (piano), Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone), Herbie Mann (flute), Paul Chambers (bass), Connie Kay (drums) [Universal Music Group]

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Master Plan

Square white goatee and
long blue tunic swinging,

“Pharoah” Sanders prances on stage,
wishing us peace and love.

He reverently clasps his horn
and serenades a packed house at Birdland.

No Twitter handles at play,
Tony Hewitt sings about

going steady, takes us all
back to a gentler time.

Musicians throng the space, eyes and
ears attuned to Sanders, who in his
seventy-fifth year, is ablaze.

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by Amy Barone

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Chet Baker in Bologna

Concerning Chet Baker my lips are sealed
By a calm vermillion glowing coal
At the centre of a snowball –
This was his sound – his soul

A snowflake turning to a flame mid-air
A cool conduit concluding
In a candlelit basilica –

The groove above our upper lip
A fingertip impresses before birth
Advises silence on our true abode –

‘Hush this is the world
Which shall pass
Though music last’ –

To contemplate at lowered microphone
A whispered existential question mark
That bends his reputation to a stance

Of spretzatura understated cool –
Articulation of the difficult
Without personal bravura

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by Bernard Saint

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Resilience: For David Sanborn
……………………..“An Alto Sax Jazz Man.”

my claim to jazz fame:
I have had fun telling people …
I got to know david sanborn
in high school band.

times could be rough though, for you:
& while still young, you beat polio
taking up the alto sax
for respiratory therapy.

and later, you beat
other troubles:
a gift,
possibly from your playing …

conveying an essence
to conquer misfortune,
and how to
keep on continuing.

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what we remember most
is sanborn’s distinctive sound.

you just knew it was him, you heard.

just like you knew who was playing:
like when they played cannonball adderley,
coltrane, or charlie parker.

you knew
when he played
those special notes,
he learned from living life …

you were there, yourself
with his life sound …
coming out of his
golden selmer paris, alto sax.

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*****

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what kept sanborn,
going for so long?

was it to hear, the audience
giving you those cheers …

for your jazz music,
and for years of playing on & on:

back again, night after night

with resilience …

for over …

sixty-five years.

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*****

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…………………(Published by  WestWard Quarterly, Summer Issue, 2020)

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by Alan Yount

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Miles Davis’ Flamenco Sketches

tender blue miles
traversed
languid miles
luxuriant
in the pauses

no hurry at all,
miles above
with bird
soaring —

gliding piano
ever so slowly
striding sliding
comet across
dark blue inky
sky

este piano
como una guitarra
a través del cielo
antes de la luna creciente.

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by Ed Coletti

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For Pepper Adams: 110 %

He was a transformer,
An accelerant for creativity,
A pressure cooker full of riffs,
Impossible to contain.
His sharp-edged tone
cut through the din like a saw,
Intonation be damned,
It’s a race to the turnaround,
Full speed ahead !
An amazing thing,
This slight, horn-rimmed glasses wearing,
chemistry teacher of a man,
barely larger than his Saxophone,
was the most aggressive Baritonist in all of Jazz,
Elevating anything he was involved with,
Stoking coal into the furnace,
Driving the turbines,
Inspiring with a challenge,
A tap on the shoulder to all the other musicians,
Try to keep up !

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by Freddington

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Coltrane And The Flower Moon

Under the lilacs,
“A Love Supreme” fills the yard
With ‘Trane’s soaring grace.

Above, the full moon
……………..Sails,
………….* Blinking *
………….On
……………..and
………….Off,
………….Through
Cloudy veils in space.

Across the valley,
The light is gently kissing
The moon’s shrouded face.

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……………(Originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician, March 1, 2022)

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by Gene Hyde

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The Messenger
………………After Hank Mobley’s “Recado Bossa Nova”

rolling drums and sax
assertive but laid back
latin keys on a train
trumpet grooves dedicate
beats loosen rails
melody stacks brass
declaring the soul, blast
through solos high
on a Monday afternoon,
off the tracks to the moon

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by Jessica Lee McMillan

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Appease Blossom

Freighted with oh so quiet passion,
Madam Moody Moods,
you were always the fashion
baby, when it was cold outside,
as it was, so often
(I have it on the record);
you and Bob,
balladeers of the shape of things.
It was always a safe bet, my Soubrette,
(who could forget Paris)
Margrethe, la reine des eighty-eights,
whenever you hit the Heights
with your featherlight trills,
kingly Pleasures ensued,
served up with a primordial tingle of swingle,
you always so nearly sang, and when you did
we liked you, you were nice.

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by Isabel White

 

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painting by Corey Barksdale

An untitled painting by Corey Barksdale

 

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Juke Joint

Sweat shines on his forehead
as fingers dance on the strings,
bending them to a higher pitch
for his twelve bar blues.

We slip through the portal
of his guitar’s sound hole
to become the rush and flow
of the rain-filled river.

We are crops in the fields,
beers shared on porches,
suppers simmering on stoves,
and singers in choir lofts.

We taste the sweet syrup
of love gone good
and the acid backwash
of a love gone bad.

We follow each lick and riff
down to the crossroads
at the intersection
of pains and promises.

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by Laura Trigg

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She Sips Her Drink

she sips her drink as the
soccer boys run by
throwing the ball around
she doesn’t miss winter
in Boston
the cold, like an iron grip on the world

she just sits, long legs swinging like
notes
she drinks a soda, like a little girl
her eyes widen with the song of
jazz, as it comes from a passing
car

to be young, wild and free
to be a woman in Italy
to feel the sun caress you
like a song of jazz
the soccer boys, kicking the
ball around on the streets
as she smiles, her legs swaying
to a Sunday tune

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by Erren Kelly

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A Jazz Drinker

My friend is a Blues singer,
I am a Jazz drinker,
boozing shots after shots,
I never get drunk with Jazz.

