A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Summer, 2022 Edition

August 14th, 2022

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"Born Blue" by Marsha Hammel

“Born Blue” is by the North Carolina-based artist Marsha Hammel, who has graciously consented to have a sampling of her work published within this collection of jazz poetry. To view more of her work, please pay a visit to her website by clicking here.

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“Reading poetry is a way of connecting – through the medium of language – more deeply with yourself even as you connect more deeply with another.”

-Edward Hirsch, poet and author of How to Read a Poem, and Fall in Love With Poetry

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…..Mr. Hirsch’s observation feels especially suitable for this community, one that is connected by its love of writing (and reading) about jazz.

…..The music is vibrant and emotionally charged, its players diverse in ethnicity and vision, and its culture rich and historic.  Jazz provides a canvas of opportunity for a poet stirred by its borderless spirit.

…..This is evident in this broad collection of poetry authored by an impressive assemblage of regular contributors and established poets new to this publication – all of whom open their imagination and hearts to the abundant creative experience they derive from this art.

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

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Joe Maita
Editor/Publisher

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

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

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Listen to the 1950 (alternate take) recording of Charlie Parker playing “Summertime”  [Universal Music Group]

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Not An Edward Hopper Painting

Through windows open to the evening breeze
comes discordant city clamor – rising voices, traffic, a barking dog –
spiking the sweet alto sax / the Bird’s clear sound

…..a mingling of last light
…..penetrating notes peppering life –
…..zest of lemon / single malt Scotch.
…..Music seeps deep into every cell,

each note a poem
………………………….tangible / elusive.

He breathes into his sax and out flies Summertime
to wing beyond my window carrying a cry
into the setting sun splashing gold on the building across the way.

Over the lake, beyond the city, the waning moon rises
pale in the eastern sky. With the dark
comes a kind of quiet – the quiet of endings,

the stirring of beginnings – for isn’t it in the dark
that the pools of dream stir imagination,
meld the rough edges of living with the soaring of flight?

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by Kathryn MacDonald

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Music All Over The Land

Wind winds its way through and round
stand of Douglas firs, escorting rain
to resting places, enriching land, bush,

tree, and plant, while wrapping a few lonely

figures drifting through landscape
in mist dampening bodies and cleansing minds,
creating a melancholy joy like a solo

by John Coltrane playing a slow ballad,

showing how the blues can embrace mind,
heart, and spirit in its quest for the perfect
tune, rhythm, and ineffable wilderness of notes.

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by Michael L. Newell

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A Poem Awaits

in daybreak chill
listen to the dawn
to Frank Morgan gently
warm his aromatic alto
in the faint shade
accorded by Kenny Burrell
………………………& phrase
the sunrise in suggestion
……………a preparation
for the fragrance of a poem
………………………that
today the scent of juniper
………………………& sea breeze
provides

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by Terrance Underwood

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Peter Bernstein Trio

Peter’s guitar is a blast of water, gushing
out of a fire hydrant, a welcome
respite, like the daily jingle
the ice cream truck plays, as it travels
from street, to street

women walk on the beach, like mermaids
as the temperature soars

we find our youth in music, the drums
calling us to dance
a woman’s hips plesantly reminds me
of a bass

or was that an oasis to tempt me ?

nevertheless, the guitarist strums its melody
casting waves on the waters

she appears again, this woman, whose
body is music
again, like a song, giving a respite
in the heat…

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by Erren Kelly

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Every Time I See You

I cranked the Woody Shaw Jr.
“Every Time I See You”
Marveling at the range
Authentic modal with a hint

Of funk giving it a modern feel
And thinking about his precocious
Photographic memory
Skipping grades, like my father,

Playing all over Paris
Imagining him composing
Every time his mind sees a melody
Another musical genius

Losing a precious sense
This time the light
Taking the train from Brooklyn
Never seeing another night

On stage.

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by Michel Krug

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Solitude

Solitude plays film noir—
her haute couture wears despair
like satin pumps.

She is Marlene Dietrich—
elegant black feathers
cast a veil across her face.

She walks beside me—
extends in sunlight,
moves inward at night.

She is like me,
can survive
without your support.

She sits beside me,
explains that not all firestorms
are alike,

that dark rainbows
come in various shades
of lies and abuse.

Billie Holiday
sings a silent prayer
for you to return.

The room’s stillness
collides with the one within—
a storm brews between the past and present.

Solitude argues with night,
and the gap between logic and absurdity
makes this room smaller than it is.

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………………(First published in Al-Khemica Poetica Blogspot, Tuesday, April 19, 2022)

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by Patricia Carragon

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"Hot Horn" by Marsha Hammel

“Hot Horn,” by Marsha Hammel

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When Music Intertwined 

Plaintive cry
Repeat reply
Removed from the warm body of a chorus
To palpitate by itself
A guitar solos
___Until
“I’m bone-stone-alone up here
Can someone
Keep me company?’’

Coaxing an arrow-piercing note that
signals the piano’s full force
blacks and whites
Of sharps and flats

All together now ___

He wouldn’t have come unless he was invited
The violin’s sobbing of the soul
Colliding with a cello’s resignation
Devoured by drum’s beats of rebellion

A trumpet’s wild and whirling notes___
“Mighty fine,
Coming in to bask in your divine.”
Answers the great and thirsty heat of the sax

The soloist takes a bow
And all come up on a sudden halt___
“Take five.”

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by Susandale

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Billie’s Gardenia

A gardenia in your hair,
your voice
sliding and echoing
through the sultry air.
Never look back,
walk slowly on
with your fragrance,
as the music stays
to bless the listeners
who nod their heads
in a union of beauty and shade.
Those southern trees and the dust of despair,
the consistent light you brought
reaching towards the darkness of corners,
breathing in once more
all of tomorrows’ wounded rhythms.

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by Byron Beynon

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Favourite Things
……………….Getting my head around John Coltrane

Midway in notorious realities of pre-nup hard bop,
Coltrane is pushing dizzybird conversations,
the graphene between love and Haight;
John’s gone all spiritual
got himself a clowder of alley cats,
all suit-up sassy.

I want you better, John says;
better than now,
better than forever;
love’s a long time coming,
all gone supreme, gentle and eternal.

John and Alice in Wonderful,
so neatly conversational,
Trane on a higher plane then; a curettage,
seven voyages of superbad labial sin,
hear Gabriel blow, hero and heroin,
anaesthetized, then you gone.

Name me beautiful darling days,
in your magnificent trinket multiverse.
An alchemy cleansed of melody;
long on rhythm,
forever searching for your lost Nagasaki,
the master of your soul, the real gone guy.

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by Isabel White

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In the Pocket

The cutting edge.
The iconoclast. The gentleman
playing the piccolo with his nose.

Far out’s always been too far
out for me. I need to be
tucked squarely

in the warmth of fabric.
Flannel threads. Socks with treads:
at this age, fall is the biggest risk of all.

The bird in blurry flight
sticks the landing
every time.

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by Barry Peters

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Kind of Blue

I was standing in the drugstore
picking between Coltrane and Miles Davis,
I wanted A Love Supreme, but couldn’t find it
there was Dave Brubeck and I love “Take 5”
but didn’t recognize anything else
I went for Johnny Cash’s greatest hits,
but that couldn’t be my first record pick
the kids were in the car with their father
and my husband drinking hot chocolate that I made
I was wearing purple snow pants
from tobogganing on that hill
and almost lost my baby
as he drove his wooden sleigh
like a champion steed
toward the base of the tree
his father shoved him off like a mother grizzly
he flew into the snowbank calling
Daddy, why’d you push me?
Daddy started shaking his head at me,
after all, I had pointed him in that direction
but I hadn’t. the wind just kinda moved him
that way, anyway, my boy was, and I,
so both of us, laughing and laughing
on the frozen ground,
he stops giggling to say “Again”
No, we say, and then, not so high
just as my older son slides
belly down and wondering
what is happening,
but now, we gotta go
I left chili on the stove
and everyone is hungry
so here I am at the drugstore
a jug of milk in hand
sweating, trying
to pick the perfect record,
but I ain’t got
the time

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by Natasha Zarin

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Doxy

I once said I’d marry a man
Who could hum the first four bars
Of Cal Tjader’s “Doxy.”
We say these foolish things
When we’re young and
Still learning the ways of the world.
The first four bars of Cal Tjader’s “Doxy”
are not the basis for
Love. Or a life.
Still…
Sometimes when I heard those Sonny Rollins notes
A nameless, jazz-loving man’s face appeared before me
As surely as if he’d walked through the doorway of the little club
On Third Avenue where I once sat at a table near the band
And sipped a cool gin and tonic in the heat of a New York summer.
Postscript:
I married a man who
Knew nothing of Cal Tjader’s “Doxy”
But walked one afternoon through the doorway of a
Restaurant by the sea in San Diego, smiled,
And laid his claim
Just as I heard Etta James begin to sing “At Last”
…you know how that song goes…
And I, looking up at him, smiled back,
Then turned my face to God
And noted that this moment was a little over the top.
True story.
There’s irony for you.

