“Esperanza’s Shadow” © Jennylynd James
“Esperanza’s Shadow” is by the Trinidad and Tobago-based artist Jennylynd James, who has graciously consented to have a sampling of her work published within this collection of jazz poetry.
…..This is the 14th extensive collection of jazz poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician since the fall of 2019, when the concept was initiated. Like all previous volumes, the beauty of this edition is not solely evident in the general excellence of the published works; it also rests in the hearts of the individuals from diverse backgrounds who possess a mutual desire to reveal their life experiences and interactions with the music, its character, and its culture.
…..These collections have served the purpose of creating an opportunity for artistically gifted people, and what has developed from it is a community that seems to grow organically every time a work is published – as if one poem opens the door for another to exist.
…..For me, working on these collections with talented poets and publishing them in a form readers can easily consume is always a spiritually rich, soulful experience – one I consider to be a late-in-life gift.
…..There are very few publications like this on the Internet. My hope is that it will endure (and well beyond my own time). The participation of so many fine writers – and people – is ample evidence that it will.
…..As always, thanks to the poets and readers, and I hope you enjoy…
At the conclusion of the poems, biographies of the artist and poets contributing to this collection are listed in alphabetical order
A selection of jazz recordings are available to listen to throughout the collection.
Listen to the 1977 recording of Bill Evans playing “You Must Believe in Spring,” with Eddie Gomez (bass); and Eliot Zigmund (drums). [Universal Music Group]
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before
My story is what feeds me now
& I’m always hungry to tell it
Belly full of the sweet
Realness of it all
Ghost writing like it ain’t nothing
Speaking in tongues, foreign and otherwise
I can write your dialogue, plus mine
(Am I the one dictating this, or are you responsible
O bard of bebop?
Tastes good to feel this free, say it:
Blissography. We all speak jazz around here
As the baroness of full disclosure
I want to tell our story my way
Sweet, everything sweet and essential
As I see it as I tell it. I’m too old to be
It feels funny to feel so free
Why all your people talk about me too?
Two sides to this story, sweet jazz all over your feathery
Testimony, a baptism all over these twisted wings
Anointed sip, a cigarette toke in the midst of these
Storytelling is essential
It’s a jazz-drenched birdsong
& “i can’t believe, i’ll never believe”
It’s too late for me
To sing it again
by Connie Johnson
Maturing old ears
Exposed more and more
To Jazz syncopations
Meshing with seasoned musics
Surrender to the
by Jim Mello
An Enduring Art
Jazz is the beat that pulses through the night
A rhythm that inspires and ignites, with notes
That soar on wings of sound, and melodies
that dance all around
From Louis Armstrong with his trumpet in hand
To Duke Ellington’s piano grand, Charlie
Parker’s saxophone, sweet and smooth
And Ella Fitzgerald’s voice, forever in groove
Miles Davis, his trumpet sings Kind of Blue
a classic that rings, John Coltrane’s sax
bold and true A Love Supreme forever anew
Chick Corea’s keys a fusion of styles
Spain a journey that lasts for miles
Thelonious Monk’s piano, sharp and spare
Round Midnight a haunting air.
These jazz greats, with their instruments and songs
have inspired generations, all along
their music a testament to the human heart
Forever playing, an enduring art
by Joe DiBuduo
Nocturne (a duet)
This blank naked staff you fill with your love notes.
from these separate chords of our sexes
these grand symphonies of our organs
scoring the music of the sheets,
let’s rhythm up a generation
with echoes of ourselves.
songs of the future
are by this dance
by Duane Vorhees
I Love the Night Life
Tom Waits, Charles Bukowski
Cheap whiskey, Cigarettes
Strolling down the boulevard
Searching, waiting for the man
Time to score
Juke box joints, black coffee
B.B. King, Louie Armstrong
Pork Pie hats fashion of the day
Rain soaked streets, black cat crosses my path
Craps, Lucky seven, Strippers, dollar bills
Cafeteria open twenty-four seven
by Joseph R. Stellin, Jr.
What Do You Know About Love?
There are nights like this.
I lie here, staring at the ceiling —
pull the covers up over my head —
roll to my left for a while,
then, to the right.
Nothing. Sleep won’t come.
I reach over,
turn on the radio,
and, Dakota’s bluesy
“What Do You Know
slips sublimely into the air.
Her torchy voice smolders,
glows in the night,
and her sultry tones
fill the room
with the anguish
of being wronged.
And, in my solitude,
the moon descends.
I am still alone
and, without you
my world is empty.
by Russell duPont
“1940’s Jazz Session” © Jennylynd James
We dance to sharp flats
Step into phat and free verve
Some say it takes nerve
To pulsate through life
Holdin’ notes of destiny
On one fleetin’ key
We old school hustlers
Tappin’ shuffles in our shoes
Fusing New Jack too
We snap our fingers
To those jazzy juke joint beats
On familiar streets
Be swayin’ and pop lockin’
No doors just knockin’
Got to tighten up
Our cool get down point of views
While walkin’ bass blues
We call retro vogue
Ery’ little step rolls ‘round
To a hip hop sound
Just tell the DJ
To mash potatoes in bold
Hot buttery soul
But after midnight
Spent musins’ slow jam to hymns
And Sunday rhythms
by Sandra Rivers-Gill
Message to the World, Post-Graduation
laughed at by my professor
……….when I told him I wrote a poem about a Diet Coke can,
……….I sat in my bedroom, keyboard in hand,
ignoring the voices and doubts in my head
which insisted, “you can’t do this.”
my fingers began to dance on the keyboard,
……….ticky tack the only sound,
……….and I am alone with my thoughts,
listening to the voices which say, “yes, you can.”
I tell the world, they are wrong to doubt me.
confidence growing within.
it is very easy, too easy almost,
……….to spend an evening at home alone in one’s own mind,
……….instead of out among the people,
discovering what you want, what others want,
living your life, connecting.
at my desk I sit, trying too hard to do something… but what?
a freshly nuked fish dinner in my stomach, I venture out on the town,
……….looking for music, assured that I will find it.