She tells me I am greedy,
because Jazz hugs me for the world of humans,
its sounds’ vibration kisses my eardrums,
and makes me dance in rainbow smiles,
like the moon in a starry night.

She tells me I am different,
because Jazz melts the rigid puppet in me,
and turns me into a fluid entity,
eyes ‘lakes that flow creeks of teary joy,
thawing the nagging icicles
in the rivers of my achy fears.

I tell her she is jealous,
like birds that break their chirping,
like forest trees that hold their breaths,
like the ocean that stops folding the waves,
when saxophone talks Jazz,
when a rain of Jazzy stars lands on piano keys.

My friend sings Blues,
I keep swinging the tunes in my drink,
boozing and cheering for Jazz.

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by Ermira Mitre Kokomani

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Raising The Bar

The crowded bar is full of familiar faces,
all standing and waiting their turn
as the atmosphere shakes
in anticipation for the memories of mood to return.
There’s Billie Holiday and Miles,
with Bix Beiderbecke over there,
cabarets of living music
burning the grown-up air,
with Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum,
John Coltrane and Dizzy,
Lester Young and Dexter Gordon’s tenor sax,
all in the cool-hushed hours
creating mysteries and pearls
which echo within, and those
shades reborn
as a sweetness of keys
unlock the heartbeats of human blues.

.

by Byron Beynon

.

___

.
Night Owl At The Midnight Diner

I can’t sleep anymore,
especially when it’s raining.
I put on some jazz piano CDs
& try to drift away,

but I remember my favorite diners
open past midnight,
& I miss hanging out at them,
after late shows on Broadway

& a good piece of pie
or jazz piano music
always brings me some peace
after a tough day.

Now, all days are tough,
& the diners are closed early.
The rain keeps falling,

& people continue to get sicker
& more tired as time goes on.
We are living on borrowed time,

as the notes roll from the piano
(ah! a hidden saxophone & drums),
they fall & resinate in perfect time.

I want to melt with the music
& eventually sleep,
waking up fully rested
(what’s that like?)

after dreaming of good pie.
The sidewalks are still
wet outside, but it’s
still warm—us night owls

are still hungry,
waiting for something
good to happen to us
while awake in the dark;

the music sounds like rain.
My strawberry-glossed lips open
as my heavy eyelids close.

.

by Carrie Magness Radna

 

.

.

Listen to the 1977 recording of Bill Evans playing “You Must Believe in Spring,” with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Eliot Zigmund (drums) [Craft Recordings/Concord Music Group]

.

.

Digging Deep

it’s a distant
beginning place
where the roots
of her jazz
reached the
sidewalks and
passing towns
where
fractured connections
of vines and lines
lay bundled in
mornings reflections
in a cup of
coffee
as the gray
shadow of it all
painted itself flat
on the floor
as she wrestled
the words
over the water
of hurt

.

by Roger Singer

.

___

.
He Gives Me The Blues

He didn’t come home last night
We didn’t even have a fight
A difference of opinion
It wasn’t beyond reason
Still I slept alone not
fully comprehending why

He said he understood me
Why couldn’t I see his side
Was I supposed to lie
to make him feel he
knew more than I

All I want is a little peace
and acceptance of who I
am, instead of giving me the
blues, not much more
I can stand

So if this is the end
because we are not
aligned and he isn’t
the man I thought
him to be, then he
can get the fuck on
and get these Blues
away from me

.

by Aurora M. Lewis

.

___

.
Upon Hearing “Little Rootie Tootie”
After Quite A Long Time

such angled sounds enter
………..unbalanced for just a bit
unblended notes stretched
………..awkward across history
………………….gain symmetry
within a sharp & flat landscape
………………….fashionably becoming
something of an outdated shawl cardigan
……………………………….oversized
& worn over a modest torso

an absorbing comfort felt
………………….from mindful listening
& an unexpected renewal

.

……..Inspired by the Thelonious Monk Orchestra 1959 Town Hall performance

.

by Terrance Underwood

.

___

.

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings

Mal Waldron a favorite
of my then-husband Fred.
Or was he my then-boyfriend Fred
when we heard Waldron live?

I forget where.
Not the place near Columbia
where gigged the musician whose name, he always joked, the same as some Supreme Court justice’s.
How characteristic that I’ve forgotten the two-fer name. Wait. It was Earl Warren.

The main LPs in my parents’ house South Pacific, Funny Girl, White Christmas,
which I didn’t learn to hear
the good of till decades later.
It took boyfriends to introduce me to jazz.

But it didn’t take much.
Strange Fruit and I was done.
That was Daniel, the second man I lived with.
(The first, Michael, was The Doors, replete with how you best approach The Doors.)

By the time I loved Fred I already loved
Jay McShann, Bill Evans, it goes without saying Ella and Louis, Betty and Ray.
Oh and Sarah Vaughn. Every time
you say goodbye I cry a little.

Fred more catholic than I will ever be –
Monk, Steve Lacy, Jelly Roll Morton.

Jazz.
Black America’s great gift, one of Black America’s great gifts, to America.
Jazz.
America’s great gift to the world.

But here is something I’ll never understand.
Even the most die-hard non-jazz fan, at most Kenny G.,
can love Trane. And everybody does.
God knows it’s not that Trane is easy.

.

by Susan Anmuth

.

___

.
Coltrane

Coltrane plays the ballad
You Don’t Know What Love Is

John Coltrane is praying
and when a god prays
the angels are silent and still

tenderness kindness love
pouring out in a full warm tenor sound
at times sweeping up into a high anguished cry
a desperately searching cry
reaching for the unexplored corridors of the blues
a prayer the angels won’t forget

.

by Paul Brown

.

___

.

