. . photo by Bernard Gotfryd/Library of Congress/PDM 1.0 Thelonious Monk, 1968 . ___ . Thelonious Monk and Mama Thelonious Monk paints a picture of Mama with his piano, the way Monet or Matisse would, with paint: loud, bright colorful notes that are a Rorschach test, screaming on the page. Perhaps, Mama would’ve modeled … Continue reading ““Thelonious Monk and Mama” – a poem by Erren Kelly”
Earlier this year I invited poets to submit jazz-themed poetry that didn’t need to strictly follow the 5-7-5 syllabic structure of formal haiku, but had to at least be faithful to the spirit of it (i.e. no more than three lines, brief, expressive, emotionally insightful).
This collection, featuring 22 poets, is a good example of how much love, humor, sentimentality, reverence, joy and sorrow poets can fit into their haiku devoted to jazz.
When a marketing writer gets a new neighbor, she finds herself dreading the 2:00 practice sessions of The Musician. In Rear Window fashion, The Writer is kept apprised of The Musician’s life happenings through a combination of watching out the window and listening to the story told through her music. When a crisis entangles the two women, they form a bond that penetrates the wall that stands between them – despite never having met.
Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. In this edition, the poet connects the recordings of Jessica Williams’ “Little Waltz” and Gene Harris’ “Summertime.”
Ella Fitzgerald is whispering
to me: “sit here and enjoy your dinner with my
sweet honey voice,” eternal bloom of time,
filling the corner of the street where I eat
with a Golden Age long gone but that remains
like an idea, lingering, like the steam of a
hot bath leaving
traces of fingers on the mirror
There are two types of clubs
Highfalutin hoity-toity stuck up clubs
And gritty grimy dingy dank dungeons
I prefer the latter, for obvious reasons
Clubs must be weathered
Crackled paint & nicotine stained
Neil Young stumbled off the stage more exhausted than usual. It had been a trying gig, watching Danny Whitten teeter from chord to chord on a heroin-fueled high-wire act that just seemed to get more perilous as the night wore on. It was fine that Danny blew some chords—everyone blew chords in this band. That was what made Crazy Horse special in the first place. If Neil wanted every note pure and perfect, he could have stuck with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. But what would have been the point of that? It was like playing a benediction for your own immaculate coffin.
This edition features poetry chosen from hundreds of recent submissions, and from a wide range of voices known – and unknown – to readers of these collections. The work is unified by the poets’ ability to capture the abundance of jazz music, and their experience with consuming it.
A man once asked me about ambition, not in a typical sense of family and lifetime accomplishments, more of a rhetorical artistic conversation. To me, it wasn’t a topic which warranted a structured answer let alone a real plan, God forbid life would be linear and predictable. Now, over two decades later, I am found in Notting Hill’s Rooftop Cafe, writing a story which could possibly address the subject unintentionally.
20-year-old Priscilla Habel lives with her wannabe flapper mother who remains stuck in the jazz age 40 years later. Life is monotonous and sad until Cil meets Willie Flasterstain, a beatnik lesbian who offers an escape from her mother’s ever-imposing shadow.
. . Lester Young, 1946 . . Solace I relish the cultivation of my Lester afternoons an endeavor still absorbing at my age captive in that garden of ambient sound …………………that Young tenor breath ………………………….a zephyr expulsion stirring atmosphere rare these days for this climate caressing time & movement with a tone to stream still … Continue reading ““Solace” – a poem by Terrance Underwood”
and the epitome of 50s style
Anita O’Day steps onto
the stage, white gloves
to her elbows, black hat
crowned with white feathers,
slim black dress and finger clicks
the band into sound and dynamic
jazz minors and majors.
What if you love music…but you can no longer hear? Ms. Flock’s story contemplates the paralleled loss of the protagonist’s hearing and her husband, where music fits into her life now, and attempts to forge a new relationship being deaf.
This busy bee, at the end of a life like clockwork,
a symphony of service to everything but herself—
wings snatched in a world blinded by the way it is—
slowly expiring in the sweet nectar of stillness,
. . “Guy Ryan,” a short story by Alice Sherman Simpson, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 62nd Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author. . This story is a chapter from author’s book-in-progress, One For Sorrow. . . ___ . . photo by Lalesh Aldarwish/via Pexels … Continue reading ““Guy Ryan” – a short story by Alice Sherman Simpson”
. . The Sunday Poem is published weekly, and strives to include the poet reading their work. Ms. Baptiste reads her poem at its conclusion. . . ___ . . David Dellepiane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons . . Jazz Within Me I like Jazz playing within me. ……………….Record that never skips. Since age sixteen, … Continue reading “The Sunday Poem: “Jazz Within Me” by Jerrice Baptiste”
. . “The Occasional Girl,” a short story by Mark Bruce, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 62nd Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author. . . ___ . . Photo: Kubat Sydykov / World Bank/CC By-NC-ND-2.0 . The Occasional Girl by Mark Bruce . … Continue reading ““The Occasional Girl” – a short story by Mark Bruce”
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.