……….when I commit, I commit entirely.
rise and fight. take on the world. new people, new friends, new places. amps blasting, ten guitarists, drummers, keys, my bass guitar in hand.
there is no victory without risk.
upon return the quiet of my house satisfies,
……….a strange peace in my mind,
……….unknown, but welcome, and leaving me whole.
by Elliott Martin
On the road in his pink girlie slippers
and Japanese Kimono,
Canadian Club in hand;
snapping his fingers to Jazz
he saunters to Washington Square Park
On a converging road, wearing fringed moccasins
I trod along MacDougal Street,
browse headshops along Bleecker;
humming a popular tune, I then
come to rest on a boulder just beyond
the men playing chess
in Washington Square—
I strum my folk guitar with resolve
Mushroom to enhance creativity? He offers.
I sing the blues; all the while intrigued by him
in his black shades, black Japanese Kimono,
black beret and roll of nickels bulging from pocket;
I am charmed by his toe- tapping
in feathery pink slippers;
bopping head and finger popping—
he exclaims—Good beat, man, real beat
His shy eyes
study my psychedelic
hippie threads and seed beads—
groovy man, I reply;
plucking a twelve-bar beat.
He raises paper cup to my lips
I swig the sweet whiskey
he flashes his blue eyes—
beatific, man! You wail,
nickel for your thoughts—
Heavy, man, I reply— far out!
Hand in hand we stroll,
beat the gravel;
to burn like a yellow Roman candle.
………….originally appeared in Oddball Magazine; July, 2021
by Rita B. Rose
Two-story Bldg. on Vernon
…..But when it comes to funking it up, Groove had no match.
Richard Groove Holmes lives upstairs.
He gets his own poem.
She must be thirteen by now.
It is Sunday.
He is big-bellied.
You know big-bellied men,
How solid big bellies can be.
That was him at the electric organ.
He’s left his apartment now and
descended the stairway for
Air about his body more so.
His body more so.
Is how it is with well-knowns.
Richard Groove Holmes’ squint
inquires of her psyche.
The particular flattery of an adult.
Balancing on crabgrass.
Thirteen and white.
Her brother-in-law black.
Late afternoon, her parents
drive back to the Valley.
That new sound everyone
heard is not on the radio.
………….oFirst published in the April 7, 2020 issue of The Café Review
by Sarah Sarai
No Champagne and Reefer For Us
We liked to drink and toke
back in the day, but we were
broke so we drank Cold Duck
when we smoked
In the morning, send someone
to Miki Ds for hot apple pies
and a cups of Joe, turn on the
Hi-Fi and hear some Al Jarreau
There were those times
Billie Holiday sang the Blues
all day, other times sexy songs
by Marvin Gaye
No Champagne and Reefer for us
like the song by Billie and Buddy
Guy, just a cheap bottle of Cold Duck
and a nickel bag of weed to get us by
by Aurora M. Lewis
Jazz, Coffee and Hips
She was standing
at the corner of the bar,
bopping to some jazz,
snapping her fingers,
enjoying the smooth
Her hips were gyrating;
the bass was pulsating;
I was waiting to ask
her her name. She was a
late night coffee drinker,
the kind of person
who could drink a cup
at 1am and still get
She was my beat, my
bumping, my boom
’cause, for me, she was
the only interesting thing
in the room.
She sipped coffee. I
sat intrigued. The jazz
was played at various speeds.
Her hips were lovely,
Um! Woman, please,
can you come next to me
and breathe, and be?
…………….(From the poet’s book Coffee. Sexy. Poetry)
by Christopher D. Sims
The Jim Hall Trio (in the wee small hours of morning)
In the hours of pitch black
we hold each other
old and young, we hold each other
snow and rain, we hold each other
night and day, as the guitar plays
and we mingle perfectly, songs among
the seasons, song are the reason, for
souls to know love
your rebel heart beats in twilight
as the guitar, gives us our cues
i hold you, special as a wintersong
falling outside my window, we sway
like love, in time with the blues
by Erren Kelly
Listen to the 1962 recording of John Coltrane playing “Say It (Over and Over Again), with McCoy Tyner (piano); Jimmy Garrison (bass); and Elvin Jones (drums). [Universal Music Group]
Alone in a room of fifty folk babbling,
rip roaring laughing, punishing one another
with empty caresses, swallowing any available
beverages along with conversations in which
they are blindly immersed, I finally stumble
out a door into windblown, deepening crepuscule
and long for a serenade from Monk, a funky
unpredictable, stumbling, beautiful life-beat
to carry me down the street rediscovering life,
or perhaps find my way through memory’s avenues
to a wild, overwhelming dance with Coltrane
at his most chaotic, a roller coaster sonic
exploration of life’s dangers, life’s unpredictability,
life’s painful beauty, a surgical use of sound
to remind us of all we can and can’t be in this world,
in which there are so many, yet many are forever alone.
by Michael L. Newell
Don’t know anyone
who can play chords
(In the moment’s
And top draw-er, too,
at the local
When dreaming the blues
how could anyone
(Truly picking raw
by Stephen Bett
September 23, 1926 – John Coltrane’s Birthday
I want to talk about John Coltrane, how dead stars fell to earth,
cosmic dust revived as music formed in a placenta, developed
in a mother’s womb. Not just any womb, that of Alice Blair Coltrane,
the mothership of genius.
The moment he came from between her legs, screamed out his birth
cry, Gaia paused her sun trajectory, blessed him with a welcoming
tune he carried for all his days and nights. He gathered his star dust
into form, joined blue owls in flight, a mystical experience.
He joined other incandescents, Bird, Miles, Monk. They flew with
blue owls on the backs of pentatonic scales; entered the realm
of the gods. Mortals listened, eyes closed, transported to a private
land lost to them.
Then he died; Cosmic dust carried him back to the empyrean sky;
a young star shining light and music.
by Judith Vaughn
John Coltrane near his birthday, early Autumn night. Breezes cease; allow nearby Maples and Beeches to lean over my porch roof in earnest reverence for ‘Trane’s summoning of Summertime.
I have sat at this bachelor’s kitchen table, with Jazz as my companion: trios, quartets, quintets—my guides.