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by Molly Larson Cook

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Listen to the 1975 performance of Tommy Flanagan playing “Daydream”

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Lennie’s On The Turnpike

There wasn’t a lot
of elbow room,
but the music
made up for it.

It was a tight fit,
all around that night,
at Lennie’s on Rte 1
when Miles played.

Tiny tables
tucked side-by-side,
each only large enough
to hold a couple of drinks

and an ashtray. The stage,
a foot or so above the floor
and the ceiling so low
that Miles’ raw notes

hit the floor, rose,
and then flowed over us
like holy water
at a christening.

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by Russell duPont

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What I Imagine When I Listen To And Watch Music
……….This morning it was the Oscar Peterson Trio from a concert in May of 1957 in Amsterdam.

A stunning lean and elegant woman
with high cheek bones, succulent red lips,
ebony hair and more curves than the bass
Ray Brown embraces, enters the concert hall.

Oscar Peterson’s fingers play her walk,
the swish of her hips, the shimmy of her dress,
the subtle sssshh it hums as it slides over her slip,
and the clicks of high-dollar-high-heeled staccato steps.

Vibrato rolls of fingertips to ivories emulate
her rapid descent down stairs to the red cushioned
seat she purrs into. Silence of rapture capture
the audience. The trio plays her breath.

They strum the length of her, fly her to the clouds
and bring her back as they paint the black of her exquisite back.
Oscar, Ray and Herb take a low, deep bow and vow to play
her again and again then thank the beauty for her inspiration.

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by Catherine Perkins

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Tommy Flanagan Plays Billy Strayhorn’s
Daydream, Tokyo, 2/15/75

Cheers to this glowing patch of Pittsburgh
landed in the Pacific by elegant
hands, the supple skyline
singular as the ecstatic flash
we share exiting a dreary tunnel, now pinioned
here to these alert, satisfied ears.
7212 Tioga Street, Rear
is what we hear rumbling up from under
your left hand. Love surging in waves
whether rivers or no. There’s a ghost
in the smoke, a soft giggle
outside a men’s room door, and all
the time it is rising, bright wash.
I can imagine Murakami dropping his yen
at the door and here found that very first well
he wandered, darker than dark, and he called its mouth
my city. Far removed from Westinghouse
High here is the pride of Westinghouse.
It’s February again. The ice now cracking
like some joke. I’m blowing a daydream
of steam into chapped hands near the corner
of Main and Howley. Issa wrote, Some can sing,
some can’t. The snow drips hoarsely from the eaves,
but I can only hear Billy decked out in Tommy’s
skin, such a sweet alive-ness dancing its way
out of this rundown dissolute winter.

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by Kristofer Collins

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match made in heaven

my friend phyllis
found a bar after work
and later said to me,
this is my music i’ve
looked for all my life,
she had walked into
a joy of jazz and depth
of a deep double bass,
the insistent ride cymbal,
a trumpet taking its time
all over the scale. it
always sounds like
it doesn’t like to land
anywhere, i said. that’s
the point, she said.

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by Laurinda Lind

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Romping With Bears

I want to romp with Charlie Musselwhite
and other big blue bears who blow
emotion into the universe.
Sonny Rollins, for instance, who shambles
toward an audience with notes so big
his paws can’t hold them.
One needs room to confront such bears.

Maybe an old tavern in Marshall
with the sea lapping at the bar-room floor,
bikers beguiled by Charlie’s harmonica.
Perhaps a bridge after midnight will do,
or a smaller New York Five Spot.

At the Russian River Jazz Festival,
Sonny once blew leaves off trees
in June,
stopped all river traffic
and antics on the beach
with the first nine earth-shaking
notes from his tenor sax.
A jazz critic shook his head and said,
“That’s why they call him ‘The Man.'”

Without their harmonic progressions
above the pull of gravity,
I would expect these behemoths
to be eating berries,
rolling down hills,
and gathering no musical moss.

But when they improvise, they cast
their shadows across the moon,
and on some cloudless nights
we can hear them blow cadences
that runnel through our bones
and Be Bop our blues away.

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by Steve Trenam

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Gossamer

I fly into Gotham around six
but my host, Jack, is out of town till ten.

No problem, the New Yorker says
Joe Pass will be at Smalls Jazz Club on West 10th.
Catch a cab. First show at nine.

Straight away, I order a single-malt scotch
that has curls of smoke livened up
with two dashes of sea salt \
just to let city folk know
Southerners can be pretentious too.

Turns out the bartender, Alex, went to LSU.
Alex slides me free Macallans, neat,
ice-water on the side. Alex jots down
the number of an aspiring
goddess/actress we both know
who just moved back from LA to the suddenly
warm, ripe, juicy, intimate Big Apple.
The third scotch is always a strike.
By nine-thirty I am a fly
wrapped in the gossamer threads
that Joe Pass’ fingers weave fret by fret,
ten digits each quick as a spider’s foot
as silk sails out of the belly of his guitar.

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by Ed Ruzicka

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Taken “From Jazz and Cocktails”
a here & thereafter

William Powell’s bartending aside
shaking a Manhattan to foxtrot time
seems as unlikely then as now
shakers
should never be more mobile than foxes
even when preferred

Billy Strayhorn might agree
though his sheet music remains unclear
doubtless he would grouse though
out of cocktail respect

But this poem is about distingué faces
trimmed evening clothes
relaxing on the axis
& how these two Bills would actually
take Manhattan
the Bronx & Staten Island too
should they find themselves sharing a taxi
wheel of life
to an undisclosed location
some small dive maybe
Just A-Sittin’
And A-Rockin’

when I’m fortunate to enter their Nightclub
I’ll ask them

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by Terrance Underwood

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Synesthesia

the walls
are painted black
in this place,
the stage
barely lit

from the bass come the darkest reds
slow and round
like a glass of merlot

orange, yellows, and greens
pop off the keyboard
and collide
in a confetti
of crayon shavings

from the tenor sax
the deep
just before dark
in an autumn sky
blue

and from the drum set
as the brush
grazes the cymbal,
the color is
a sparkle of
metallic fragments

the piece ends—
fade to quiet,
black walls

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by Laura Trigg

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"Singer" by Marsha Hammel

“Singer,” by Marsha Hammel

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Resurrection Of A Muse

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Through meditation,
I become transfixed—….. transported
to the days….. of….. Baldwin & Joplin,
the Black RenaissanceofHarlem— the resurrection
of a muse …..Langston Hughes,
…………………………Billie—
singing the blues….. in smoke-filled-rooms;
a melancholy song—….. from the mouth of a horn,
the slick snare …..of a drum
…………………………………arumpa- bump- bum.
The tips of my fingers sliding swiftly acrossebony & ivory keys,
a symbolic dichotomy / of black & white / wealth & poverty—
…………………………….Antebellum & freedom.
………………..Each clack of the keys—
……………………………….an eerie echo
………………..from the ghosts

 

of nostalgia
………………..who
……………………….constantly
………………………………haunt
…………………………………….me.

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………………(originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician August 2, 2022)

by Prince A. McNally

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Billie’s Blues

Songbird of heaven
crooned the jazzy blues
of the downtrodden
wailing of agony’s
invisible bruises.