. . “Modus Dualis,” by Martel Chapman . . Riff ‘n’ Tiff There was no time signature to save Louis Armstrong from the shivery brine. Monk volunteered to heave his piano overboard to give the lifeboat more zest but it wouldn’t budge or stay in tune for that matter. Moisture had initiated a rift between … Continue reading ““Riff ‘n’ Tiff” – humor by Dig Wayne”
A saxophonist and his teenage daughter – a drummer –bond over their club performance of John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C,” but it doesn’t come without its parental challenges, and the father’s warm remembrance of her childhood.
A wealthy art dealer discovers that his grandfather purchased art confiscated from Jewish families before and after World War II, and meets an elderly woman who was affected by the grandfather’s actions.
.This collection of jazz poetry – the largest yet assembled on Jerry Jazz Musician – demonstrates how poets who are also listeners of jazz music experience and interact with the spontaneous art that arises from jazz improvisation, which often shows up in the soul and rhythm of their poetic language.
In the winter of 1981 we were hired to play Downtown—
a performance in Greenwich Village billed “Frank Zappa Presents:
a Musical Tribute to Edgard Varèse.” I sat on stage,
wearing black, tuning my violin, warming up,
looking out at the audience milling around, most of them
covered in tattoos and piercings of every body part
As if the stars contained wood ticks
on fire. As if there were forests within
forests. Trees within stones. Stones
folded over into water.
The most secret nocturnal animals
walk around during the day, unseen.
You listen to Karrin Allyson sing “Blame It on My Youth,” you picture her in the throes of its May-December scenario. You picture her on a college campus. Columbia University, the steps in front of Low, a pleated skirt, a short bob, the full flush of love on her cheeks.
sittin’ in the corner knowing what others don’t get and smile-noddin’ over scotch and coda after a day bounced you about like Buddy’s snare and high hat clamped you down to sweet Georgia brown dirt in the Summertime wailed by Sidney Bechet
Through your horn’s dark pieties,
the glamor of its golden mouth, a youth
lost to the call and response of too many needle-nights,
too many dumps, too many dives,
you play a mudwater music, slow-flowing under an old iron bridge,
so sad, so far gone, it wings away never to come back.
A broad collection of jazz 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.
I rise, change the sheets on the bed
that used to be in Mother’s basement.
I step into her body or she into mine,
attempt to line the blanket and spread
evenly, to tuck in the ends the “military”
square-corner-way and then, I remember
Mother doing chores to jazz, blues
Was it something she said? about
the famous Charlie Parker drawers
He — himself a drawer —
illustrator, declaimer of conclusions —
commenced to rapping
on LA flight
My mother used to take me here. It’s different in the dark; the metal frames lurk like gallows and the railings remind me of prison bars. I don’t remember her pushing me in the bucket seat, but I believe she did. I do remember the big girls’ swing: hours and hours we spent. She took the seat beside me; we leant and pulled together, stretched pointed toes, forwards and backwards, rising and falling, higher and higher, hands gripped on chains and our bottoms lifting as we peaked. I pick at the paint on a rusted spear and nick my finger. Blood trickles onto my palm. I lick it off and the taste is metallic, as if my flesh is made from city. Perhaps the city took over, where my mother left off.
When I hear Sketches of Spain or Kind of Blue – Miles Davis masterpieces from his earlier career – I am always calmed, thrilled by the ways that music can take over every portion of a person from head to toe, from inside to outside, from innermost mind to outermost layer of skin.
. . Distributed by Joe Glaser’s Associated Booking Corporation. Photographer uncredited and unknown., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Chet Baker, 1955 . . 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 … Continue reading ““Always Cool” — a poem by Judith Vaughn”
Throughout the day, the sky has bled
boatloads of water to drown the streets,
a level of grief I have not known
since the day the e-mail arrived
with the heading, “Landing gear down,”
a note from a brother informing me
of my father’s passing in Oregon
The wind sandpapered John’s cheeks the instant he opened the swing door. By the time he’d stepped down from Bill’s Billiards into the street he was shivering.
He hadn’t been good on stage: every second tune had reminded him of Riley, the turd.
There was no traffic and even the pizza place had closed, and he missed its earlier smells of warm mozzarella and meat. The chill air did, however, carry the hint of something, a snatch of melody from a passing car or a distant open window, and he listened, seeking its source.
The voice comes down from the bedroom, winding down the stairs, crankily.
It does not at once compel in the manner of one of my “favorite singers” on the radio. I am a person, to use the word loosely, who does not own record albums, or a record player. What I hear from upstairs at her house, wailing down from the steps in that unassimilable voice, is the whine of the prairie. A rusty gate. A barroom complaint…
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.
Inspired by the essays collected in the jazz and cultural critic Nat Hentoff’s 2010 book At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene, in this series of poems Sean Howard uncovers new relationships and resonances in the author’s writing – reusing, recycling, and remixing text from the book as poetry – while allowing him the opportunity to pay a personal tribute to a writer he reveres.