Jazz for Young Lovers

When Bill Riess thumped the bass,
he followed Mingus
When Mike Berniker blew his licorice stick,
he drew on Benny Goodman
When Juddy White tickled the ivories,
his model was Monk
All these high-school white boys
in the 50’s trolling the best jazz
players of the day, making
magic in the dim-lit basement
of the parents of a classmate
who’d surrendered the house to the kids
for a make-out party of beer, chips,
and close dancing, the boys
pressing their hot crotches into the girls
in their plaid skirts held together
with king-sized safety pins
that might be unfurled round midnight
in some lovers’ lane on the outskirts
of town, the seductive jazz still throbbing
in the lovers’ joints as they headed
who knows where…

.

by George Held

.

___

.

Healers Of The Night

A circle of walking trail
Surrounding
An island of tranquility
Where a trio of jazz musicians
Accompanied by an older female jazz singer
Held captive
Jazz aficionados.

A mother
Swayed to the music
With her down-syndrome baby
To the lyrics,
“I love being here with you,”

A Great Dane
Meditated near her feet
Soaking the rhythm of oneness
Permeating the starry sky!

.

by Hardarshan Singh Valia

.

___

.

Jazz in A Garden

I remember other music.
Muddy Waters Blues
rippled over heads and
hips and elbows positioned
across the cool concrete
of the sculpture garden
my children tucked in
around me, wide-eyed
in the wonderful night.

Barely room to move,
a grid of bodies
receiving notes bouncing off
a Giacometti bronze
and a marble Henry Moore—
responded, fueling the combo
with undulations of applause.

This time, Rutgers’
physical plant
(funny, that word plant)
gave up an arid corner of dirt
guarded by a chain-link fence
to a boy with a rake, a spade
and technicolor vision:
elephantine sunflowers peer
freely over interlocking wire.

Morning glories gingerly
cling to its twisted barbs,
search simultaneously
for heaven and earth—trailing
little heart leaves.

Across the profusion of colored petals,
Sun lights. Breezes pass. Musicians play
jazz in a garden.

.

…………………..(First published October 11, 1983 in the University of Rutgers paper  The Observer)

.

by Harriet Ribot

.

.

Atlanta Reflections II, by Corey Barksdale

“Atlanta Reflections II,” by Corey Barksdale

.

.
Saving Grace

Yesterday
I got the terrible word.
Today I’m
walking walking walking
down which boulevard I don’t
know, or care to know,
passing folk I don’t notice
nor care to see,
with the shards of a broken hope
stuck in my back, and twisting,
twisting, twisting,
suddenly from somewhere, I
don’t know where,
(maybe from a doorway, maybe
from a car, maybe from my
messed-up head) Mongo’s
smacking those congas, and there
inside me is “Watermelon Man”,
and I hear La Lupe’s laugh,
and I see in front of me the
23 Skiddoo Café, and hey,
I think, as long as we’re alive
and music is gloriously alive and well,
we can be well too, and
I go in and have a coffee and
thank God and Senor Santamaria
for a kind of deliverance
and a saving grace.

.

by R. Bremner

.

___

.

Thomas Merton Memorial Concert

the vibraphone chimes …..notes suspend in clef clouds
…..ting-ting tinklings sway in a breeze
tempo winds whip faster …..round headed hammers hit tone bars
heartbeats speed …..mallets’ blows slow

vibrations scintillate sensitive hairs …..rhythms
…..seduce my body …..music my mind to flight
arms long for feathers to flutter …..to wing me away
from the confines walled by the faith of this place

from the politically correct….. from
…..the still-seated-in-their-own-zone people
I stretch my guts …..lift my torso …..splay my fingers
open palms …..and face my face skywards

my bones become the keys
…..black bird singing in the dead of night…
black bird fly into the light of a dark black night
why doesn’t my clarinet sing like this?

my throat thrums …..all your life you were only waiting
for this moment to be free
my pink lips part so just a hint of ivory enamel shows
common senses undergo metamorphosis

I smell bourbon …..my tongue teases my lips
…..shimmered steps extend upwards….. I climb
I imagine to Imagine …..how foolish to think all people equal
no one lacks needs …..time changes …..suns rise …..rubbered sticks pulse

thump-thump …..thump-thump….. blood courses….. I run
…..gazelle-fast-giraffe-long-grace-filled steps …..pump …..pump …..pump
I gambol …..the organ becomes a river …..the flow floods the church
Bird’s Confirmation ends …..the concert

.

by Catherine Perkins

.

___

.

Soul Minstrels

They are the African troubadours–
Got it in their souls, brother,
The tense experience of their race
That gives it voice.

In Bourbon Street bars
People pay dearly
To share their tribulations.

Twisted threads
Of saxophone sobs, clarinet wails,
Trombone growls, cornet moans
In a drum-throb tapestry.

It’s when they’re sad
They really move you–
Twist you up tight.

Even their Gospel
Sounds of lions,
Tastes of broad savannahs.

.

by Emory Jones

.

___

.

The Big Easy?

Folks ’round here call it the Big Easy.
New Orleans…one hell of a town.
Too bad ’bout ‘dat nasty old virus,
Shut the Jazz-Fest down.
Everything was paid for.
Now what we gon’ do?
Jammin’ down the basement,
Gettin’ drunk, cryin’ the blues.
Opened a bottle of Cold Duck,
Listening to Eddie Harris, playin’ the same.
Or Miles wit’ Gil Evans,
Blowin’ a muted trumpet…Sketches of Spain.

Grew up down here as a child,
Peddling smoked mullet in the bars.
Now days, kids peddling drugs.
Don’t think they goin’ far.

Ain’t nothin’ here ever been “easy”.
Po’ folks down the ninth dodging ‘canes.
Feeling sorry when it’s all over,
Left with only devastation and pain.