She sang the lyrics
composed by others
her own miseries
revealed, yet hidden
in melodic rhythms.

The depth of her pain
unknown
until she succumb,
composing at last
her own song.

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by Antoinette Winstead

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Billie Holiday Records “Strange Fruit” for Commodore Records, New York, 1939 (Billie in Long Fur Stole in Front of Session Men)

……………….based on a photograph by Charles Peterson

These four men playing music behind
you, Billie, have not yet been hanged.
They are not the Four Horsemen
your Bible gallops toward your
evening dust. There is an animal
around your neck. About to
strangle you. These men. Black
men. About you. Not yet. You sing
through the animal. The animal sings
through you. Foxtail, white-
tipped, just below
your knee. What is hung
are blood notes you have inherited
from trade winds transporting dust
westward from the Continent all the way
across the Atlantic. From ocean rain longing
to bless the land’s fruit. Strangely. Notes
that come through the men
the animal through you. Strange fruit
causing all the gaps
in the land mass to weep.
Strange fruit causing all
the men and women
of the world, Billie, to weep.

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by George Kalamaras

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Queen

Mamacita
with round brown
hips
roll and sway
sway and roll
slow that stroll
she sings
to ease
her sticky soul
and smoothes
the slinky sateen
of her orange
skirt for a
perfect fit
for a queen.

I got soul
I got style
I ain’t no
perfect 10
but
I got soul
I got style
I sing myself
from mile
to mile.
Find a penny
in the Quarter

throw it high
throw it long
flip my wrist and
it be gone
make a wish
for my
baby brother
that he
get better
that he
get better
and then
we gon sing
and dance
together.
one day soon
we gon sing
and dance
together.

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………………(originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician April 27, 2022)

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by Emily Jon Tobias

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Moanin’
…..After Art Blakey

Evening outshines strip of sun
orange torch to dusk blue
sax shines up the avenues
sweet spots under lamps
parade of pedestrians
fall into shadow rhythms

In call-and-response,
keys gather up the horns
while the beat lines up
syntax unravelling
cat-call solos, riffs
untying all the roads

Inside the bass of night,
feet swagger, heels offbeat
mocking math in new metric
to play out different moods
in different lanes & boroughs
in dress & boots, red lipped debut

Driving-hot to hard bop
summons, soaring on arrival
but cadenced enough
to get the phrasing right

In smoky den persuasion
the trumpet’s hot licks
wail and flutters a possessed kiss
in blues-inflected bridge
back to midtown, yellow light

I forget where I started
in the city’s pleadings
of hooks & melody
dressed up in digressions
moanin’ to first light
the beat almost sliding off

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by Jessica Lee McMillan

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Belt Me A Tune

Even you
escaped
wasting
and even
you knew
to write
help me. I
arrived
all bang
as usual.

Why don’t
you sing
about me,
brother
child? I’m
prep, no
drama, no
boo-hoo.

We’re a
babel,
total
under-
water.
No wits
to wake
a tooth
or pie
a rookie.

Lapsed
maniac!
Tavern
wizard!
Bust me
a song, a
moaner.

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by David P. Miller

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Blue Moon
…..(sung by Ella Fitzgerald)

mom used to say—
……..the wheel of fortune would spin for some
……..& not for others

that good things
……..come once in a blue moon

luck differs from person to person
……..& blue moons happen every 2 to 3 years

a blue moon saw me stand alone
……..on a street made from fool’s gold

from 238,855 miles away
……..how can it see what’s going on
……..hear thoughts pound head & heart?

blue moons are full moons—
……..harbingers for problems
……..life’s lunacies & systemic stress

their names born from belewe—
……..Old English for betrayal

I’m not into clichéd romance
……..or this satellite idol
……..with a Swiss cheese exterior

when the earth has been arrested
……..by its own inhabitants
……..& justice has left the building

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by Patricia Carragon

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A Love Supreme

Haitian roosters crow.
They used to open day after long night of silence.
Now, silence and sleep are broken
intermittently before sunrise
where guns almost outnumber people
in Port-au-Prince.

I inhale deeply and close my eyes.
My ears lost in A Love Supreme tucked
safely in bed, here in America.
I think of my traumatized family,
and release tears for the sleepless.

Coltrane blows his notes
who knows how they were inspired. And his gentle refrain—
A Love Supreme, A Love Supreme, A Love Supreme…

We reach for light
when love has escaped to stars.
A Love Supreme twinkles above us in sky.

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by Jerrice J. Baptiste

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Listen to the 1952 performance of Lester Young playing “Ad Lib Blues,” with the Oscar Peterson Trio (Peterson, piano; Barney Kessell, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; J.C. Heard, drums) [Universal Music Group]

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Unconscious Ferlinghetti?

do you think it could be
unconscious Ferlinghetti
swimming into
the stream of this poem?

after all, I’ve been putting
chords
………to his “Jack of Hearts”
for the last few weeks

striving for the perfect Beat
blend
………of guitar and words

his rhythms penetrating
my bouton pathways
………recreating
tributaries heretofore unknown

on the Left
………and right side of my fevered brain
words tumbling over stones
and feeding the river bank flora
images divined at every turn

and every time my lumbering hands
attempt to resurrect
………long slumbering muscle memory

getting high as a random
D chord
………underscores his bohemian rapture
and political barbs

ghosts of the Beats
………encountering beat up ghosts
Dylan’s Tarantula still impenetrable

I’m still not totally convinced
the first words
………are always the best
though I keep them close at hand.

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by Jim Mello

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jimmy cobb, there’s something about him

ragged on the docks halfway ‘tween winter and spring equinox, rum tumbling clock strikes jazz midnite, a tribute to jimmy cobb, storm quiet gratitude – seas sleek as neptune smokin’ slow baked blues… swingin’ fine, arpeggiation sensations in slo-mo, sax track urchins blowin’ high above chilly night parisian shores…. space deep as breath

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by Michael Amitin

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Moondog Viking
…..A ghostly love poem

In his ceremonial horned helmet
claiming the corner of
sixth and Bleecker
this shape in a drape erupts
verse after poetic verse
eyes drifting, he is on fire
on this sultry beat
West Village summer’s day

Onlookers crowd as
pearls of profound poetry
pour from his chafed lips they
drench his knee-length fur coat;
off the cob verses, puddles of spoken word
lemony metered drops
drip around his braided straw sandals,
pool the cement walk

Blind crazy cool cat Viking poet
dibs on his street are well-known
he is a fixture for decades
unaware of an ever-changing landscape
gentrification; squaresville of the
hep fifties and sixties gone by
he is as splendid as antediluvian architecture
this far out poet is a presence stuck in time

Affectionately, I greet him as Moondog,
Viking seems too war-like for this
patchouli scented poetry giant who
stands amongst the bluster of change
in black shades—who cannot see nor cares to—
he only wishes for cats and chicks to
keep him company on the sidewalk of
a time that has been stilled in
rhythmic strophe, well-worn stanzas,
peppery vignettes, bouquets of fragrant sonnets,
—words and phrases—
tuned in to peace and love,
reflecting an eternity of poetry
and a groovy aging life

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…..(originally published in We Are Beat, 2019, National Beat Poetry Foundation)

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by Rita Rose

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Freddy and the Minor Cools
In a Major Key of Desire
Searching for the Ontological Launching Pad of Love

Love.
………….In a major key of Desire

F minor 7

… like a breeze came
………….sauntering by,

a hip cat kind
of breeze in
a padding,

treading,

F minor cool
that rolled itself
across the
land in evanescent,
………….thrilling
…………….instigation
……………….of desire

Think of it as a low rider in a Zoot Suit,
………….a high flyer in a super fly strut,
…………….or merely an F minor cool
……………….as a long haired iconoclast
………………….digging the scene of
…………………….her most intimate desire.

…………………….A breeze in a minor key
………………………….and nothing more.

…………………….A key to a room that is more
………………………….than memory falling
……………………………….back in time.

.

by Namaya

.

___

.