Seasons pass: leaves grow, change, and fall. America’s Jazz remains. My kitchen as music hall, dreaming of Naima; waiting on ‘Trane.
by Robert Milby
Like Coltrane’s Saxophone
she fills the room as
she is flowers and
snowfall and stories
and all good thoughts.
i will never tire of her ways;
like coffee in a cup,
or the glow of a candle flame.
her love is the song of trane’s
saxophone; god’s mercy and
brilliantly caught in the warmth
of a flame…
by Erren Kelly
“Jazz Boyzz” © Jennylynd James
Untitled Original 11386
………….(Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album)
Listening to Coltrane’s Untitled Original
is like walking through Jackson Pollock’s
painting, Shimmering Substance:
at first, everything is shiny confusion,
balls of brilliant neon wool unwinding.
After a minute or so, you’re hanging on
every note of the master’s saxophone
and all those lines are madly vibrating,
sound waves dancing on live wires.
You’re suddenly alive in a new way.
Everything breaks apart and joins
again in animated distant wonder, a
new string theory of sound reordered.
by DH Jenkins
To Paint a Tune
I’m sitting quietly now
at you anymore
as I rest for a little while.
It’s a change for you
to play for me,
to paint my portrait in notes
instead of paints and pastels,
but believe me
you are made of music
full of it
all the notes will be freed
from the shackles of the tune
and re aligned on my canvas
to become the brush strokes
of my picture of you.
Just think about it
play for me,
let yourself sing
inside my head
until I’m ready
to paint you a tune.
by Lynn White
Seeing the Music
Ornette Coleman said in the liner notes for his album
“Change of the Century” that his music was “something
like the painting of Jackson Pollock.” A year later, he
featured Pollock’s painting “White Light” on the cover
of his “Free Jazz” album.
Pollock’s improvisational action painting technique
was channeled by Ornette Coleman
as he tilted the traditional masters
to find a different center, a different pulse—
trumpet valves and heart valves
opening and closing in irregular rhythms,
saxophone reeds vibrating asymmetrically.
Pollock, who died before Coleman
released his first record,
was known for dripping his paint and torment
on canvas by brush, bucket, and turkey baster
while listening to his jazz records—
sounds of the forties by Basie, Armstrong, Ellington.
Questions to consider:
Who was on the record player
as Pollock created each piece?
Would he have listened to Coleman?
by Laura Trigg
Ask, Seek, Knock
Faith, Patience, Hope
Meditation, Body and Soul
Empathy, Heart of Gold
Beautiful Love, I Believe in You
by Gloria Krolak
Leap of Faith
I take my daughter to the ballet studio
at a former convent in Marin.
She will be dancing for hours.
At the edge of the church’s property
is an old gymnasium.
I ascend the stairs and find the door
unlocked. The gym is empty.
Through a long expanse of windows,
improvisational sunlight flows—
dust particle adagios in the slipstream.
I can almost hear A Love Supreme
in the sonorous morning air.
Two small birds enter
through a broken window
and sing their way up
to a nest in the rafters,
riffing on a Coltrane refrain.
I notice a rack of balls
at the far end of the court
and start shooting free throws,
expand to twenty footers,
and finally, the fantasy
of a half-court shot.
Reminded of my distant past
scrimmaging the Warriors—
Rick Barry in his prime
driving the baseline,
gliding like my daughter
as she glissades across her floor—
effortless and magical.
I retire to the stands
to reflect on my spent youth,
my daughter making music visible,
her grand jetés,
higher than I could ever leap,
even in my heyday.
My reflective soul resides
in this dusty relic of a building,
playing court to my form of ballet—
as close as I will ever come
to a place of worship.
by Steve Trenam
When the heart
feels the music,
responds to the heart,
responds to the mind,
responds with more,
heart and mind
until choice or time
invites a pause
that simulates an end….
that does not come.
by Paul Austin
Listen to the 1961 recording of The Dave Brubeck Quartet playing “Blue Shadows in the Street,” with Brubeck (piano); Paul Desmond (alto saxophone); Eugene Wright (bass); and Joe Morello (drums). [Legacy/Columbia]
is a word I think about a lot
……………I misspell almost
every time ……………….I write it
I’m no musician
…………………….but when I hear
Take Five, that 5/4 beat makes
…………………………..tap my hand
on the table
……………………….try to keep up
the flip side
………………….Blue Rondo a la Turk
well, I looked that up,
……………………………….it’s 9/8 time
& I don’t even know
……………………..what that means but
that quartet figures it
…………………………..out for over six
I watched it
……………………some small club
Brubeck’s left foot ………..pounding
………………..that rhythm ……………..grinning
……………………..Paul Desmond’s fingers
dancing on the sax keys
Joe Morello on drums,
……………………………keeping it going
……………………….walking that bass
These tunes keep that word …….rhythm
…………………………..moving in my head.
by James Higgins
I wish I knew, my dear, I wish I knew (a jazz sonnet)
a ribbon of smoke between
…………………………….7 and 4
………………………..a ¾ note
and the embouchure
…………………..where are you now
somewhere my love
……………….and you and I and clouds and ether
……………….viruses, choruses, both, neither
……………….if I inhale will I taste your name
……………….will you lodge in my lung
……………….your letters remain
……………….things in the air
the end of a line caries
………………………..its own music
a soft crumbling of alley
……………………..clarinet notes stumble
that cold peeling backstage
stepping under high-pressure
by deb Ewing
In Cohen’s Chelsea Hotels
Your body, picked and fingered;
old melody new-explored,
lyrics brutal yet tender
through a progression of chords,
wrist a-twist like a tumbler.
Lover lost but rarely mourned,
your sweet fragrance still lingers.
Love cannot ever be learned.
Love is only remembered.
by Duane Vorhees
‘less you want it
make your music
make your way
go roll your bones
and sing your praises
well and true
by Douglas Cole
The Charles Mingus Volcano
The Charles Mingus volcano
may appear dormant and calm
but under its surface, seethes,
its blistering hot magma
ready to blow,
scald, and purify
at any moment.
by R. Bremner
The Dark Side
he owned the
gift of jazz
dark side of
he kept giving
by Roger Singer
I press the first valve down
I press the first valve down
by Joel Jacob Todd, Jr.
“Louis” © Jennylynd James
You Brought Me the Light
Mirror it back to me
You introduced me to First Light
By Freddie Hubbard
& I can picture you as the teenage boy you were
When you first heard it
1971: (jazz prematurely declared dead
Fusion bringing it back to life
Freddie Hubbard, an iconic resuscitator
Silk my ears & I will pronounce this afrique noir
You can take me lots of places
In eleven minutes
To worlds even beyond Motown/Stax
You already know I’m hip to what’s
Dramatic, tempting & wondrous
There’s room on my record shelf
For even more
I’m ready for some post-bop
In this light bulb moment
& I’d snap my fingers & say “ah ha!”
