Jazz…in eight poems

May 16th, 2024

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A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

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“Jazz Orchestra,” by Vaino Kunnas/via Wikimedia Commons

 

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The Last Paragraph, Especially

The last paragraph, especially
in the chapter on Imagism:

the Plato quote
about musical modality changes

echoing across the centuries
ancient + modern

from Classical Greece
to Hip Hop NYC

whispering the warning
of music’s impact on the Polis

that my friend twists in
the direction of censorship
or, worse

consider the case of Pussy Riot
In Russia

+Pete Seeger in the USA
or, think Beat politics, poetics

with Dylan walking the razor’s edge
of risk taking
creativity

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by Jim Mello

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The Symphony Of Sounds

children
dream of peace
trumpets in the air

the preacher man
last sermon —
end times

as I travel the road
the rhythm of life
in every corner

Lagos trademark
a not-for-sale inscription
on the face of the walls

the blues
the soul the funk
the rap

high school kids
breakdancing
in chuck taylor

I learn
songs of struggle
and resilience

imbued with language
of mother’s tongue
djembe

hope persists
where love transcends
and hatred dies

which lives for years
burning into ashes
phoenix

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by Christina Chin/Uchechukwu Onyedikam

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Scenes From The Cafe
……………(Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Winter, 1999)

Talking near piano and wooden bar are three deep in conversation:
a Russian pianist who loves Simon and Garfunkel,
an Uzbek singer whose passions are
Sinatra, Bennett, and Chet Baker (he performs
their songs to taped accompaniment
in a sparsely filled backroom), and an American teacher
whose consuming interests are Celtic, Appalachian, Delta Blues,
Inca music, and Miles Davis. The three argue the relative
merits of melody and rhythm, music with lyrics
and music unadorned by language.

*

The tape deck wails with Turkish music.
An Irishman and a Kazakh, businessmen, share
a farewell meal. The Irishman keeps calling
for “The Rose of Tralee.”

*

Young Russian and Ukrainian women belly dance to a tune
from a James Bond thriller while Turkish businessmen
stuff money down their skirts. A fiftyish expatriate, a ringer
for Sydney Greenstreet, works hard to impress a peroxide blonde.
A well-dressed professional couple slump in their seats, stare
into space with faces stripped of expression.

*

Midnight. One American customer and the staff (Russian, Uzbek,
Tajik, Estonian, and Korean) sip coffee, cola, wine, and listen
to Aretha Franklin ask for some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Everyone sings along
and fakes a dance step or two. An old drunk outside
presses her face against the window and laughs. The staff takes a bow.

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by Michael L. Newell

………….from Collision Course  (published 1999 by Four-Sep Publications)

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In The Cruise Piano Bar

A grey day on the ocean
followed by an evening
at the piano bar.

The girl with sadness in her eyes
plays a slowly rolling vamp
that segues to a ragtime piece
and cocktail drinkers tap their feet
in recognition of a tune
their parents might have known.

Her face a veil, Botox stiff,
across who knows what inner strife
keeps her awake at night,
while music flows
from practised fingers
coaxing magic from her keys.

She ends the set,
bows stony faced
in scant acknowledgement
of thin applause,

shuffles music sheets
before retreating to her world
and the voices she hears
in a language
her audience cannot comprehend.

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by Adrian Green

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The Summer I Sang Like Billie

I breathe;
I solo.
Like the year I sang like
Billie; full-bodied!
I was waiting for you to
Receive my song

That was the summer
I was a bus stop Billie Holiday
Humming underneath my breath
I could remember lyrics like it wasn’t
Nothing: “got a moon above me
but no one to love me…”

On those boulevards, schoolbooks
In my arms; lyrics poured
And it felt like I could see
You; a horizon of trembling
Parenthesis of need. Enfold
Me! Enclose me under this
Moonlight of need

A jazz meditation
We are the two titans
Like Lady Day & Prez
Poor & Black; parenthesis of
Need, full and over-flowing

It was summertime
Insouciance; and let’s not pretend
We don’t know the origin of the word
Jazz; we claim it! And I wait for you
I wait for you
I wait for you

To receive my
Song

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by Connie Johnson

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Why Sophia Can’t Get Enough Of Marrakesh

At the old-school bookstore next door
to your neighborhood coffee shop,
you find an obscure poetry journal
from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

You read a poem on page twenty-three
whose syllabic rhythm skips to a beat,
like a shiny, slick rock
skip
……………….skip
…………………………skip
……………………………………skips across a lake
on a lazy summer day.