Electric Axe And Tenor Sax

Hey man, I used to live on little rock too
You mean in Little Rock
No Sir, on little rock #3 from that yellow gas light
Oh yeah, I remember
Down there where Love was not always Supreme
That’s right, you know we just missed each other
Just a step behind
Them little people still wondering
what that jam would have sounded like
Could have been cool, very cool
Now they settle for the mash up
I just couldn’t wait any longer
Had the blues you know, then broke it down into particles
Atomic dust breathing it in and out
That’s what the horn was for
Yeah, I pulled in with the string theory, you know
Way out past the Strat O Sphere
Faster than Hadron, that’s what they call us
It’s the truth brother, we brought it down to them
Showed them what it sounded like
When you wake up like that you grow
You get big, bigger than the ground you walking on
Like Moses, Buddha
Everything in slow motion
We everywhere, watching it spread out across the crowds
Across the sky
The bomb brother, it will take you with it.
The body scatters, disintegration
Yeah I know, I know, man it felt so good
A million years to get out of there
It’s ok now bro
We home now, we home
It’s on them

.

by Joe Kidd

.

.

"Percussionist" by Marsha Hammel“Percussionist,” by Marsha Hammel

.

.

Abdullah Ibn Buhaina
……….for Art Blakey

.
……………………..-All you have to do is be able to feel.
……………………………………….-Art Blakey

Myriad people knew without a doubt
Art Blakey was a gift and received him.
Bu’s response? “To pass through life and miss this
music is to miss out on one of the
best things about living.” Jazz gives us life.

*

Wynton said it the best – On the eighth day
God created Art Blakey, and in time
Art coaxed be-bop like a diamond to the
surface where it flourished and grew precious.
Abdullah Buhaina would light the fuse-
be-bop shook the Earth with a new language.

*

Jazz Messengers, Blakey School of Music,
200-plus musicians called to school.
God gave them new notes unheard before then,
licks that added more fire to the fire.
It was be-bop – miles from fading embers.

*

Before the “school” opened up Art worked with
Fletcher Henderson and Billy Eckstine.
This was the 40s and Art found Islam.
In the fifties, it was Abdullah who
Lit a match to be-bop with Monk and Bird.

*

The Earth shook, rattling the incubator.
Abdullah linked with Horace Silver, and
the child born in those days was called be-bop;
Art raised it until it was thirty-five,
packed smoke-filled basement rooms, and it was on.

*

Myriad people knew without a doubt
God created Art Blakey, and in time
God gave them new notes unheard before then.
In the fifties, it was Abdullah who
packed smoke-filled basement rooms, and it was on.

.

by John L. Stanizzi

.

___

.

Shelly Manne

Time makes man a play-thing
But man alone may play with time –

Here comes Shelly Manne
Have you met this man?
His inner clock can calibrate
A micro hair-breadth fraction
Of silence amid action
In tempi so discreet
He charms a brazen Herd or horde
To linger on a ballad chord
Eliciting lyrical solos

It is cool to be so warm
None suspect that you are cool
Time is a returning spool
As Albert Einstein speculates –
A spiral where all tenses meet
So walking in this Roman street
Expresses yesteryear’s espresso…

I was sipping on the cheap –
Leaning at the zinc bar with Marco
Aurelius in that café
Just behind the Trevi
Frequented by Fellini
Who clocks the passing scene
Seeking a timely stranger
To pass for Julius Caesar
In his flick at Cinecitta

Of which Roma is the star
Unfolding from her languor
Stories layered like lasagne
Poems underfoot and then some
Fables underhand and
All except yours truly
Underground

.

by Bernard Saint

.

___

.

Coolest MF on the Planet

His father was a dentist
and his mother a music
teacher, giving us the
coolest MF on the planet
They say he was the most
influential Jazz man of the
20th Century, they are wrong
the 21st remains his own

From Kind of Blue to
Rubberband, Miles Davis
will always be the Man
An image of his face causes
my heart to skip a pace
while his signature horn
makes me grateful he
was born

From Bebop to HipHop
and beyond, let there be
no confusion or mistake
Miles, in the present tense
the coolest MF, no one
will ever take his place
and MF is not an insult
but my highest compliment

.

by Aurora M. Lewis

.

___

.

The Flight Deck
…………………….for Thelonious

They put him on the hospital flight deck,
Where he sat around playing Coleman Hawkins

Records on the cheap record player some
One or other found for him, so he had

At least some music to listen to as
They dreamed up some clinical diagnosis

To explain how a musical genius
Found himself stranded at a traffic light

In midtown Manhattan during lunch hour,
And him unable to unfreeze himself

From the steering wheel as the cop tried to
Pry his fingers off the wheel, put him in

The red ambulance and sped off uptown
To the immaculate hospital ward.

.

by M.G. Stephens

.

___

.

Archie Adams Spends The Night With Sarah Vaughan

Archie, one of four black men in my white
college class in 1957 –
all jocks, but Archie, a running back out
of Worcester, was the best: the coolest, the most
talented, the most intelligent, and he was a friend.
We acknowledged each other in the campus
workers’ locker room, and he gave me an
interview for the college radio
station. In his dorm room, Archie sat on the edge
of his desk, legs dangling, displaying the purple
knocks left by shoulder pads; that fall, he led
the league in rushing.

He mentioned that he was going next night
to interview Sarah Vaughan after her gig
at the local jazz joint, but his show was on too late
for a dopey white guy like me to stay up for,
and even if we’d taped shows back then, I doubt
I’d have listened to it, though I dug Archie and Sarah.
But I was then content to be pre-med
with a shot at a top-flight med school
if I cracked the books till my eyes blurred
and skipped pleasures like the Divine Miss Vaughan
at the local jazz joint.

Two days later I ran into Archie
at the radio station and noticed he was
limping, so I lamely kidded him: “Was
Miss Sarah too much for you?” He flushed and pulled
me into the broom closet and growled, “Mum’s
the word, you little jerk-off!” But on his
way out of the station an hour later,
Archie leaned into the studio and mouthed
the word “Sorry” and zipped his forefinger
across his lips, then winked at me and smiled.
Back in college, he was a good guy,
not a prick. Oh yeah, and he made All-East,
then made a million as a corporate VP.

.

by George Held

.

___

.

An Alternative to Quiet

Jazz radio – like eating fish & chips with beer
Or sailing, hatless, on San Francisco Bay –

Such cool, such music-mastered rapture!
And when I do turn off the radio, good Lord –

I’m left in morbid silence, like a deaf white cat,
Or like an undertaker who collects condolences

For other people’s grieving families and friends,
Or like an elm tree, sightless, lacking hearing –

But l’ll listen more tomorrow, and again with bebop
I’ll know my savior radio saves me from a “lull.”

.

by Martha Patterson

.

.

Listen to the 1957 recording of Horace Silver playing “Home Cookin’,” (with Art Farmer, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor saxophone; Teddy Kotick, bass; Louis Hayes, drums).  [Universal Music Group]

 

.

.

1958 (For My Father)

The old record spins
…………………………….the needle
drops,

Hiss, Hiss, Hiss
Clickety, Click, Clickety, Click

78 times 60
too fast to read the label.

Innocent ears
spellbound by Satchmo’s cornet

(Muskat Ramble and Struttin’
With Some Barbecue)

………………………………………heard
at the speed of sight and sound.

Surface noise, such imperfection
a window opening
………………………………..to a way of life.

.

by Dan Brown

.

___

.

Grown-up music

“Jazz is only for grown-ups,”
we were all carefully taught
by young-at-heart rock enthusiasts
we were related to,

like Dad, who preferred
Beatles to Count Basie,
Diana Ross to Lady Day,
Dr. John to Thelonious Monk.

“But, listen to Ella Fitzgerald,”
I would argue,
“she could mimic the whole orchestra
with her scatting vocal runs!
Isn’t that incredible?”

“What’s a vocal run?”
Dad asked me.

Years later,
I was listening to The girl in the floor album
on a NYC Jazz station,
while visiting my husband at work.

“I don’t get this music,” he said.
“That’s disappointing,” I answered.
“Why?”

“Well, in such a grown-up office, one should listen to grown-up music,” I reasoned.
“Besides, the beats, the feel and the notes will keep you awake.”

He answers:
“Too awake. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
&
“It’s just too busy for me. This music becomes too complicated.”