But I’m too in the zone to utter
Jazz: grown & ethereal
Grown & mystic
This is my music now.
by Connie Johnson
Basilica of Jazz
They came because high-fashion magazines
Assured the sound accessorised Armani
They came because they missed it first time round
And were awfully keen to miss it once again
They came because their Berkeley lecturer
Spoke of such exceptional technique
They bought that self-same trumpet
But could not buy a soul to sound like ‘Diz’
They came because of Air Conditioning –
When someone said ‘hey man’ they felt real cool
In deeper velvet darkness than the movies
More like a church where Jesus pats His feet
They came because the truth astonishes
When spoken in so many vivid tongues
They came because The Blues and blues alone
Can purify and heal the living blues
The way only a diamond
Can cut and dress a diamond
by Bernard Saint
That New Orleans sound,
At the turn of the century,
Just gets it on
Then gets on with it,
Taking me back,
Time and time again.
That tune from an open window,
Drifting down to the street
Like the scent of home cooking,
Making you feel at home,
When you’re far from it.
by Anthony Ward
New Orleans Jazz
Sounds of syncopation
Drifting down the bayou
Sparing no quarter
In the French Quarter
Blew our sensations
The Gulf Coast
by Henry Wolstat
At My Corner
For many summers a man stood
at the corner of my street sending waves
of syncopated birdsong through his wooden flute.
His hat dropped – casual – at his feet.
Passers-by surrender to his rhythm.
Hips swaying. Hearts lighter.
He played last spring wearing a heavy duck coat
and fingerless gloves against early May chill.
When I tossed a coin into his hat on the ground
he tipped an invisible one on his head,
his fingers still making jazz
I leaned back against the brick wall of the bank
to soak up the sun and something
ethereal riding currents of air
reminding me of the man in Seville
when I stepped from the shadowed lanes
of walled Juderia into sunshine, the man
playing classical guitar in a courtyard,
a Moorish fountain in the corner, the man
and the water creating captivating sound –
a stack of cds lay at his feet.
The man on my corner
has disappeared from the street.
I do not have his cd
………………………………if he made one.
by Kathryn MacDonald
Dinks Blues and Drum Fills
One of these days and it won’t be long,
You’re going to call my name, and I’ll be gone.
Fare thee well, oh honey, fare thee well.
I’m whistling a tune about
a woman’s broken heart,
down a long and empty
hallway, just to hear it
move itself along,
floating on ahead of me
underneath the low ceiling
like a dark blue kite bumping
the bottoms of cobbled clouds
as it passes by the doorway
of a girl whose apron strings
will not tie anymore.
Then there is no more music
all through the skittering noise
of afternoon and night, till
well past bedtime, when
the mouse who has been stealing
kibble from the dog, now rolls
his stash across the floor above us.
And on the back stoop, something
big enough to stand and tip over
the recycle bin stops by again,
looking for a meal, and once more
it’s all for naught.
The scrubbed tin cans and bottles
sound to me a bit like Max Roach
as they tumble on the back porch
long after the woman called Dink
shared a song about some man,
as she did her husband’s laundry
in Greater Calhoun Bayou
while he worked on the levee.
Up here, a skunk or raccoon
shambles away, still hungry,
in the atonal darkness.
The world is full of sadness.
by Joel Glickman
Listen to the 1966 recording of Wayne Shorter playing “Infant Eyes,” with Shorter (tenor saxophone); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Herbie Hancock (piano); Ron Carter (bass); and Elvin Jones (drums). [Universal Music Group]
The Gift Released
I got da bones
and cellar stairs
where bursts of
and whiskey clubs
of thirsty hands
and knots of air
the last one
by Roger Singer
Footprints to Infinity
shorter his footprints go
gently through the wilderness
winter heart night
breathless, inches away miles inside
a sphere of glad-sad melancoly, dark tree twilights
theme from a holy oak place
piano swirls, soft red flame
ascending holy snow orient mountain
footprints furrowed with
all we’ve lost along the way
talisman blowing frosted shake moons
ease- down strides
here, rainy night earth pillow
no tide could wash away
weather vane spinning
rain eerie rainstorm blue
silent night rhapsodies
gently barreling down
sailor serrated hallways
footprints – size infinity
blowing open the door to hearts where they
leave their mark
by Michael Amitin
Shorter, Driving in 1966
an Adam’s Apple
quakes firm ground
after bare Footprints
by Terrance Underwood
For Wayne Shorter/For Bix Beiderbecke
………….And for Mike & Sarah
Had been thinking of writing a poem for Wayne Shorter,
………….died 2 March;
You go back to the first time you’d heard him,
………….Heavy Weather, ’77
Had little use for fusion then or now, but
………….Weather Report was something else
Have a vague recollection of seeing the band,
………….Hollywood Bowl, Summer ’79,
Zawinul the power behind the keyboards, the mad shirtless
………….Jaco’s amazing bass. Shorter in the midst of it all,
………….blowing soprano hard, the mighty center of the band
It was only later that I heard Shorter with Miles,
………….or Zawinul with Cannonball
We might not be prepared for adversity,
………….giving us Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,
And the Buckinghams added lyrics—
………….My baby, she’s made out of love—
While Manhattan Transfer
………….created the classic vocalese Birdland
Didn’t know that Wayne had played with
………….Maynard & the Messengers,
Didn’t know he was a Buddhist,
………….chanted Namu Myōhō Renge Kyo,
………….as did Tina Turner
But a friend sends an e-mail, Bix Beiderbecke
………….born, Iowa, 10 March 1903
And I think of his brilliant, short life, lived & died
………….almost a hundred years ago
Hoagy recorded Georgia on My Mind with
………….Bix on cornet, NYC, September 1930,
And You-Tube gives us a version, sounds like Bix’s cornet,
………….with Hoagy staring at Bacall
And maybe Jelly Roll did invent jazz, but so did
………….Bix, & Louie, & Bechet, and we’ve
A hundred years of this original American art form,
………….something to celebrate,
Available to all today. You-Tube gives us
………….Bix with Whiteman, Bix with Trumbauer,
So I spend a fine daylight savings afternoon,
………….Bix in my ear & Wayne on my mind,
by Phil Linz
I church all over this groove means I’ve been here before.