. . “Opus One,” a story by Amadea Tanner, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 59th Short Fiction Contest, and is published with the consent of the author . . ___ . . photo by Gordon Parks/Library of Congress . Opus One By Amadea Tanner . …..The Dempsey Quintet pulsed eight to … Continue reading ““Opus One” — a short story by Amadea Tanner”
Gail’s days on the bandstand are behind her now, London nights swapped for the life of a farmer’s wife back in Devon. But if an intriguing young man with a love of Billy Strayhorn wants sax lessons, who is she to deny him the chance to experience what she has given up?
Now when I start telling you about John Jones Sr., I don’t want you to go and get the wrong idea on me. And I don’t want anyone else to hear about it because I’ll deny it sure as I blow hella on this old harp. There are things that he knows about me that only your Pop can know. For that I got to love him. Even though times are when he gives it to me good.
It was a summer of jazz leaking out through shuttered windows; of breaking glass and rage from the anonymous facades of brick apartments; of winged girls trying to fly from atop the Cathedral of St. Louis; of women trying to take back the night from jugglers and mimes and the men who lurked and looked too long. And through all of this, we walked hand in hand, visitors from a planet where soybean fields bookmarked the horizon and the sweet smell of corn danced across the dusk.
Dressed in a tight-fitting black suit, Rosario Cino, flanked by his son Mario and his nephew Charlie, also in black suits, exited the cool of All Souls Church and stepped into a rank wall of unseasonably warm and humid air. They and a handful of friends and relatives had just sat through the funeral of Guido Tutolo, a former bookie, loan shark, and paisan—and last of the old gang, as Rosario had said repeatedly to his son and nephew, neither of whom seemed torn up about the death, their connection to Guido limited, their youthfulness of course looking forward.
So long ago, before Ornette Coleman,
Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane—
all those free spirits running up and down
the alphabet of jazz, there was old
J.S. Bach, running through the changes.
I always picture him, and hear him,
at the pipe organ in Tomas Kirsche
all by himself,
In a modern literary retelling of The Little Mermaid, Pearl, a talented singer, leaves her tiny seaside town to enter the music business. She must let go of everything she thought she wanted to discover her true worth.
Molly Larson Cook’s abstract-expressionist paintings accompany the 50 poets contributing to this collection. Her art has much in common with the poetry and music found within it; all three art forms can be described as “landscapes of the imagination,” created by artists from all over the world who are inspired in a meaningful way by jazz music, and whose work can be uniquely interpreted and appreciated (or not!) by those who consume it.
It was probably Dean who was responsible for him being where he was right now, he thought as he sat across the table from his fiancée listening to her talk about the wedding and the gifts they were registered for and the reception. He had discovered an album he didn’t approve of – Barbra Streisand – among Dean’s records when he went to stay with him shortly after he got married to a woman from Cleveland.
One of my greatest joys for decades
was exploring unknown record shops.
I once walked into a newly opened used
shop around the corner from my university
and discovered a used album, apparently
the improvisatory result of a session
set up by Norman Granz that included
I never did read the news, though I don’t suppose
it made a splash in the Post or Herald Tribune–
with maybe just a line or two
among the baseball stats, divorces,
and the marches picking up
deep down in the Cotton States.
I had a little radio up on top of the refrigerator, and I turned it on as the sunlight went and the world filled up with darkness. I listened to a jazz station and smoked a cigarette and blew the smoke out the window.
Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work. Emily Jon Tobias of Dana Point, California is the winner of the 58th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award. In “Mouth Organ,” Monk is a young musician who comes of age within his family domain, first by falling in love with girlfriend Gloria, and then having to face an unreconciled past with his mother, Bunny.
The jazz DJ you listened to each morning
Is broadcasting from another sphere.
Perhaps you and Phil are parsing
Charlie Parker together.
His nasal voiced juicy lisp that spilled
details of Parker, Lester Young, and Coltrane,
no longer flies the airwaves in Birdflight.
Dear Miss Ella, song supreme,
Improvisations sovereign –
I, swayed and moved by.
She, both modest, shy
Yet spoke of love (and what’s above),
Deserving place in poetry
Centered around her artistry –
The art of spontaneity;
A musicality called jazz!
It’s never easy to say goodbye, especially when you didn’t get there in time. Dad was hours away from me and I didn’t have a car and it was the middle of the night when I got word. Words. Sung off-key.
Dim dusk breaks down
the receding light and one after another
strands of the passing hour unravel
leaving behind an existence beyond time
that opens the doors to another world:
It’s late in the evening in a foreign metropolis
Missa brevis —a little requiem. At most I know
perhaps forty Latin words and have already used up
four of them. Maybe not too bad for a Jew boy.
And besides, editors of poetry are always carping:
Keep it short.
One of the best things about my life is that in the course of it I had the chance to see the great Blind Lemon Jefferson on eleven different occasions. This was especially gratifying because for me he was the finest blues singer who ever lived, even better than Robert Johnson or Charlie Patton or Bessie Smith.
“It’s not exclusive, but inclusive, which is the whole spirit of jazz.”
And…this spirit is not limited to the musicians, because celebrating jazz is rich in creative opportunity for writers and visual artists as well. The 54 poets who contribute to this poetry collection are living proof of that.
As always, thanks to the poets, and I hope you enjoy…