I know that I haven’t married my Dad,
since my hubby loves classical and ragtime piano music,
so why not jazz?
Maybe he’s not a grown-up …

.

by Carrie Magness Radna

.

___

.

Jazzy Man, Jazz!

My dancing began with rain.
It was not so in the beginning.
Rain fell and I watched.
Rain fell as I stood in its midst.

Soon, I moved as rain fell.
There arose rhythm as the tap,
tap-tap, tap did begin to
take shape.

I’m thinking jazz man.

I took refuge under a hot tin roof.
The taps grew louder, tap,
tap-tap, tap-tap. Suddenly, it was
heel to toe and toe heel.

I’m really thinking it’s jazz man.

Soon, it became call and response.
So, I stepped out. I answered the call.
The rain tapped, then I tapped.
When I dapped, rain would double

and triple tap back. All night long
it rained. And all night I danced.
Rain called and I responded. I
dapped and rain tapped. That’s

jazzy man, jazz!

.

by Emmett Wheatfall

.

___

.

Which Way Did She Go?

On the Street Where You Live,
Turn Left. Travel South.
Take the “A” Train, Harbor Freeway.
Go East Young Man.
Highway One, North by Northeast
Route 66, Due West.
(Never the Same Way Twice)
On Green Dolphin Street, Straight on Red.
Somewhere, There’s A Small Hotel.
Hollyridge Drive, Slightest Right,
427 Mass Avenue, Pent Up House
There Ya Go

.

by Gloria Krolak

.

___

.

It’s Jazz When I Cook

It’s jazz when I cook,
It’s jazz when I play.
It’s musical jazz
Cool and cooking and, and… all the way!

I can’t think of any means better
Than bringing out meter
To liberate brighter and sweeter
Intelligence’ instinct in improvisation;
A life built on nowness;
And less on
Pre-planning, and much preparation.

When jazz is well played
They say said “Boy, was he cooking!”
“Smoking hot!”
“Man does he rock!”
There is no better compliment,
Than this accomplishment!

Jazz that can equalise
Music and mayonnaise:
Bases of all – a means and a goal.
“A Night in Tunisia,” Dizzy’s ambrosia:
My ataraxia

Not just a craze or a phase
But a handclasp and grasp
In a class all its own.
Jazz is the best of the genres honed
Ever since harmony’s tone zone, tuned melody started.
Created, discovered, uncovered…
Who knows?

.

by Arlene Corwin

.

___

.

Viewing The Black Olive Jungled
By Devil’s Ivy

warned this nature may
be invasive
I am reminded that
absent from my palate
has been a taste of honey
for a good long while
until a recent rediscovery
A Desmond & Hall jarred flavor
shelved among strangers butterflies & angels
unsweetened
as the sound a dry martini should be
when paired with champagne
I seek this wry refreshment
Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo
Glad To Be Unhappy

.

by Terrance Underwood

.

.

"Tampa Jazz" by Marsha Hammel

“Tampa Jazz,” by Marsha Hammel

.

.

One For Ben Webster

I swing slowly on old wooden
seat attached to tree branch

no company but crows
decades of memories

and a breeze soloing
like a slithery breathy

tune such as Ben Webster
once whispered to a world

often inattentive but for those
who listened life grew richer

love more fulfilling and time
lasted forever or as long as he played

his sax blew notes perpetually lovely
perpetually blue his music an embrace

that made flesh and bones shiver
in delight and curved lips into smiles

.

by Michael L. Newell

.

___

.

Some Mornings, This Is How She Feels

Dawn. The Spanish bakery van
stops by the bodega. The driver
tosses plastic sacks of bread
up to the awning, ready for day.

Cops sit with their coffee.
Homeless men line the church steps
hoping for food while doormen
between shifts lock the buildings,
all doors closed.

It’s all I can do
to play a few strong notes,
a riff or two, a few bars of
my own, without resolution.

The street trembles,
subway vibrations, constant
as the earth’s spin.

This world is not polyrhythmic
but jagged, broken, this is not
syncopation though every beat
is offbeat. Our solos don’t fit. No
pulse, no art to our dissonance.

That bread on the awning. The
only social contract in evidence this
morning. I cannot take my eyes away.

What we’ve got is more
derangement than arranged.
And you? Do you believe an animal
must be broken to be used?

.

by Diane Lefer

.

___

.

Take Me To The Bridge

I will always miss your uncharted territory
never meant for me to discover

Let me pull back the curtain you said
but there was no curtain

just a rote motion from another life
I was grateful for the context

hats and costumes pulled like rabbits
you never looked more free

in that confined space
the width of a piano bench

balancing rocks
learning the chords
plucking hearts
like a master butcher

alone as stars each of us
a constellation strung on sound

shuttered and gone
taken the tin foil off the windows

but I’ve drawn a map in pencil
marking beyond the paper’s edge

uncharted all the way
to the next horizon line

.

by debora ewing

.

___

.

A Boy With Peculiar Grace
……….after watching “Fire Shut Up In My Bones”
composed by Terence Blanchard, libretto by Kasi Lemmons

Thoughts of your youth
Bring you heartache
Bend, but don’t break –
Sway

Face today’s pain
Live as you must
Bend, but don’t break –
Sway

One breaks the earth
To grow a seed
Bend, but don’t break –
Sway

Love is present
It’s inside you
Bend, but don’t break –
Sway

Your story with music
Voices in song
Bend, but don’t break –
Sway

.

by Joel Jacob Todd

.

___

.

Ballata In Forma di Blues

Chet Baker’s Ballata in Forma di Blues
is like a night journey over dulcet water.
The sailboats glide across the channel and
between islands of baroque blue and green.
Swallows fill the air, flute music in my hair
at the edge of evening and gentle breeze.

Numbing dark comes to the houses on shore
as shutters close and candles are lit against it.
Gondolas glide through the indigo like black
swans over glass, in unison with the night,
and the stars ripple across the water like
vibrations of guitar unfurling in the wind.

I gather myself in the night’s yoke, cast my
lines, dip my paddle into the inky blues,
and set off for another midnight session
as the Pleiades dance between strokes,
and the paddle dips and swings like silver
flows, or a trumpet signaling its tired end.

.

by DH Jenkins

.

___

.

Maiden Voyage
……….After Herbie Hancock

Just a fish
………..on her maiden voyage
trying to know the water

Each tide, a day with kaleidoscope
or spyglass
……for steering wind-tossed eyes
to tentative anchor

Hull travels
………..over numerical coordinates,
while compass reels

Like Hancock plays
……………………mandala keys,
dancing the ocean
……………………around the stage

Each morning—virginal flight—
…………….laying first sight
is only eyes peeled

We are all maidens
………………..in the water,
newly minted
………..every day, it seems

.

by Jessica Lee McMillan

.

.

Listen to the 1960 recording of Wes Montgomery playing “In Your Own Sweet Way” (with Tommy Flanagan, piano; Percy Heath, bass; Albert Heath, drums). [Universal Music Group]

.

.

Elegy, in musica

Dear God, the musician prays,
………….in a mystic vision I thought I saw you.
…………………I asked you some questions
that were burning in my mind.

Two years later, you finally answered.

Today, I heard you for the first time.
………….your voice loud and clear
…………………rising from within me.

It’s the hole from which the pitch springs
…………………A flat, E natural, F sharp from a guitar,
………………………..a familiar song long unplayed.

The rests are as powerful as the sixteenth-notes,
………….but only when deployed correctly. It’s in
…………………the spaces in between that their beauty shines.

.

by Elliott Martin

.

___

.

Cancelled

You with tracks of song
layered in your studio

You with six and twelve string guitars,
with sensitive microphones that honor nuance

You place the headphones on my ears
and we birth never-heard-before jazz into the universe

I sing the melody and the harmony,
the soprano and the alto, the obligato scat

You pump the accordion,
left hand well-acquainted with the chord buttons

I strum the four simple chords I know on a guitar I bought
from a friend needing a new prosthetic leg

You bang a tambourine on your thigh,
clang a triangle on the offbeats

I navigate the flute line, moving from octave
to octave, breath from my belly propelling the blues

And when we finally say goodbye to this duo of us,
in your music studio, you erase my voice and instruments

In an envelope with a ninety-eight cent stamp
you mail the new cassette to me,
my voice forever removed.