I prayer all over this floor says Gary, Sunny. and me is a trinity.
I have to cleanse everything you’re saying to play with you, to get with your program.
I want this to be your revival in the flesh, your cry, your born again.
I honk and honk and honk and honk till I can’t honk no more.
I want you to believe me when I say nothing is being forced out, but you’re tired.
I want you to say, “jazz is blacks dressed as whites only,” and believe it.
………………………………………………………………………..I don’t mind if you hum.
I call myself a wizard, I milk another phrase, I need your money.
I get hot about Sidney Bechet’s “Muskrat Ramble” and tear with envy.
I tenor my life so consciously, I could never get booked and I’d still be warm.
I follow Gary and Sunny like gas follows anywhere the air drags it.
I think about golf in restaurants, I think about drugs in my brother.
by Sean Des Vignes
Sun Ra Sing
we sat cross legged high on Europa
high as a mountain at the top of the sky
the serpent in the tree cried out “look at me”
I closed my eyes as it melted in the light
I knew it was the end
the end of the world
when the angel turned its head
to signal the horn
still, I walked way out to the edge of the stage
the loudest sound in the universe
how do you do that with your mouth and your fingers
here on this planet below my feet
I found the sarcophagus bejeweled in it’s splendor
and watched as the mummy rose from the dust
black and beautiful and wrapped in tight harmony
the radiation of horns in the cosmic night
your astrology, your jazz, your glorious light
revelation, perfection, and prophecy
Kharis could hear you from the beginning of time
when the saxes descended onto continental shift
now the music is echoing, the reverb and delay
Amun on the keyboard, Ra on the drum
I with my Tana, approaching the Sun.
by Joe Kidd
“Sound the Trumpet” © Jennylynd James
Joe Maita who keeps the light burning in a sultry vivacious cool
we are griot
we hold the story of jazz
we sing jazz and blues
we jazz word bopsters
hip step cool
Harry the Hipster
Cab and his Poor Minnie,
Dug way in cool!
with the sweetest
cats and kitties
the Bird blowing smooth
“If I should lose you”
Oscar Brown jr.
Bid em in!
Signifying Monkey swinging!
Exalted griots and poets
who speak the word
Blowing the Frat House Down
Ithaca, New York, 1959. Chatting pre-lunch with
bros. Stopped cold mid-sentence by the turntable
detonating. Hard-bop trumpet solo, incredibly fast,
swirls of melodic line, a trumpet played like a sax.
Clifford Brown jet rocketing through “Cherokee,”
scorching the chord changes onto my brain forever.
Didn’t know he was already gone. I mourn him still.
by Peter Gregg Slater
Straight, no chaser
Straight, no chaser.
That’s right, one more for the road.
Oh yeah. The road’s calling me,
but I ain’t listening.
Gotta stay right here and
chase those blues.
But who am I kidding?
Those blues won’t be chased.
They’re sitting right here.
They’ll be here all night.
They’ll be here tomorrow.
And if they ever should leave me
I’ll be one gone cat.
Gone nowhere. No music,
no writing, no nothing.
No woman since she left?
So come on Mr. Monk,
guide my fingers, man
while I play it one more time.
Straight, no chaser.
No rocks, no water.
Just you, me, my sauce,
and my blues.
And my long-gone-gal, bye-bye baby.
And this piano.
by R. Bremner
a respiratory condition
of enduring rhythm
when applied to a saxophone
breathe out…. breathe in …. blow out
Soft & slow ballad beauty
………..or hard freight train fast
like Man….! That cat
………………………Can he ever Lester!
…………..a considered homage to Ambrose Bierce
by Terrance Underwood
Eating the Music
You mouthed the notes,
sang the phrases,
swallowed the melodies,
swayed as if in prayer,
Your whole being moving
in rhythm and ecstasy,
Bending into the music
like an epicure over his plate,
delighted at the feast of sound,
You traded eights over the table,
and tapped your love of the menu.
by Marilyn Mohr
I Want to Play Like Jaco
I want to ignore the cackle of the universe.
I want to see the bad and choose the good.
I want to turn inside out and never fear.
I want to play like Jaco.
The dazzling vagrancy of the creative mind
Slides forever towards home plate,
Through the hurt tags of loneliness,
Through the endless hangs far from home.
I want to play like Jaco.
Something emits from the ventricle,
Some heat or beam, some vision
Of infant children or the sound of echoes,
The perfect chimes of his early life.
It can vanish as fast as a neutrino,
As fast as as soon as you get there.
Jaco got there in time to catch the change.
I want to play like Jaco.
The bass makes the sound of who I am.
It soon bottoms out, I’m a simple soul.
But Jaco plays that same sound, to infinity.
I can see the road, the spiral where it begins.
Genius is offset by blurry vision,
But genius is greater than astigmatism.
Jaco saw both the chaos and the zone,
The anterooms to the mind of God.
I want to play like Jaco.
I want to visit the boundless world
Of his music.
I want to lay a rose against the last place he lived.
See you later, maestro! That spiral road,
It doesn’t end, it goes on from here.
I want to play like Jaco.
by Mark Fogarty
Listen to the 1959 recording of Thelonious Monk playing “Reflections” [Universal Music Group]
Love & Monk
La La Love,
even when the cold raindrops
pounded against the window,
we snuggled close like fuzzy cats,
purring with Thelonious Monk
as we drank our Guinness.
We imagined the Swinging Sixties
as Monk pounded his “Let’s Cool One,”
& he grooved so good in “Reflections”
in Monk’s Blues.
Would we had been the cool cats
grooving at the club
if we were born at the right time?
like the wallflowers
when we came of age
in the Eighties,
we’re still stuck at home,
just us two,
having Monk serenade us
on a rainy evening?
La La Love,
You are I are here,
grooving to our own rhythms,
with Monk’s music egging us on.
We need nothing more.
by Carrie Magness Radna
She has already left
the country of her birth,
crossed into another
searching for that rare
seam of freedom heard
through the rhythm of language.
Surviving under a blue
glaze of sky,
she attends signature classes
without a visa or borders,
sensing tenderness and rewinning
understanding by expressing
a coherent phrase
about being human.