Big Easy had it’s glory,
Back in the days of Satchmo, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt.
French Quarter crowded with tourists,
Back alley crap games and such,
All of ’em losing their shirts.

Preservation Hall still rockin’.
Not much now at the Famous Door.
Late night drunks still pandering.
Same wit’ Big Easy cheap whores.

Paddle Queen out on the Old Miss.
Some things never change.
But it’s never been “easy”.
Who ‘dat what came up wit’ ‘dat name?

.

by T.W. Parrish

.

___

.

Tuba Skinny
……………(American Folk Festival Bangor Maine 2018)

Rev. Jim
is correct-
this band has drunk deeply
from the New Orleans fountain
and the music, is indeed; intoxicating

and maybe better for the soul
than the average sermon

though the subject matter
lies on the flip side
of your traditional hymn

what a deal the devil cut:
able to bullseye
the soul’s core
with washboard percussion
a tuba, a clarinet
and pathos as deep as
the delta mud

how can the spoken word compete
with such infectious rhythms
almost as irresistible
as Calvin’s fabled Grace?

cartoon soundtrack music
when I was a child
able on this afternoon
to take me away
from my perplexities
and cleanse my pores
of the accumulated dust
from a very human week

.

by Jim Mello

.

___

.
Leaning In

men with cards
listening to jazz,
hats tipped
rough hands
whiskey and beer
dust and flies
wishful dreams
empty pockets
dust to heels
untied shoes
sweat and sin

sun setting
night waiting
for the innocent
and wanting eyes

humid air
alley trapped
is the drowning
place where they sit,
no longer
searching for
the surface

.

by Roger Singer

 

.

.

Listen to the 1956 recording of Miles Davis performing “In Your Own Sweet Way,” with John Coltrane (saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums) [Universal]

 

.

.
Bass – ist

What is it about the Bass?
The way Mingus caressed
its shoulders that Night in Tunisia?

Or the way the air vibrates
when its strings take us
to the outer limits of cool.

It’s Ray Brown’s arpeggios,
rising, descending,
played in tune . . .

Or Chocolate Williams,
jammin’ in Harlem
with Art Tatum . . .

One of Paul Chambers’
warm, bowed solos —
So Nice to Come Home To . . .

The precision and clarity
of a Ron Carter piece,
each note in the groove.

In the end,
maybe it all comes back
to Mingus and the beauty

of The Black Saint
And The Sinner Lady —
because “that’s how
it’s supposed to be done.”

.

by Russell Dupont

.

___

.
Just Another Monday Night 

it was a small side street cafe
no more than a half-dozen patrons
at two in the morning were staring
into muddy cups of coffee while
one waitress a cook and a dishwasher
sullenly went about their tasks
when an old woman tottered over
to an antique jukebox made a selection
and wandered back to her seat
Song for My Father kicked off with its
electrifying bounce followed by the lilt
of the horn section all around the room
heads started to bop up and down

sway side to side one younger man
began to tap his teaspoon against his cup
others joined in one by one heads lifted
eyes met a few faces sketched a smile
when the piano began a solo shoulders
began to bounce torsos to swing side
to side a few voices were humming the melody
one even threw in some harmony
the cook flipped a burger caught it
flipped it again the sax began to sing
and feet decided to dance beneath tables
the whole room was alive you would have
thought it must be noon with everyone

lively and hopeful for the day and the future
then the music began to slow down
the horns began their goodbye the piano
maintained a steady background conversation
which sang an intensely rhythmic sayonara
the bass took over and then (with the piano)
made a definitive stop to melody and rhythm
tea spoons slid from fingers to table
and silence subsumed the room once again
the lights grew dimmer one by one
people vanished until only the cook was left
finally an abandoned shack stood alone under
a single street light whose bulb flickered on and off

.

by Michael L. Newell

.

___

.
The Musical Love Letter Into The Soul

I sat down at the front table of the dimly light room on a Friday night.
Knowing something special was about to transpire.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath because I wanted to be present in the moment.
Then a man walked onto the stage with a band.
His confidence was so bold that it felt as though it stood so tall that I needed to elevate to step into full authentic self.
Then they began to play and my theta waves were activated.
An array of instruments including the drum and symbol hit together as the trumpet pulled in your attention.
Together they formed a perfect melody.
I had never experienced such an euphoric feeling of rhapsody!
I wasn’t just being introduced to jazz.
I was being invited into an untold life story.
Unconventionally seeing into a soul with my third eye.
At that very moment I realized how God can use a person, place, and a thing to shower you with inspiration & answers to your every “why”.
See my life shifted on what I thought was a regular Friday night.
Only to realize that Jazz music would be my gift into deep insight.

.

by Nesha Henderson

.

___

.
Jazz, On A  September Night

Billy Taylor’s trio brought
a night bird and cricket consensus,
through the screen door,
on a late summer evening.

Approaching ‘Round Midnight, with a quartet,
then returning to trio;
from swinging to serene,
beckoning autumn, with Just the Thought of You.

.

by Robert Milby

.

___

.
A Miles Kinda Spring

Spring is Here, An Early Spring,
a Swing Spring, here in Springville
a Green Spring, not a Blue in Green
although I am Kinda Blue, So What,
you say who cares, I do, I’m sure someone
else out there does too, Some Day My Prince
Will Come, not Freddie Freeloader, I’ve had
enough of that kind, hope I don’t have to wait
until Summertime

.

by Aurora M. Lewis

.