You imagine a poet reading the poem,
backed by a man slowly plucking strings
on an upright bass shaped like a voluptuous woman.

You find yourself snapping your fingers
and tapping your feet to the poem
as if it were a song stuck in your head,
it’s hook hooked in your mind,
repeating
……………….to a beat
…………………………to a beat
……………………………………to a beat
till you find yourself
in a dingy basement jazz joint
tucked away near Bleeker Street.

And you think about
that poem you read
in that hole-in-the-wall coffee shop
run by a man from Morocco
where tea is served in
metal-adorned glass cups
with fresh mint leaves,
and coffee is brewed
with water infused
with mace, cardamom,
and cinnamon from Ceylon.

There is a sign near the antique brass cash register:
If you want whipped cream with coffee, go to Starbucks.
It never fails to make you laugh,
letting the man from Morocco know
his sense of humor has found
your sense of humor’s g-spot.

So you sit at a wobbly wooden table
gripping your scotch on the rocks.
The ice jingles against the glass.
A man on an upright base
shaped like a Sophia Loren
plucks at strings setting
a beat for a drummer to
tap his skins and cymbals
with feathered sticks.
A woman pulls the slide on her trombone.
Her cheeks expand to full bullfrog.
She exhales into brass.

You sip your scotch.
Your throat is bathed in warmth.
You open your eyes
to witness a trio of noises
that is nothing less
than poetry.

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by Bryan Franco

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Crepuscule With Nica

Welcome to New York why don’t you
Set your watch and mind to Nica-time
Day begins all night and runs for days

Her be-bop Bentley beams zaddik transmission
She beats the lights and smiles outrunning Miles
So help yourself to scotch it’s in the teapot

Half-parked at the Five Spot she walks full-ballerina
The drummer’s nodding wafer cymbals sizzle
‘Wild’‘amazing’ ‘Nica’s here tonight’

Then back home there’s hi-fi for each room
Except the bathroom where the baby-grand
Legs attract as scratching-posts for cats

‘The Cats!’ ‘The Cat-house!’ ‘Filled with Cats!’
‘Some three-legged some too-cool two-legged Cats’
So Sarah said of Weehawken – when Garbo came to tea

While Mister Monk will put on Astrakhan
Hat and coat composing
Confident intensities inside selected silences

Or Mister Silver sleek and fresh of moonlight
On posting his jazz messengers abroad
Wide awake composing ‘Nica’s Dream’

Rabbi Ginsberg has this Grace to say
‘Contrary to the American Dream
Time is not Money – but Music’

As joyfulness returns to jazz
Where deconstructed blues street meets
Atonal spirituality

So welcome to the world why don’t you
Set your heart and soul to ‘Nica’s Tempo’ –
What is true in time is true forever

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by Bernard Saint

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In The Pocket

I carry Jaco around with me. Literally.

I played the Essential in the car, slipped it
In my pocket to bring it back inside.
I wear an old coat, and the pocket has torn.
So I carry the CD with me where it fell through,
At the inside bottom of the skirt of my coat.
It’s there forever, maybe.

Jaco would be down with wearing old clothes.

This explains a lot. On Sundays I hear
Jaco and the Frenchman, beautiful almost
As coffee and Coltrane. When I wake at four
Herbie and Jaco are in my living room,
Trading chameleon riffs. To get back to sleep
Flora and Jaco hum to me, in voice and bass:
Da-dah. Dah-da, Dah-da!
When I go out Jaco is on the bill,
Honored on Christopher Street again,
Playing the 55 Bar with Mike Stern.
They will play Mike’s “Mood Swings.”
Wonder where he got the inspiration?

I get the taste of Heineken in my mouth again too.
I gave it up long ago, while Jaco
Was still quaffing it at Mills’ Tavern.
It’s an itch that can’t be scratched.