Her melody of time
recorded in a mind
where compositions are solved
by striving towards
an horizon measured
by a universal beat.
by Byron Beynon
At the worship we are told,
“Embrace the brokenness
and errors in your process.”
I meant to type
The mind has reasons
only the heart understands,
so when our finger .slips
and plays a nearby note,
we might find a hidden
by Joanne Grumet
through an open window can be heard
from high in a neighboring grove
a matinee flight of scattered solos
…………………………………..a natural Jazz
…………………clear as Bud Powell ivory
true bird calls distinct
as the color of feathers
covering the language of their song
responses breeze the leaves
undisturbed by any
dwelling murmur down below
a jay ascends
by leap & hop
limb to twig
a shapely wing
to purely sing
the human throng
its lone blue song
by Terrance Underwood
When Birds Get Together, It’s All About Music
A flight of swallows sweep up after
a murmuration of starlings, as blue skies
turn to night shadows. Time for dancing.
A charm of goldfinches scatter like
ancient coins. Their splashy notes spill
over a fountain, down its falling waters.
Listen to a string of Canadian geese as they
fly north for summer’s light. They sound
like a brassy band doing a second line.
Have you ever seen such flamboyance?
say the electric pink flamingoes
as their long legs lift up like Rockettes.
A ballet of trumpeter swans swoons
around a pond. Dizzy, Louie, Freddy
Wynton and Miles at a jam fest.
Maybe they are backed up by a bellowing
of bullfinches. Or a clattering of jackdaws.
With a clamor of rooks for emphasis.
That old band of blue jays keeps truckin on
to new venues, reconstituting one-time hits.
How long can they keep partying on?
A descent of woodpeckers drum
their way down a dead pine’s trunk,
one rat tat tat rat tat tat at a time.
A round of robins finds fortune in hidden
spaces. Each time a worm emerges,
another chorale rings, shines, spins.
Hummingbird charms whirr and whirl
faster than fingers can snap. Louder than
a clattering of colorful cockatoos.
A chime of wrens keeps everything full
of magic, music, mystery. Everybody claps,
prances. There are no flocks of wallflowers.
by Mary K. O’Melveny
One Last Dance
the breeze created by a guitarist’s fingers
strumming a rapid dance tune
lifts me to my feet and drives my legs
in wild abandon across living room floor
and out the door into the street
where children and dogs
and passing drivers stare at my insanity
if only I were decades younger
I would engage some passing stranger
in jig or reel or highland fling
but today I am content to hurtle clumsily solo
without shame before the eyes
of a world who neither knows nor cares
who I am as I rediscover a self
I thought locked away forever
by Michael L. Newell
“When Frida Sang Jazz” © Jennylynd James
Born to Sing
It never occurred to me
To do a thing
The other things- piano, harp
Add-ons to the flat and sharp
From parents who believed in me.
I had a voice.
That was no choice.
I’d hear a song and soon
Never sang it wrongly –
Words and tune.
In WW II I was eleven.
Singing to raise money for the armed divisions;
Weddings and bar mitzvahs;
Parent’s hair salon
Dazzling customers with song and charm.
A destiny was thus determined.
Harp with Myer Rosen, bless him.
Piano teachers: I forget them.
Never practiced. Mia culpa!
Darling man, beloved papa –
Built a special alcove hollow
Just for me and the piano;
Drove me miles to my lessons;
Even one recording session
Age of ten.
(the record has been lost since then.)
Age 14, boyfriend introduced me to
A program on the radio:
Razzmatazz and all that Jazz!
I, the kid/ Symphony Sid
Life changed or, rearranged.
Sarah, Ella my umbrella!
In my heart and its compartments.
That was it! Jazz had! hit!
by Arlene Corwin
Glad to be Unhappy
………..(inspired by Billie Holiday)
By Cancun cabanas,
Dentine smiles laughed
over summertime margueritas.
In the Colorado mountains,
a ski lodge scene seasoned
with hot chocolate and lust.
of anxious fools,
legally 21 and over,
but going on 16
A good time born from lies—
15 minutes of fame
acquired at the workplace.
Take a magnifying glass,
peruse my body language,
dissect my lips and eyes,
especially my eyes—
because you can’t
hide a lie
by Patricia Carragon
from her voice
a bee’s nest
into souls once
at the altar
by Roger Singer
All damn day
talk — talk — talk
I told him, son
why not fit those fingers
down that damn gullet
and make it a proper
squawk squawk squawk —
“I ain’t no crow”
he choked, I lifted a brow
like — is that so?
“It’s music, man”
he yelled, I tilted my head
like — yeah this again
& before I could answer
he sat right back down at that little bench
and laid one fingerbone kiss on the lidless key
then he was
a hushed sonata; the swirling of moons
around hydrogen Jupiter, a scarlet ribbon
fluttering in the sun stroked breeze
a trembling flag outside a hollow temple
the river-fresh woods and the lily stone
he spoke the wind and kept on going —
once, or twice
I can’t recall
I couldn’t speak at all
by Josie Rozell
If life were a manuscript, I’d drop
my weary pen and walk away.
The nightly news makes me feel
as if there’s nothing left to say.
But not for you. Your vocalizing
has only just begun. With riffs
that rhumba in your rhythmic heart
you have this fearless improvising
way that makes an old song new,
and tunes before my time ring clear
and fresh, yet soulful, wise, and true.
I hear your voice and dawn brings days
worth living for—I have no choice
but to heed and harmonize again,
this haze burned off by picking up
your pulse, your groove, your vibe, my pen.
by Felicia Chernesky
Fran Lands Her Man
……..(For Fran Landesman)
When Fran landed so many sad young men
back in St Louis; we were all ears back then,
for Miriam, Ella, and all the balladeers
who got us hooked on sharps and flats;
the coolest cats, out spitting in the bars.