___

.
Sketches

From a ninth story window,
a man watched ribbons of snow
twirl, swirl, and slowly embrace,

as they found a path to frozen
ground dimly lit by streetlamps
shivering in a cold wind; behind

him Miles Davis and Gil Evans’
orchestra were barely audible,
as they played the slow movement

from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez,
merging classical and jazz worlds,
as the snow outside merged death,

the inhuman, with a pure beauty
that took away the breath of the watcher,
as snow, wind, impersonal streetlamps,

frozen trees, and an occasional couple
drifting past hand in hand, created
a strange land of life, love, death,

and the inhuman, all filling one vast
impersonal canvas, and from the room
behind the watcher, the purest beauty

of sound flowed, indifferent to outside world;
from the watcher’s eyes flowed one or two
tears; on street below one child stood, face

and arms lifted to sky, a wild smile curving
upwards, and her arms flung above her head,
and her overcoat unbuttoned, windblown,

as night, snow, child, watcher, wind, and music
merged into a threnody mourning and celebrating
all there is, has been, might be, is lost, and can be found.

.

…………………………..Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Winter 1998

.

by Michael L. Newell

.

___

.
Listening To Billie

My father was young, and on his way from Idaho to fight a war,
the night he heard Billie Holiday sing on 52nd Street in Manhattan.

He loves to tell the story.
How she walked in the door that cold January night.
How she walked past him so close he could feel the warmth of her body.
How she dragged her white fur the length of the room.
How she handed the fur to the last man at the bar
and downed a shot of Scotch.

“God,” he always says, “I wished I was that man.”

How the band was already playing her intro and
how she stepped onto the stage
and started singing right on cue: “Am I Blue?”

My father has all her recordings including one that’s particularly
heartbreaking, Billie during a recording session that’s gone wrong,
and you hear her say, “It’s hard. It’s so hard.”

Tonight my father and I are alone in this house of grief.
We’re home from the funeral and the long reception where my mother’s friends took charge and made sure things were right.
I’m home for the occasion, but my father and I have no words.
I put on one of his records to fill the tongue-tied silence.

Billie sings “Georgia on My Mind,” now,
her voice like honey mixed with ashes.

My father is stretched out on the sofa, arm across his face.
I don’t know if he’s asleep or awake, weeping again.
Billie sings so softly you’d have to know the songs
to make out the words. From the wing chair
near the phonograph, I stare out the window at the storm building
and listen.

I’ve watched summer storms like this all my life.
Everything goes still and dark, then the wind comes up
and hard rain that can last half an hour or all night.

The last strains of “God Bless the Child” fade into the space
between tracks while the silence in the room grows thick.
Then after the first mournful notes from Roy Eldridge’s trumpet,
Billie begins to sing “Am I Blue?”

My father and I listen.
It’s hard. It’s so hard.

.

by Molly Larson Cook

.

___

.

How The Universe Sings

Sarah Vaughan died at home,
Watching her daughter, Paris,
Acting in a movie on television.
Connected as well as you can be to the universe.

It was a cheerleader movie, but still.
I looked up the poster for it and saw Paris,
Looking a little, well, sassy.
You’ve seen her in it, or in
The vampire slayer movie, or
The TV series with Will Smith.

Paris was adopted and originally
Had her father’s last name.
When she went into the business
She took her mother’s name.
She has been married once,
For 25 years, has three kids.

The universe is filled with stars.

If I had a daughter, and I almost did,
I think I could peacefully die
If she was there, holding my hand.
I wouldn’t be so afraid.
But she went back to her hardhearted mother of the streets,
Her spoiled milk of alcohol.

The world is hot and cold, and filled with stupidity.

But the universe sings, and I can just make out
What it means to say. It doesn’t sing perfectly,
Like Ella Fitzgerald. It sings like Sarah Vaughan,
With a passionate vibration. It may be afraid,
As I am, and it may take comfort, as I do,
In a daughter taking her mother’s name.

The universe is sassy, and filled with stars.

.

by Mark Fogarty

.

___

.
Tropical Cool, Uneventful
………………….a here & thereafter

Albarino & a stemmed glass
late temperate afternoon

children chase
resident ducks
across & through
stretching shadows

vultures circle
low in the sky
attracted by
the grill smoke
maybe

Egyptian geese visit
first one, another
& then a third
to peck & graze
the lawn
feral neighbors
undisturbed by passersby

faintly heard
a Red Garland Trio
“On A Clear Day
(You Can See Forever)”

when the Time comes
I want to ask him
about jazz & Texas

.

by Terrance Underwood

.

.

"Dance of Passion" by Corey Barksdale

“Dance of Passion,” by Corey Barksdale

.

.
Lip Jazz

Lips play mine in
Be-bop bump of
Wet improvisation.

Licks and darts and
A dance of tongue
That pushes against mine

Tasting the reed
Of rough embouchure.
Salacious saxophone solo

That teases remembered
Melody with the first
Tentative pressure of

Your love against
Mine, sending ripples
Of forgotten riffs

Now fresh in throbbing
Downbeat that moans
In growling throats,

That builds in urgent
Strain and climbs in
Panting tempo toward

Free form screams
That climax in
Wild Mad Chorus.

.

by Gerald Ryan

.

___

.

 
The Way You Look Tonight

The price tag dangled
from Heather’s Sex in the City dress—
a bargain back when age lived light years away.
She bought it for a party, which came fifteen years later.

From her mother, a legacy of bad genes—
two months at the gym, drinking smoothies,
munching salads, skipping cream and sugar in her coffee.
She still couldn’t zip up her dress—
hips too wide, waist too thick,
her size C cups “runneth over.”

Heather relied on camouflage—
a black A-line sweater over leggings,
a long silver scarf to divert uptown curves,
Jimmy Choo pumps to elongate legs.
Adult acne ruined her effort—
her concealer broke during application.

At the party,
the computer played Sinatra.
On her smart phone,
apologetic texts from Jason.
His ten-minute arrival came an hour later—
blamed it on the MTA.

Unlike Sinatra’s song,
Heather’s smile lacked warmth—
cheeks not as soft,
eyes too desperate,
and Jason, just as guilty—
Deception cancelled their date.