Now I know why I feel like shouting
I’m the Greatest Poet in the World!
And the next minute mourning
The angel who stumbled on the head of a pin.
Who loves ya?  I say to the ancient waitress.
Is it coincidence her name is Ingrid? I think not!

And it’s fucked up February again.
Jaco is in Belgium on TV, communing
With his February gods, grinning to play again
With Toots who he loves like a father.
Intoxicated? Yes, by playing beautiful music,
The one he wrote for Ingrid.
Yes, by playing music with someone he loves.
Catastrophe turned into tearful communion,
That’s riding the knife edge, and not getting cut.

I can dig it, baby.  Who’s the father of your soul?

Come on then. I’m going to play Dylan tonight
In the open mic while mumbling his lyrics.
Yes, I still suck as bad as the last time.
You taught me how to suck it up and move on.
I will try to make it beautiful. But I’m sometimes errant.
The songs you wrote are beautiful,
In the pocket, such an essential errand.

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by Mark Fogarty

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Malaysian artist Christina Chin is a widely published haiku poet. She is a four-time recipient of top 100 in the mDAC Summit Art Contests, exhibited at the Palo Alto Art Center. She is the sole haiku contributor for MusArt book of Randall Vemer’s paintings. 1st prize winner of the 34th Annual Cherry Blossom Sakura Festival 2020 Haiku Contest. 1st prize winner in the 8th Setouchi Matsuyama 2019 Photo-haiku Contest.

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Mark Fogarty is a poet, musician and journalist. He curates The Jaco Pastorius Gig List on Facebook

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Bryan Franco is a gay, Jewish poet from Brunswick, Maine who competed in the 2014 National Poetry Slam in Oakland, California. He has been published in the US, Australia, England, Germany, India, Ireland, and Scotland. He has facilitated poetry workshops for Brunswick High School, Tumblewords Project, and Phynnecabulary. He hosts Café Generalissimo Open Mic, is a member of the Beardo Bards Of The Bardo poetry troupe, painter, sculptor, gardener, and culinary genius. His book Everything I Think Is All in My Mind was published in 2021.

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Adrian  Green  is from Essex with mixed Welsh, Irish and English heritage.  His work has appeared in England and abroad, and in two collections, Chorus and Coda and  All That Jazz and Other Poems from The Littoral Press.  He also co-edited an anthology,  From the City to the Saltings,  for the Essex Poetry Festival.

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Connie Johnson is a Los Angeles, CA-based Pushcart Prize nominee whose poetry has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, San Pedro River Review, Cholla Needles, Rye Whiskey Review, Glint Literary Journal, Iconoclast, Sport Literate, Exit 13, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice. Everything is Distant Now (Blue Horse Press), her debut poetry collection, is available on Amazon.

Click here to read the Jerry Jazz Musician-published In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories

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photo by Alice Mello

Jim Mello is a counselor and clinical supervisor in the substance use disorder field. He’s also a part time clergy person, and has taught in the University of Maine system as an adjunct professor. Besides People, his passion is music and he.became a poet by default. He has three books published, two by Moon Pie Press, and one self-published.

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Michael L. Newell lives on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. His most recent book of poems is Passage of a Heart.

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Uchechukwu Onyedikam is a Nigerian creative artist based in Lagos, Nigeria. His poems have appeared in Amsterdam Quarterly, Brittle Paper, Poetic Africa, Hood Communists, The Hooghly Review, and in print anthologies. ChristinaChin and he have co-published Pouring Light on the Hills (2022)

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Bernard Saint is a U.K. poet who has published in U.K. and United States literary magazines since the 1960’s. He is a regular contributor to International Times. His most recent book is ROMA, published by Smokestack Books. He worked as a therapist and supervisor in the U.K. National Health Service in psychiatry and in addiction recovery.

 

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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)

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“Crossing Over” by CJ Muchhala

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Interview

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Short Fiction

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

Interview

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

Playlist

Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
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Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

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

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

Review

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Book Excerpt

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Poetry

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

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?

Click here to visit the Jazz History Quiz archive

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