Not for Fran, the tin pan alleys, the easy streets,
the pata pata of tiny beats;
pianos and guitars.
by Isabel White
Julie on a Winter’s Day
The first time I heard Julie London
It was shortly after 9:00am, I was alone,
Winter’s first snow had arrived,
The dreamy, lazy snowflakes
Dotting the grey sky, transforming my window
view into pearlescent wilderness and
Bathing my apartment in a romantic light
“Black Coffee” began playing on the radio show
I perked up, of course I was drinking black coffee
The earthy, nutty scent infusing my space
The taste of slightly bitter dark chocolate
And a hint of smooth, rich caramel reviving me
Just like the music…
Listening to this woman
inspired a sexual confidence in me
I felt like a movie star in my silver satin robe
It made me want to slink around,
Sashaying in my living room
A lonely, glamourous starlet
I had to find out immediately whose sensual
Voice was responsible for my whimsies
Whose smoky sound set the solitary, sultry mood
It was then that I devoted my ears to Julie the rest of the day,
The rest of that season, and beyond
Though usually, it’s nighttime that I need her
Forget winter, she’s as cool as they come
Play me Julie London
Pour me black coffee
And I’ll come around
by Lauren Loya
Listen to the 1972 performance of Ron Carter (bass) and Jim Hall (guitar) playing “Prelude to a Kiss” [Universal Music Group]
Upon Seeing a Photo of Ron Carter
I came across a photo of Ron Carter
I was struck by his looks, his eyes closed
Face intense, playing a double bass, I’ve
been stuck on Ron ever since
Remembering the music he played
with Miles and Herbie Hancock
The more I listened, the more
I could not stop
I put on Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay”
Just so I could hear Ron Carter play
Spanish Blue and Carnaval, that
wasn’t all, “Etudes” and A Song for You
He was a Professor Emeritus, taught for
2 decades, 2,221 recording sessions he
played, Ron turned 85 last May 2022
And Mr. Carter, I have a crush on you.
by Aurora M. Lewis
Ron Carter’s Fingers*
Is it possible for fingers to leave
If they touch certain strings often
The resulting sounds explode like
And grow like ancient rings around
Or a succession of waves soaking
Becoming single moments echoing
(*American jazz musician Ron Carter—notable for his work with Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy, and as a member of Miles Davis’s second quintet in the mid ‘60s—has appeared on over 2,000 recording sessions, more than any bassist in history.)
by Sean Murphy
…….After Adrian Lime’s fractured painting of Miles Davis
he blew back smoke
beyond the frame
of a revolution.
filled the space and spat.
his cheeks chiseled starlight
in a continuum of chords –
a kind of blue mood
tossed back like a straight shot
of fused rhythm –
a chaser dreaming
of midnight shadow and full circle.
tenderness is a siren
held firmly in his twelve hands –
the cold cover of smooth,
sweet talking, inseparable bodies.
he pushed hard bop
laboring in cool birth
weighing long, legato lines.
he played what wasn’t there
in that space we listened.
hardheaded riffs rendered
by Sandra Rivers-Gill
Empire Builder rolls into Chicago
hotel near Grant Park
a block from Buddy Guy’s Club
small cover sparse crowd
until the band begins to play
tight and bluesy
folks drift in
families fill the joint with an after-church vibe
guitars scream and moan
to ecstatic release
all night long
aboard the Southwest Chief
enroute Kansas City
past St Louis in the rain
from the gateway arch
forms a divine prism
changing with the path of the sun
a constant state of revelation
dictated by distance angle and speed
by Edward Sheehy
Red Garland and a Dancer on Monday
every note fills me like gumpdrops
red’s piano plays nirvana
as i imagine the chinese girl from yesterday
at the coffeehouse,
moving as a graceful ballerina;
her body becomes wishes
and raindrops, she is as sweet
as gumdops, as the notes
red garland plays, landing
into monday afternoon, like
diamonds, she is sweetness
like piano notes, falling into
my mouth, like gumdrops
like raindrops from the sky,
nurturing, like god’s promises
she is the jazz i’m relishing
on monday afternoon
piano sweetness like gumdrops
by Erren Kelly
“She Plays it Well” © Jennylynd James
The morning result
from last night’s dream
neither headlined the Papers
nor the Web
less other Networks
regaling faceless cellmates about
jailbreaks & getaways
of carving an Alto out of soap
until overwhelming the unsuspecting Bulls
with long rollicking solos
from Landscape & Labyrinth
permitting our sax-slinger to duck out
through a convenient airshaft
clamber down a drain spout
into a fully equipped Maybelline Ford
engine revved & gas tank full
ready to motorvate over the hill
Claire Trevor behind the wheel
steering through dismal light
beautifully content with her sneering eyes
mirrored in a piercing rearview glare
focused on a haloed Marsha Hunt
Madonna, as a genteel shopkeeper along for a ride
the former fallen the other falling
abject for Art’s riff & tone
stumbling over each other’s hearts
like shed undergarments on a hardwood floor
each accepting any combination of
roadside bungalow or threadbare nightclub
faithful that the soap-bar sax will never dissolve
but there is always a faded note in every tune
a shanked chord
segued with any blues backbeat
in this one all the fragrance has drifted into a mist
companions have discovered & moved on
while Art is standing alone in rain chilled fog
in a place never sought
what’s left of his horn dripping low off his hip
by Terrance Underwood
Lockjaw Davis and Johnny Griffin, a Swinging Tenor Team, in New York, 1960
…………………based on a photograph by Chuck Stewart
And each note about to consume them both.
……….As if silkworms cry out to the moon, dying in making these two men’s suits.
And each pocket hanky, tucked into their jackets, points heavenward.
……….As if flood lamps from an ocean floor say mud-depth down is willow-light up.
And each breath inebriating their saxophones seems to ask for a final shot of amber sky.
……….As if their instruments—even their bodies—know every moment is last call.
And the songs they play. These too are every moment. Every step-on-stage.
……….Every barroom-cool. Every smoky blue note. Every final cry-out-loud.
by George Kalamaras
Julius Hemphill Plays the World’s Longest Solo, 1976
I arrived 11:30
in decelerated time
how long has he
I asked the dark
with moon eyes
who had arrived 11:00
she said he was playing
it when she got here
well then all night
hazy light through
her strands of hair
we’re left with
what the hell Julius
I dare you to keep
going I have
no better way to
greet unstoppable dawn
except days on end solo
moon eyes and wondering
how it all plays out.
by Dan Brown
Terry Callier, a featuring with Massive Attack
The violins remonstrate
at the quickened pace
as you walk into the spirits shop
to get inebriated.
The bottles on which your eyes feed
parade on the counter.
The wolf howls
at the glaring city lights.