She found support from Chardonnay,
watched city girls in size 2 dresses
enjoy perfection’s last rites.

.

by Patricia Carragon

.

___

.

Sensual Expedition

You have suspended fishing nets
in our hotel room in Istanbul.

Dyed them in vats of dandelions and boysenberry.
Infused them with garam masala and turmeric.

You lift a belly wrap from a cleavage of tissue paper.
A gift from The Grand Bazaar. Gold bells dangle from the edges.

You place the indigo velvet wrap around my middle.
Soft crush of fabric embellishes my haunches.

Our hips cavort to Turkish jazz,
Hasan Kocamz’s harmonica slides in through the sheets

A 1958 recording, subversive basement concert in Ankara.
Percussion of muscle and bone.

The fishing nets sway above us,
and we are fused by the sighs of the Bosphorus Sea.

.

by Marianne Peel

.

___

.

It Never Entered My Mind 

That you wanted someone to spend the night,
That you’d prepared roast duck with plum pudding.

That you were saving those oranges for morning.
I’d forgotten I had a rendezvous with those
acrobats I call friends, so I had to go to Paris
this spring.

I’m so sorry, for it was delicious, and Miles
and Coltrane were together again, dark stars
illuminating my vast emptiness.

It never entered my mind to take you with me,
for I was trying so desperately to escape
bourgeois everyday monotony
that I’d forgotten you might need saving too.

Can I suggest a glass of wine late this afternoon?
Just us two, some cool jazz and
my wrung out heart on a platter for you?

.

by DH Jenkins

.

___

.

Duet 

I play you in my mind
stroking each thought
prolonging your existence
with gentle memories

following each stanza toward you
I hear your voice hidden behind notes.
Musical bridges bring us closer
with adagio heartbeats and desired touch.

A harmony of two
reaching its peak
either in mind or heart
as we strike a major chord.

.

by Dana I. Hunter

.

___

.
Jazz Mood
………………….(For my late Wife Olivette Murphy)

Blu: (Wetting his lips, preparing to blow)
I just love the sounds of a Big Brass Band man-
Big black hands caressing a golden lover-
Can you hear the sounds of the horns as they
play – see the wave of brown Black folks getting
down night and day – Can you dig it now-
I’m in the mood in a JAZZ MOOD –
Now dig I got lost on the train with my man
John Coltrane- watched the night grow darker
with the smooth sounds of Charlie “Bird” Parker-
Like a Hawk in the sky I watched him fly so let
me tell why I’m always in this groove – I’m in the
mood – I’m in a JAZZ MOOD
I played my horn with Ms. Sarah Vaughan –
laughed and played with first Lady Billie Holiday-
Got my kicks down on route 66 snatched a gig
with my buddy Sonny Stitt –
I’m in a mood – in a JAZZ MOOD.

.

by Jeffrey Holman

.

.

Listen to the 1961 recording of saxophonist Don Byas performing “Jackie’s Little Cat,” with Bud Powell (piano), Pierre Michelot (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums).  [Columbia]

 

.

.

The Funeral

He died in his sleep…
my student’s dad
a fine man
wracked with constant pain;
it was disconcerting
seeing him embalmed
as if he might sit up
and say hello;
I wished condolences to his wife
his son not really understanding
as he hopped anxiously
and rocked from one foot
to the other…
standing in the parking lot:
someone said, “Listen”
and there across the street
behind a glass reflection someone
living in dedication,
was practicing tenor saxophone scales,
living breath becoming sound,
a riff mingling among us
like a valet lining up
parked cars waiting
for a procession.

.

by Dan Brown

.

___

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The Days The Music Died: A COVID Lament

………………..Please don’t bury me down in that cold, cold ground.
………………………………--John Prine

There are too many dead musicians.
Obituaries echo like chords
repeating in a basement studio.
Spotify lights up with song requests.

Ellis Marsalis. Bill Withers.
Adam Schlesinger. Alan Merrill.
Joe Diffie. Bucky Pizzarelli.
Eric Taylor. Wallace Roney.

Soon there will be an orchestra’s
worth. Or two. Emptied global stages.
It used to be drugs. Plane crashes.
Bad livers. Sometimes just old age.

Sometimes grim news takes us out on
open roads, breezes in our hair,
a Salem or a just lit joint
in our hand, whiskey glass ready.

Did their time in smoke-filled barrooms
weaken their resistance? Amplify
their troubles? When news of this virus
first filtered in, who could know sound

tracks of our lives would be stilled.
We are never well prepared for death,
prefer heartbreaks to be musical.
A soft drum roll, a lonesome wail,

a gentle string riff, fingers race down
keys to meet a whispered reply.
Maybe sorrow can be synthesized
too much. You can write it, play it,

inhabit it. One day it overwhelms
like waves, their pitch and speed too great
to minimize. Frequency stuns.
A new loss. More moments of silence.

.

by Mary K O’Melveny

.

___

.

Tito at the Helm

On the day Fats died
I tried to visit
the Brill Building
but it was closed
(as always)
to guys like me
whose songs go unheard
but not unsung.

So, w/autumn on my shoulder
and a chorus of nanny chatter,
I took two beers on Eighth
and wrote a blues beneath
the Balcony Bridge.
No one moves like Monk no more
I sang. Part Miles. Part Laura
w/Tito at the helm
and the whole park dancing
in a sunshine like the first.

.

by Mike Jurkovic

.

___

.

Tribute to Steve Dalachinsky

You tapped the blue note baby. Blue, not like pain, you’re over that. Not as sorrow, leave that to us. No more dollar down dollar a month, buy my book, you paid with prime interest. Not lonesome where you are, in the sphere of cosmic cacophony. You smiled when I said “Jazz is a way in here, a way out.” Now that you’re there can ya tell us more and more of what it’s all about? You blue to transparent cobalt seeing through to the other side. Hey babe, I hear they’re an effortless fit, the golden slippers you walk in into and beyond the hall of fame. Way out, way out and not long gone cause it’s all back here and so far gone, out there, beyond the 8 bar line, beyond the count, beyond the last metaphor.