.

by Marianne Peel

.

___

.

Al The Frontman

Save for rainstorms
and contracts
I love my life.

The hotel room
is a command center.

I throw notes in the air,
an odd signature. I’m what’s left

of what’s underground
after the ground dies.

Marvelous magician
of stress, never out of gossip,

me and money
get together like bruxism

or something smoother
if I don’t play myself

out of getting played.
In the evenings, I play in the subways.

They got their own language
down there.

Come here,
I’ll show you the truth from it
how any gutter holds

its own glossary.
If every step out of the circle

is a bad one, consider me
neogeometric,

This is how you coach space,
chew voice–
trio, quartet, aggravating aggregate.
When I walk out with my band
we look like a mafia of wings.

.

by Sean DesVignes

.

___

.

She Plays Me

Her lips touch my mouthpiece.
She licks me, moistens the reed
then exercises her lungs.
Inhale four, exhale twelve,
in three out sixteen,
in two out twenty.
Her breath cleansed
she prepares for play.

Her fingers fold and stretch.
They walk up and down
my spine tickling my vertebrae.
She readies our bodies
for practice; scales, triads
circle of fifths and riffs.
We are ready.
We are warm.

She takes a deep swallow,
blows into my pura boca.
I release tongued, slurred
and staccato sounds,
whale whistles, bird tweets,
yelps from the depths
of God knows where.
I whine in agony.

She is a beginner,
new to loving me
We talk. We sing. We weep.
We transfix and transform
ears that hear us,
but perform to no one.
We are unstoppable,
without each other unplayable.

.

by Catherine Perkins

.

___

.
Music

Click clack my footsteps clap like a bongo banging for eternity
Fingers tap strumming tunes reminiscing on the good old days
Melodious music repeating rhythms much be said from a simple note
Fiddle stroking trumpet blowing frazzle dazzle too much for show
Thumping thumper in the air with accordion striking lovely verse
Submarine sinking tequila whipping karaoke singing aloud for all to hear
Door step shutting glasses clanging, all clanking up a storm
Drifting off into space time head bobbing neck throbbing from swinging it all around
Sounds of thunder rolling loud lullabying me to rest
Sleep sweet child dreams of glory for one’s heart pounds to infinity and beyond
Take me away to rhythmic jazz and blues playing tropical paradise so I can lay with birds
Piano man flowing nonstop going trying to capture the sun with a broken net

.

by Jaden Pierce

.

___

.

The Juice Of Jazz

When I sing, I will do any thing
To get the sound I’m looking for.
Diatonic or chromatic,
Sacrificing text and lyric,
To be able
To make singing comfortable,
Each swinging beat
Fast, slow or sweet.
Singing tunes I carry on,
Doing tunes that feel honest,
Without fear of singing wrong(ly).

Not a single bar by rote,
Each intro real,
Each note a fraction of the whole,
Blessing my throat,
I rout out note,
The juice of jazz all filled with zeal.

.

by Arlene Corwin

.

___

.

Dat Way

he talks with
smoke words
chopping out
the side of a
crooked mouth
as he let loose
his fat mice
fingers to run the
ups and downs
of clothesline
strings on dat
bass
chasing the sound
while
smacking, slapping
and grunting
the digs of gold
he released
from the caves
he calls the
bottomless flesh
of hometown
as the blues
twist from dat
overworked
bass

.

by Roger Singer

.

___

.

Bonding

Alone
I’m happy.
The air is clean
as I inhale the cool fragrance
of life splashed about me,
to ultimately exhale my glee
into a reed and wooden cylinder
that induces a timbre
my heart identifies at the moment,
a color aided by rhythms
propelled by my fingers
which dance systematically
to propel my mind
into an aural fantasy
that captures the magic
of the blue arena
beneath which I sit,
where horse drawn chariots
fleck the sky
and race toward the gold medallion,
dodging green arrows of white pine
shot from a peak
that balances the prized sphere.
I continue to play
until I am part of this hypnotic episode,
fueled with musical sentiments
that express my appreciation
for the beauty of this place,
and the ability to become
a tangible ingredient.

.

by Michael Keshigian

.

.

"Jazz Guitar" by Marsha Hammel

“Jazz Guitar,” by Marsha Hammel

.

.

Ambrose Akinmusire

Blows the night song and
falls, like soft rain on summer
streets,

and it’s only may

she is glistening like a trumpet
gold, in starlight, she makes music with her
body

whenever she moves, the poetry girl

I always want jazz to make me feel like she does

like a trumpet’s song, anointing me

its song, like her charms
blessing me, with its joy of night

.

by Erren Kelly

.

___

.

Summer Sundays

Summer Sunday afternoons
swinging in the front porch swing
sipping Southern sweet lemonade
to Sanborn’s smooth saxophone serenade.

Shadows steadily sliding eastward
sunlight swallowed in shade
synchronized to nature’s sway
and Sanborn’s smooth saxophone serenade.

Skies streaked in saffron hues
sunrays succumb to eventide rule
still, we sip and swing,
savoring the sultry end of day
to Sanborn’s smooth saxophone serenade.

.

by Antoinette Winstead

.

___

.

White Gardenia
……….(for Lady)

From a dark corner, night crawls across a wood-board floor
warped from a life beneath boots and spilled beer.
Her music is a moan, a collection of sorrows,
lost love, broken hearts, and illegal dreams.
Once again Billie’s trading her life for the blues,
her pretty skin for scars.
She opens a vein,
spills herself across the continent,
and all America can feel it
as evening spreads it’s lonely shadows from east to west.

There’s something of the Baltimore streets
still inside her, that condenses her bones.
A tiredness to it, like a Jones,
as if a long journey by bus or train
across the flatlands of the world
has drained the life out of her
and left an emptiness
she carries in a separate bag,
a satchel of life never to look too deeply into.

When she sings she becomes a shadow
slipping away like God is calling.

It’s not hard to disappear, she tells us,
I’ve been doing it all my life.

So sing your sadness Lady.
Let it fall out like tears.
Hover over us angelic as hell.
There is no doubt of your wings
and your ability to fly as easy as an angel.
We’re here hanging onto the hem of your gown,
saying, Don’t go,
saying, Take us along.
Because you do, Lady,
take us with you
yet leave pieces behind.
Stay and go as if it were as easy as walking,
though now, like this, even that is a struggle.

Sing us to sleep, Lady.
Tonight we will be your children behaving.

.

…….(originally published in Jerry Jazz Musician April 7, 2022)

.

by Robert Kokan

.

___

.

Refugee Jazz

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

.

___

.

Depraved Indifference

His actions were of depraved indifference
To him my feelings were of no consequences
I held no place of honor, I once read he was a
charmer, leading me to give my heart to one
who’d let it fall in an abyss of hurt feelings
total disregards, misunderstandings amounting
in the end to nothing at all

He didn’t ask for my heart, yet he took it
just the same, knowing I would be exuded
from this serenade, he the Maestro, me the
drummer trying to be Kenny Clarke or Baby Dobbs
but I always failed to keep time, missing his beat
until finally ejected from the band, left alone
without a song, and yes I was harmed

.

by Aurora M. Lewis

.

___

.

Mood Indigo

My mood indigoes
Through me,
A purple patch of pooling ink
Spreading concentrically,
Like ripples in a river
From a dropped stone.
Thoughts dripping into my heart,
Filling it with sensation,
Until I have to wring it out,
Splattering the pavement
With perfect steps
On a Sunday morning stroll.
While the village sleeps
In harmony
To my contemplation.
And you may well watch
From behind drawn curtains
As I breeze by without blushing.

.

by Anthony Ward

.

___

.