The jazz blues,
Terry Callier’s incantatory pleas,
Down the spiraling stairs you roll.
The same nightmare that holds
you from viewing the million stars
that greet your alcoholic eyes.
Come and live with him.
by Susie Gharib
and one night nobo-daddy sprinkled green oval rain drops
earth mutated atop crushed velvet piano notes
fondling immortal fingers
as he composing peace piece
glorious calm spreads over hifi earth
prancing indigo moons, lemon stars and skid row diners
rustling through salvation red neon winds
universe cracks a warm gangly smile
by Michael Amitin
Listen to the 1961 recording of the Ahmad Jamal Quintet playing “Yesterdays” [Universal Music Group]
He hunches at the altar of ivory keys,
sampling each one for tone and pitch,
hoping to discover the pattern of notes
to form the chorus for the verse,
that roots him to the wooden bench,
hypnotized by the melodic rhythm
of quarter, whole, triple, and halves,
sharps and flats looped in his head
that he must transpose to the page before him.
And not until every staff of every measure
is anchored with notes and rests,
demarcated with clefs, key signatures, and bars
can he hope to break free of this composer’s purgatory.
by Antoinette Winstead
I’m listening to Lee Ritenour’s version of
“Stolen Moments” on an old CD player,
driving my VW camper van in a cloud
of sunflower sutras and autumn leaves.
I’m heading down that California coast
when an owl in a tree calls to me
in a dream, and the music soaring builds
a bridge from Half Moon Bay to LA.
I’m driving on and on . . . a wing, a prayer
with guitar chords like waves coming in
then the sax surfs the Pacific once again,
and Lee’s guitar chimes a solo to the sun.
by DH Jenkins
The Floating Theater
Tonight it is the roof at Graham Street and Decision—
the sun slipping down and nothing doing but contrails
of planes overhead, occasional birds, and paper alleys.
Soon it’ll be Cathedral lights, an orange hospital glow
if I can see that far, or if I could see even further out
maybe those small domes over on Observatory Hill.
This morning the house was quiet except piano music
on the Hi-Fi, an infrequent tapping on the typewriter,
or the noise of strays in the sun out on the back deck.
Summer already, and hot but we keep the house cool
with curtains drawn and Westinghouse fans blowing.
All across the city people are saying different things.
The guy on the corner drawls, “A little bit of hell…”
My mother, talking about football players, says
“All of my heroes are just made of sand.” A man
with a low voice bleeds through my stereo saying,
“Black Kojack.” I put a record on at the bookshop,
and my boss says, “Cookin!” A woman working
the Penn-Aiken Dairy comes back from the cooler
and she says, “I just seen the illest shit in America.”
Through all of the rain-streaked windows of buses
you can see the Pittsburgh that used to be and also
the Pittsburgh that is—somehow they’re coexisting.
Sonny Clark still plays piano up in the Hill District.
Johnny Unitas is still quarterbacking in Bloomfield
on fields made out of dirt and factory soot, I’m sure.
True, third base of Forbes Field has been relegated
to a bathroom stall in a men’s room in Posvar Hall.
But Gertrude Stein frequents a bench by The Aviary
on occasion. Just down from Gus the Ice Ball Man.
Pittsburgh is the kind of place where it is not very
difficult to fall in love, mostly because it is so easy
to fall for the city itself. The landscape or feeling.
There is an architecture of being in a certain place.
Here in Pittsburgh, we are all the floating theater.
by Scott Silsbe
Drinking in the Afterlife
Headstones sprout in ragged rows on hills,
graves with potted plants & loved ones praying
for the bliss of their dearly departed,
whom I imagine are bellying up in the hereafter,
shotgunning beers, guzzling altar wine,
marinating in bottles of Three Penis Liquor
under the blue neon of disbelief. I mean,
is it too much to ask for some plausible picture
of the hereafter, something without ferrymen
or mythological rivers, a vision
I can relate to—just plain old dead folks
getting sozzled in the ever-present fog
of Dante’s third circle, well lubricated in white
dinner jackets & cocktail gowns,
slurring speeches to indifferent crowds
or trawling Perdition’s flea-blown dives,
a six pack of Schlitz in each hand?
What else are they supposed to do
while pausing for family & friends to arrive?
I couldn’t imagine my Uncle Red,
crusty as old time, showing up at heaven’s gate
just to throw bread to the ducks,
toss a few darts or maybe—for shits & giggles—
sneak back to his earthly home to whisper
some off-color joke into Aunt Dorothy’s ear,
topple their dusty portrait, a Hummel or two.
Better to imagine him lounging in the clouds,
waiting his turn before the stern judge, listening
to Coltrane play Salve Regina, starlight
from a vintage cognac swirling in his snifter.
by Michael Steffen
Sound of Sad Smooth Jazz
Let me tell you about the girl above me
You know the girl in apartment #3
I hear her late at night, walking back and forth
Barefoot across the creaking wood floor
In the darkness of the shadows of the night
Full moon on this hot, long and lonesome night
I hear music coming through the open windows
Smooth sad jazz, Billy Hoilday “I’m a fool to love you”
I hear her crying, crystal rivers flow, seep through the creak in the ceiling
Dripping down upon my face
I catch hot salty tears in my mouth
And her her walk and cry walk and cry
……………..(originally published in Jerry Jazz Musician March 16, 2023)
by Elaine Croce Happnie
All That Remains Is A Question
All fades away, all slips
into time’s thickets, like
the final notes of a Miles Davis
solo drifting into foggy night.
I cannot remember names
of women I loved, of those
who have held me in their arms
as an act of passion and comfort.
I hear the waves of time coming
closer, as they prepare to carry me
past the barrier reef into the endless
sea which will sweep me into eternal darkness.
I have no belief, but I nonetheless hope,
and pray for a future of endless music, music, music.
by Michael L. Newell
Click here to read a collection of short jazz poetry, published in January, 2023
Click here to read the fall/winter 2022/23 collection of jazz poetry
Click here to read the summer 2022 collection of jazz poetry
Click here to read the spring 2022 collection of jazz poetry
Click here for in formation about how to submit your poetry
Click here to subscribe to the quarterly Jerry Jazz Musician newsletter
Click here to help support the ongoing publication of Jerry Jazz Musician, and to keep it commercial-free (thank you!)