.

…………..The New York poet Steve Dalchinsky died on September 16, 2019

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by Moe Seager

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___

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A Cool Cat in Town
………….(inspired by Tape Five and dedicated to Steve Dalachinsky)

like cool cats, jazz purrs –
the blues taste like wine,
smooth and cool at night.

like jazz, cool cats purr –
the blues, smooth and cool,
tastes like wine at night.

.

by Patricia Carragon

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___

.

Eric Dolphy’s Death

If ever there was a time for some Deus ex machina
it was there, in that alley, angels instead of uniforms
finding you, half-asleep—on your way somewhere else.

But perhaps sacred spirits don’t intervene in the affairs
of their messengers, and there was nothing any of us stuck
here on earth—busy as ever not saving ourselves—could do.

.

by Sean Murphy

 

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"Blue Bird in Birdland," by Corey Barksdale

“Blue Bird in Birdland,” by Corey Barksdale

.

.

Piano Player

He played the piano
As if he were part of the crowd
Tuning into his thoughts
An audience of the aftermath
As it was happening
Right there and then
Night descending in the barroom
Lights laid bourbon
Smoke from the serenade
Clouding their spirits
Downed to achieve the heights
Of a slow burn on ice
In those wee small hours
When the town’s asleep
And you’re awake
Dreaming

.

by Anthony Ward

.

___

.

Unsettled

he was
a flightless bird
bright as sky
full of natural lies
and sweet conflict
when speaking the
jazz
from dreams
and the corners
where he cried
the good and bad
in spirit words
from a
background past
drowned in the
space between
the then
and the this

.

by Roger Singer

.

___

.
In A Calm Place
………..from Don Byas & Pierre Michelot

played Byas smooth
Pierre’s cream notes
mark a rich carpet creep
a quiet lurch then a quiet leap
to a soft sofa landing
in a curl assured
for careful lapping
across short Tabby fur
motored mellow
an idyllic purr
thus perceived
this image will endure
“Jackie My Little Cat”

.

by Terrance Underwood

.

___

.

Vibrations (“Spirits” Alternate Take)

You thought this was “Spirits,” it isn’t (thanks
ESP-Disk) monophonic mix flooding the panels,

Sunny’s strong grunt, beneath sunglasses, hidden.
Our albums take less than an hour to record but we have

the knowledge of months in it, old flour all over
the floor. As much as I think this is all a part of the
mission, the get down, the perfect spiritual unity,

the better half of me knows nothing good comes
out of work and no paperwork. I need this to purify
bones but I also need my airfare covered to Denmark,

dates, cafés, yes, I agree to perform here– no studio
records us good. All this crystal, all these scratches,

lo-fi, clipping, they are not tender with my noise,
but you never made it past track three, you didn’t notice.

.

by Sean DesVignes

.

___

.
Thelonious In Midtown Traffic

He didn’t like to drive but there he was
Stuck in midtown traffic, the light just turned

Green for cars to move in one orderly
Direction, and his hands gripped the leather

Steering wheel of the Cadillac convertible,
The car horns honking, it sounded like

His music, urban, jagged, strutting, new.
But only he heard that special blue tone.

The cars drove around him and cursed him out
For not moving when the damn light turned green,

And then a policeman came over and
Asked him what was going on; Monk didn’t

Answer, so he was carted off to some
New hospital on the Upper East Side.

.

by M.G. Stephens

.

___

.
To Jerry Jazz Musician

Oh, I ‘jazzed’ don’t want to
Let you go.
You, jazzed are as important as
The very best of class-ical
Tradition
And its written composition.

As for music,
I would choose it
Anytime.
(And just to rhyme)
I have loved and listened to
The finest of the fine;
Made mine in mind
And heart –
My way of taking part,
Because my hands could never do as well
As they who cast their jazzy spell
Over instrument and listener.

Improvisation,
Based on tune or none!
Such genius of invention!
To create without a note –
And on the spot!
Bach could not have done it better.

Singers with four octave range,
And not an opera or stage,
Not an arrangement or arranger.
Well, occasionally.
There will never be
‘another you’,
A book of standards
With the ‘changes’ there in view.

Jerry Jazz Musician we thank you
For showing off the music
Of the present, past and future.

.

by Arlene Corwin

.

 

(with gratitude to Ms. Corwin…and to all the poets.  JJM)

.

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Click here   to read the artist and poet’s biographies

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Click here to read the fall/winter 2021/22 collection of jazz poetry

Click here  to read the summer 2021 collection of jazz poetry

Click here to read a 2021 poetry collection – inspired by Miles Davis

Click here  to read the autumn 2020 collection of jazz poetry

Click here  to read “Under Quarantine” — COVID-era poetry of Erren Kelly

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Click here  for information about how to submit your poetry

 

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5 comments on “A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Spring, 2022 Edition”

  1. Lots of new names in this edition. While I pore through, this line from Gene Hyde’s poem TRIO sticks in my mind: “Savoring so much, I smile.” –

  2. This is truly a beautiful collection of work. I’m extremely proud of myself and all the other writers featured.

  3. Mr. Maita is to be congratulated for putting together such a fine collection of poems. Every poem in this group deserves some sort of commendation, but there are too many poets and too many poems for one person to engage in such a fulsome response. Instead I will comment on poems that particularly engage me as a reader, recognizing that many poems of value will be left unremarked.

    Michael Krug’s “Equinox” opens the collection with an explosion of sound and imagery. He provides a strong opening with which to draw in possible readers.