Minor Changes

She loved me like a jazz tune

An intro
………………….Nervous hellos
Sidelong glances
……………………..Clasp of hands
Kisses at midnight
………………..Leading
to the verse
………………….Champagne
Shared apartment
………………………Steamy showers
Kisses
………..at dawn then
a bridge
………………….Change of key
Staccato trumpet
………………………..Improv
Brushes
…………………..on skins
Another verse
……………………Art house movies
Dinner parties
……………………..too many people
…………..laughing too loud
Holidays on skis
……………………Weather changed
…..Tempo slowed
………………….empty glasses
messy tables
………………………..silent stares
A minor chord
…………….music fades

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by James Higgins

 

 

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Listen to the 1958 recording of Chet Baker performing “Blue Thoughts” (with Johnny Griffin, tenor saxophone; Al Haig, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums).  [Universal Music Group]

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Theme

Late night maybe morning
………….heading home through
………….wet dark streets
under the glow of
………….fleur-de-lis lanterns
………….with their minaret globes
she climbs the stairs
………….the carpeted smell of years
to enter a room overlooking
………….the gray slate rooftops
………….and redbrick chimneys
………….and that one lone tower
………….under the blood smear of clouds
………….in a smoky predawn haze
to fall back upon a bed
………….after the search that yielded
………….nothing now but this now
hearing the crazy neighbors
………….and other voices
………….and one sound like
a trumpet call
………….like a wish for death
………….and sweet release through
………….the bottom of the well
………….of elusive sleep
with a ghost at the door
………….and water traveling through
………….the pipes in the wall

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by Douglas Cole

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Chet Baker’s Smog*

Playing tunes about L.A. while in Italy seems about right:
a metaphor on many levels for what jazz was (and it’s only
gotten worse for those who die keeping it alive, playing
themselves into a tapestry that records their efforts—
on records, for the record—graveyards of recycled bodies
of boys who answered the call, recalling Gabriel’s horn
bellowing chord changes baked into biblical text, or faceless
officers sounding the call to arms, the peculiar music
that dances on the edge of death, itself an old standard
handed down the line, centuries of the same scene, meant
to inspire anyone willing to perish so the song’s context
is secured; different in all ways from the improvisations
played by men in suits, juiced up or strung out or resigned
to their own rueful fates, never closer to something sublime
than when their burned offerings abscond the smoke, a signal
at battle’s end: alive but aware this relief is not sustainable).

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(*In 1962, battling his heroin addiction and—like other jazz artists who had difficulty making a living through their music—decamped in Italy, Baker collaborated with the brilliant composer Piero Umiliani for the soundtrack to Franco Rossi’s film  Smog.)

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by Sean Murphy

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Chet Baker Summer Sketch

In the city of Bologna
There’s a jazz club bears his name
So – typically of course –
He never played there

Preferring one without a gaudy sign
That mainly served spaghetti –

A summer concert in the square
Returning there for supper
He drew a portrait sketch upon the menu

One continuous line
In the manner of Matisse or Cocteau or
Chet Baker when he circles a white space
In notes of calm allusive beauty –

Whose is this suggested face at peace
They promptly framed to hang upon a wall?

Might it be a somnolent
Self-sabotaging angel
Sleepwalking fame’s absurd fast-burning tightrope?

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by Bernard Saint

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Always Cool

Alison weaves on her loom in the living room.
Fifth floor walk up. Manhattan. Chet plays
on the stereo; a trumpet divinely graced,
caressed like a stunning woman’s body, soft
velvet skin. Soiled by drugs.

A hot night in the Big Apple; people walk streets
below to get cool. Chet, he was always cool no matter
the heat. He played horns and women and drugs;
determined to stain his life; back-alleys wherever
he traveled.

Where’d you go man? Where’d you go?
They found your body beneath a hotel window.
Amsterdam Self-inflicted accident waiting,
took the offering gods bestowed.

Not a valentine, not a work of art, though you were
all that to her, to Alison my blonde goddess friend
who wove your tunes, brilliant reds and blues and light;
no chaos.

She’s gone now too. I dream she found you; you
sing her songs, caress the horn in the way only
a genius can. You’re happy together. It’s what I have,
what I hold — from long ago and far away.

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…..(Originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician June 29, 2022)

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by Judith Vaughn

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Jam Sessions Are Ubiquitous

Rain dances on windowpanes,
flutters off glass, explores
wilderness of time and space,

as Milt Jackson’s mallets sing
and swing on resonators, unleash
sound seducing bodies into movement;

listeners swerve and dance hither
and thither on either occasion:
all life a pretext for jazz.

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by Michael L. Newell

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Kenny Ball And His Jazzmen
………Live 2010. Kenny Ball died in March 2013

I want to praise the band as they play their great hit from 1961,
March of the Siamese Children, because I can hum along with it.
And when Kenny mentions his cataract operation I look round and see
half the audience wear glasses and, apart from Nick (the drummer), Barney
(with his parents) and Jules (behind the mixing desk), I’m the youngest here.

I want to praise the band because I fell in love with them as they played
Dixieland, Fats Waller, the Beatles, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong
and so much else. Kenny tells a story about meeting Louis’s wife Lil
in New Orleans in 1962 and she said his was the best band she ever heard.
Mind you, she was deaf, blind, and probably incontinent at the time.

I want to praise the band because they’re so democratic. The trumpet,
trombone and clarinet stitch and weave the songs together,
the drum solo is a blizzard, the piano solo jazzes up some Mozart
and the bassist tells a joke he doesn’t understand but others seem to.
I want to praise Kenny who said I still love you all at the end of the set

I want to praise Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen because the band
has been together just about all my life and I’ll never see these legends
together again and I just feel so lucky to have seen them playing Samantha,
Someday (You’ll Be Sorry), Midnight in Moscow, Casablanca, Hello Dolly
and When I’m Sixty-Four before Kenny dies and goes to jazz heaven.

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by Rodney Wood

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Keyboard Player by Marsha Hammel

“Keyboard Player,” by Marsha Hammel

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Secrets from The Deer Head

If you put your ear to the wall,
a table, a chair, the wide plank floorboards—
you might hear dust mites and woodworm sing
the faint falsetto tale of their acquired DNA.

Tiny savants who’ve crawled up the evolutionary scale
to spawn generations of pitch-perfect whisperers,
curators of ‘cool’—an archive of beats and chord changes
cached in the woodwork.

I used to think there was an uncanny gene
for Improvise—how every jazz musician is born to hear
what every other jazz musician is about to hear,
before any note has even been played.

But I’m guessing they get their cues
from those microscopic hoarders of melodic dust
and jazz debris, hiding in the drum set, the cracks
in the floor, the patina on the piano keys.

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…..Poet’s note: The Deer Head Inn, in Delaware Water Gap, PA, is the oldest
continuously running jazz club in the country.

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by Lia Di Stefano

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___

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Billie’s Blues

She sits upon a tufted seat
white gardenia in hair
wedged heel pounding out the beat

Scent of Tweed blends with sax
first the high hat is tapped then the snare
Lady Day and orchestra are laying down tracks

It is autumn in New York
and finding a lover man is easy
fine and mellow, she pops a wine cork

Spirits are bitter; strange fruit to the tongue
still, she toasts— God Bless the Child
as bass guitar is strummed— is wrung

Ooh, ooh, ooh, what moonlight can do
Billie clamors, snapping fingers to the beat
what moonlight can do to you.

Into a gloomy Sunday goes Billie, so sweet
recording session has ended
in her solitude, she strolls along a Harlem street

She even covered the waterfront
scoring some smack— it’s now or never
within her purse her curse is hidden
alongside a blunt…

She sits: me myself and I, in her room
she don’t explain—
as she cooks her demon with silver spoon

Good morning heartache; it is time to cope
gonna be stormy blues for Billie,
thanks to dope!

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by Rita Rose

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___

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My Daughter And Rain

my daughter and rain
becoming a song of summer,
her feet lost in the song of jazz,
she finds her epiphany in the light
wading in the water
becoming one with the
moment
the storm leaves behind…

my daugher in the rain..
one day she will be grown
and the rain will be gone…
but she will linger as a rainbow,
a storm in dreams…

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by Erren Kelly

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___

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Murmurations

My friend and I are talking indignant politics
as we head across the Mid-Hudson bridge,
steel sky above, chilly water below,
when a cloud of birds twists, spins above us.

They seek every bare branch, fill them
as if they were summer leaves, then scatter
again like confetti in wind. No one is in charge,
yet balance animates all.

Like scat singers, each vibrating note resounds,
rebounds. Each airborne thrum and trill,
purr and prattle sweeps the skies, harmony
clear, like a drummer’s brush technique.

Their grace is a loose coordination:
Swing. Smooth. Bebop. Hip Hop. Cool.
Aerial musicians in synchrony, each linked
to the next. We discontented humans drive on.

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Poet’s note: Murmuration is the name given to flocks of starlings flying together in coordinated, whirling, ever-changing patterns. Hundreds, even thousands, of these iridescent birds often look like shape-shifting clouds as they sweep across the skies. Flocks have no leaders and no pre-set plans for their flights. Scientists believe that each bird communicates with its seven nearest neighbors as they move as a collective whole.

.

……..(Originally appeared in  Allegro Poetry Magazine; March 2017)

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by Mary K O’Melveny

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___

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Remembrance of Things Past–II
…………………….for Larry & Ruth Ann

After meat loaf & mashed at the Metro Diner,
……….the windows of my car thick with fog,
I turn on the jazz station, hear a lonely tenor,
……….recognize the instrumental, “Since I Fell for You;”
Stanley Turrentine; a voice cutting through the many years,
……….all that music we’d heard, & shared,
Driving through the night I tune into the non-physical,
………………..trust in their presence, my speeding car.

Once a month I drive to Philly for a 17-piece big band,
……….sit two feet away from the five blaring saxes,
Alone at the table I invite David, Larry, ’cause they’d still love it,
……….even though they’re beyond it all, now
Spending time with old vinyl, Dizzy & Basie on Pablo,
……….albums Larry’d suggested for me, still vibrant,
An attachment we’d created in bars & jazz joints, at
……….Boomer’s & Highlights; from Pratt to J&R’s.

These days I’m filling my retired hours with boxes,
……….old papers, collected over almost 40 years
Discarding much, letting so much go, the unnecessary
……….words of the past; but I find a memoir, 1983,
The wanna-be writer talking friendship, a few ancient
……….typewritten pages for his 31st birthday;
The connection we had, then.
……….……….The connection which remains, today.

As you continue in your journey, alone, without him,
……….all his collections, his vinyl, now in other’s hands;
Only stuff; stuff’s easy to let go. Gone, yes, but spirit,
……….yet alive, & well. Listening, with me. With you.

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by Phil Linz

.

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Listen to the 1957 recording of Thelonious Monk playing “I Should Care” [Universal Music Group]

.

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Back Water

it’s a distant
beginning place
where roots reached
from dirt roads
and sidewalks
while passing
through nameless
towns
recovering from
fractured connections
of vines and lines
reflected on
questioning the
lonely searching
shadow faces
like slow drifting
back water
muddy streams
where the jazz
of hurt
floats to the
surface

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by Roger Singer

.

___

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Koko

It was in some rowdy bar,
maybe Blind Willies in Atlanta
or that lost night in the windy city
when Koko Taylor took over
the stage at Kingston Mines,
that I fell in love with the Blues.

All night long, stompin’ out the beat —
hard-rocking, soul-thundering Blues —
Man, how the good times rolled
when the raw growl of The Queen
summoned the crowd —
“Come on to Mama”

and “pitch a wang dang doodle
all night long
all night long.”

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by Russell duPont

.

___

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Delta General

Dilapidated frame store stands
Gray-brown on the outside against Orange Crush signs,
Dark behind the screen doors that bang gently when you enter—
Glass cases full of jawbreakers and case-knives
Squat behind humming red Coke boxes;
Earth fragrance clings like a lover
Around cooler of Blue Ribbon and Jax.

At night,
Guitar sings soul in next-door juke joint,
Harmonica wails pain away—
Blues ooze, cake-walk out of doors—
Strings sing under callused finger-tips of Son;

Muddy wails waters of tears
In a Rainey night in Greenville,
As eternal as the flow of the River to the Gulf.

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by Emory Jones

.

___

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Musical Nostalgia

Friday night! – it’s time for jazz
On late-night Boston radio
With “Eric in the Evenings”
Playing Christian Scott…

That trumpet makes me feel
Like drinking Pinot Grigio wine
And when I hear “After All”
I feel wordless wonder at his craft

I’ll go to bed now with the
Station on beside me
And dream of New York City
Where I lived 30 years ago,

Where taxis buzzed around
Past skyscrapers, and pedestrians
In patterned shirts and oxfords
Copied hipster artists of the ‘50s

And where I could get a cup
Of morning coffee for 90 cents
And drink it on my way
To work at that old nightclub

Where the owner used to tell me
He’d opened it for friends,
But soon everyone was there
Listening to sax and jazz piano –

Time is transient – I had
Youth and verve back then,
But when I moved I held onto
Every vestige of the music.

.

by Martha Patterson

.

___

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Three Journeys in New York City Rain

It rained once,as Bird
hustled to Birdland
stepped in drenched
footprints that we imprint
today while oily foul
odors rising from grates
stings all of our eyes.

Rain dripped from
Five Spot skies as
Thelonious was stepping
curbside
where a million soles
have tapped and shuffled
before we, windswept hastened past.

Hurrying down green mold
clanging iron stairs
to the grimy dirty subway car
our steps touch
where wet Vanguard bound shoes
of Coltrane, Dolphy stood hushed
consulting on the rattling platform.

Our feet
touch rain gushing
dirty water gutters,
where jazz of starless New York nights
once was.

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by Dan Brown

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___

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Traffic Lights

The wet pavement reflects
the traffic lights that seem
to smile at rain, embrace
it. It’s like the Kingdom
of Night talked in colors,
and made you think, UN
think. The sweet breeze
after the rain makes me
appreciate silence like it
is is a song of its own: cars
passing, the sound of their
hurried tires, grey figures
walking, quiet, almost
apologetic, stooping their
heads under the skies (our
universal roof), the safety of
a warm jumper. You can
hear the almost
imperceptible traces of jazz
music when it
was played in the 60s
at the corner of every ‘
street, plunging you
back into an imagined
nostalgia, one you have
never experienced
but you have heard of
from your parents,
documentaries. I feel like I
am there at dusk when the
rain comes, clapping the road
like a calm audience. In this
atmosphere, I become
almost deaf. Every sound
is muffled, soft, more
compassionate. I
long for the moment
when I leave the bus,
pick a book on the shelf,
smell its pages, damp
at night when dew is
preparing to come
and I listen to the
rainy symphony
of jazz, for
ever.

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by Claire Andreani

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Click here  to read the artist and poet biographies

.

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Click here to read the spring 2022 collection of jazz poetry

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

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

.

Click here  for information about how to submit your poetry

Click here to subscribe to the quarterly Jerry Jazz Musician newsletter

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3 comments on “A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Summer, 2022 Edition”

  1. Joe,
    Thank you once again for your erudite collection of jazz poetry. Your website is a treasure of jazz collections and connections. I love the way you weave the arts into one tapestry depicting the best of human endeavors. I recommend it to everyone I know.
    Carry on!

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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

photo by Mel Levine/pinelife, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Lady Day and Prez” by Henry Wolstat

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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.

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
A very brief three-dot update…Where I’ve been, and an update on what is coming up on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

Photographer uncredited, but the photo was almost certainly taken by Chuck Stewart. Published by ABC/Impulse! Records.. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“And I’m Not Even Here” – a poem by Connie Johnson

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Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

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Poetry

Three poets and Sketches of Spain

Interview

IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

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Review

Jason Innocent, on “3”, Abdullah Ibrahim’s latest album... Album reviews are rarely published on Jerry Jazz Musician, but Jason Innocent’s experience with the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s new recording captures the essence of this artist’s creative brilliance.

Short Fiction

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Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

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

Book Excerpt

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

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A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #171

Dick Cavett/via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to being one of the greatest musicians of his generation, this Ohio native was an activist, leading “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group formed in the late 1960’s who “adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs (i.e. the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett [pictured] and Merv Griffin) in protest of the small number of Black musicians employed by networks and recording studios.” Who was he?

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Community

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.“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

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Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an 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;  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

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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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