    Namaya’s “Dance naked with your poems and howl at the lilac moon” is a lovely burst of lyricism built on a strong rhythmic foundation and compelling imagery.

    Gloria Krolak’s “Nica’s Dream” uses short bursts of rhyme and rhythm, in a way that is reminiscent of certain of the poems of Robert Francis. Fine work.

    Panagiotis Papanikolaou’s “Something Is Missing” is a meditation on meaning and fulfillment that is both witty and insightful.

    Gene Hyde’s “Trio” is a lyric, deeply personal, quietly imagistic response to the work of a group of jazz masters.

    Russell Dupont’s “Midnite Blue” combines a compelling narrative voice with carefully chosen imagery to bring to life a deeply personal response to the work of jazz genius.

    Phil Linz’s “Life Is Not A Bitter Mystery” is subtle, insightful, and highly skilled.

    Dan Franch’s “Timeless Nostalgia” has a first-rate narrative voice, wed to a deeply personal tale to tell, and finds music and life in nostalgia.

    Martha Patterson’s “New Jersey Jazz” reminds readers of how alive we all once were, and how important jazz was to some of us, and how vibrantly we once lived while listening to what is timeless music.

    Arlene Corwin’s “A World Full Of Beautiful Songs” reminds us just how much music means to us. Its closing lines are especially powerful:
    “This world of word and meter.
    World of euphony and melody to sing about.”

    Jean Fineberg’s “All Music Has A Story” is a powerful history lesson that ties music and human interaction deftly together.

    Rodney Wood’s “Friends” tells a powerful tale and reminds us how musicians’ work is often misused by others.

    “If Only In His Mind” by Antoinette Winstead is a heartbreaking tale of Arthur Briggs that also uplifts the reader by bringing to life Briggs’ ability to find redemption in the midst of horror. The narrative voice in this poem is powerful and compelling.

    Erren Kelly’s “Listening to Round Midnight Under Quarantine” is up to Mr. Kelly’s usual high standards. He always manages, as he does here, to draw a reader into his virtual world and make his poetry a type of jazz in its own right.

    “Resilience: For David Sanborn” by Alan Yount is a fine piece of poetic biography which has an appealing personal touch.

    “For Pepper Adams: 110 %” by Freddington is another admirable example of poetic biography which has a very successful driving narrative voice.

    Gene Hyde’s “Coltrane And The Flower Moon” is a lovely tribute to one of Coltrane’s greatest musical achievements which ties music to the natural world in a compelling way.

    “She Sips Her Drink” is another fine poem by the always skillful poet, Erren Kelly.

    Byron Beynon’s “Raising The Bar” is filled with the rich historical world of jazz with all its beauty and skill and larger than life personalities.

    Roger Singer’s “Digging Deep” is another in a large number of poems that Dr. Singer has had published in Jerry Jazz Musician, and it is another solid example of jazz poetry by someone who has long specialized in creating jazz poems.

    “He Gives Me The Blues” is another successful blues poem by Aurora M. Lewis, a poem filled with life, and one which is deeply personal.

    “Upon Hearing ‘Little Rootie Tootie’
    After Quite A Long Time” by Terrance Underwood is a fine example of creating a poem which mirrors the musical style and eccentricities of a quirky musical genius. You can hear Monk’s music in the poem’s language and rhythms.

    Paul Brown’s “Coltrane” is a lovely tribute to the great man and his astonishing music.

    “The Big Easy?” by T.W. Parrish is a fine tribute to a city where the roots of jazz were laid.

    Jim Mello’s “Tuba Skinny” is a loving response to my favorite street band. It is nice to see my love of Tuba Skinny shared by another poet.

    “Bass – ist” by Russell Dupont is another skilled jazz poem by Mr. Dupont, one which celebrates the work of several of the greatest bassists.

    Moe Seager’s “Tribute to Steve Dalachinsky” uses street rhythms and lexicon to pay tribute to a fine writer now gone, but not forgotten. The poem is both skillful and deeply felt.

    Patricia Carragon’s “A Cool Cat in Town” is another fine tribute to the late Steve Dalachinsky. The poem relies on strong rhythmic drive and a skilled use of repetition to bring back memories of Dalachinsky’s own work.

    There are many more poems worthy of praise in this collection, but I am old and weary, and have done the best I can in the limited time that my eyes can hold up.

    I salute you, one and all — anthologist, poets, artists, and musicians.

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In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

Miles Davis "'Round About Midnight" (1957/Columbia Records)
“You Never Forget Your First” – by Brian Kates

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Interview

The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the 60’s Girl Groups...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Calling All Poets!

News about a Jerry Jazz Musician printed jazz poetry anthology, and information about submitting your poetry for consideration

Short Fiction

pickpik.com
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Interview

photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”

Playlist

Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...an extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.

Feature

Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – (Vol. 1)...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them.  In this initial edition featuring his story essays/reviews, Rife writes about three novels that explore challenges of the mother/daughter relationship.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

In Memoriam

Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Remembering Joe Pass: Versatile Jazz Guitar Virtuoso” – by Kenneth Parsons...On the 30th anniversary of the guitarist Joe Pass’ death, Kenneth Parsons reminds readers of his brilliant career

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

painting by Vaino Kunnas
Jazz…in eight poems...A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

Jazz History Quiz #172

photo of Teddy Wilson by William Gottlieb
Teddy Wilson once said this about a fellow jazz pianist:

“That man had the most phenomenal musical gifts I’ve ever heard. He was miraculous. It’s like someone hitting a home run every time he picks up a bat. We became such fast friends that I was allowed to interrupt him anytime he was playing at the house parties in Toledo we used to make every night. When I asked him, he would stop and replay a passage very slowly, showing me the fingering on some of those runs of his. You just couldn’t figure them out by ear at the tempo he played them.”

Who is the pianist he is describing?

Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

A new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

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