Poetry by Wanda Smith

March 28th, 2013





Major musician John Fick leads a big kick band
at the front of seven saxophones,
The bright brass army swing with the rhythm section.
It is not a battle of big bands where Saints march in.
The Hermosa waterfront Lighthouse club is not a war zone.
John Fick aims to invade the hearts and young ears of
a new generation with the most American art form
God Bless jazz. Long may it wave.
Players pick up a weapon like an ax with a mellow tone.
They swing a saxophone, Tenor, Alto or Baritone.
Lionel Hampton came flying home to the old Paramount
theater after WWII.
Now is the hour to have sax not war.
Veteran Fans of big bands reunite in the Old Lighthouse.

Shela sits on a high stool at her favorite end of the bar.
Remembering players like Charlie Parker and Diz
pointing his horn toward heaven.
The Lighthouse jazz joint has been her Cheers for decades to
pick up dance partners and the latest jazz lick from artists like
John Fick who takes a throbbing solo on his Bari.
She thinks of Gerry Mulligan and nods and sways to the beat.
One of the last of hep cats walks up to her and holds out
his hand in an invitation to dance,
He looks cool in a zoot suit and black and white shoes.
She shakes her head and declines his offer and says,
“I’d love to dance but I might get dizzy and fall down
and pull you on top of me.”
“It would be a pleasure,” he takes her hand in his and
leads her to the floor where they boogie to a mellow tone.
The instrument of mass love is a saxophone.
We need great sax not more war.






I walk to The Lighthouse and back
Which isn’t as hard as it sounds since
The Hermosa Beach Lighthouse is a waterfront
jazz joint about five blocks from where I live,
Not a beacon high on the cliffs of point Doom
warning ships away from rocky reefs.
Bright rays of jazz travel with the speed of sound
from this California club’s past glory
to Europe and Asia signaling jazz virtuosos that
for a few hours each week jazz still shines
The Lighthouse got it’s name long before West
coast jazz brought the bar fame.
Now the only ships this Light House keeps
from going on the rocks are relationships.
Like the legendary drummer who still makes beautiful
music with the first love of his life an
old white pearl set of tubs,
And the stand up bass player who holds the
tall curves of his acoustical bass
fingers her strings and makes her softly hum

Alumni of the Chet Baker cool school occupy
favorite bar stools at a weekly Sunday reunion,
share snapshots of past swingers
and take digital shots of new young players
whose parents rocked around the clock
and rolled with the stones
Young musicians discover Joe Pass CDs and
pick up retro sounds on electronic instruments
The Lighthouse attracts Sunbathers who wander in
from the beach for a relationship with the bathroom
and are surprised by the cool waves of jazz.
A drunken blond comes in from the sand with
sexy legs and rocks in her head
and makes passes at the cats in the band

A sunken relationship makes me roll around solo
on rocks in my bed
After a ride some where over the rainbow on a soulful
saxophone solo I put a few bucks in the kitty
and think it’s time for my ship to come in






In the first act of Twelfth Night a Duke
in the Bard’s play at the old Globe stands on the
theater stage and says,
“If music is the food of love play on.”
This line could be directed to band leader
Duke Ellington in a ballroom in another age.
The Duke calls his biography “Music is my Mistress.”
A title Shakespeare would dig.
Ellington’s orchestra cooks hot jazz and cool
sounds ln a Sentimental Mood, food of love.
Prelude to a Kiss feeds love all the way from
Harlem to the Rendezvous Ballroom,
Olivia and Viola step out of Shakespeare’s play
when they hear the big band sing ,
“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”.
Spirits of 12th night dance the West Coast Balboa.
Shakespeare’s play is a comedy of errors and Eros.
Ellington plays for Sophisticated Ladies.
Satin Dolls and Blues singers like Billie with
white Gardenias in her hair, God Bless the Child.
Twelve nights of The Duke’s ballads and swing
prove “music is the food of love,”
Shakespeare’s Duke may act in a comedy of errors
but love and music will forever play on and on and on.






Live from Lincoln Center New Orleans jazz
reaches for higher ground.
Musical dynasty family Marsalis
Show the world that Dixie still lives.
Survivors of the relentless Katrina
father Ellis and musician sons rescue
brothers and sisters flooded with misery
in the best way they know how
with golden tones and notes of hope
lifting all who listen
as the Saints Come Marching In.
When asked if music was most important,
Young Marsalis put down his trumpet ,”No, Man,”
He answered. “ people are most important.”
Wise as Gabriel he knows music cannot die
A beautiful abstraction from and for humanity.
Big Easy people and music made
New Orleans a Mardi gras’ dream
until muckworm maintained levee’s
give in to rivers overflowing with avarice
Dark deadly waters cover mortar and brick
Muddy Waters sings the blues.
It’s the trapped people we mourn for
waiting in attics of hope, rooftops of faith.
Hurricanes and flood waters destroy oil paintings
sculpture and architecture
but the classic jazz music rises and floats over it all.
Live from Lincoln Center
the Saints Come Marching in.




Benny’s Kingdom


For one brief syncopated moment there
is a land of Swing,
King Benny of Swing is a good man.
His scepter a clarinet and his national
anthem is “Let’s Dance”
His band of musicians invade the Palomar
ballroom way out West in Movieland.
great leaders, Count Basse and a classy
Duke Ellington follow on the A Train.
Swinging big bands fill halls with dancers doing
the fox trot, waltz and shag in palaces
Avalon, Casino Gardens, Palladium
Aircraft workers in black and white shoes and paisley
ties waltz with secretaries in satin and sequins.
Starlets with long tresses wear ankle strap shoes
and short dresses make the scene in the Hollywood
Canteen to jitterbug and lindy hop with boys in khaki .

The Zenda downtown is the hot spot
Hip cats wear Zoot suits and chicks Tabu perfume.
Sailors buy cigarettes and condoms from coin
machine in the bathroom but girls go there to dance.
Rations of gas take them south where Stan the man’s
band plays the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa.
a place so popular that they name a dance “The Balboa,”
America, lets dance among the stars.
Bring on Syncopation and beat new depression.





Days of Syncopation


We had three great Days of jazz
Billie Holiday, Anita O’Day and Doris Day
Billie was the first lady of jazz.
Lady Day’s blues moved the world
She greeted heartbreak in the morning
and introduced us to Strange Fruit,
“God Bless the Child”

The second Day, Anita O’day was cool and hip
the “Jezebel of Jazz.”
Fats Waller said, “Nobody does it better.”
When kids were first digging swing and learning
to Lindy she sang Let Me Off up Town with Gene Krupa.
Tenderly hitting notes like a trumpet flying high.
A canary in the sky.
Sing, Sing, Sing Jezebel likes to swing.

The third Day, Doris Day, the sweetheart of song,
had a Sentimental Journey with Les Brown and the
Band of Renown in a bus full of sexy jazz musicians.
Doris goes Hollywood and becomes a famous movie star.
She questions her Tammy role “Do I look like a virgin?”
and breathes Embrace Me into a mike.

Que Sera Sera
We had three great Days of jazz.




About Wanda Smith

Born in Portland Oregon, Wanda Van Hoy Smith grew up in the Pacific Northwest and knew Jantzen Beach when it had rides and a dance hall where she heard big bands swing. Her home is in Hermosa Beach where she has lived through the age of Aquarius .so long she feels like a California native.

Her son Wynn, is a musician, and daughter Christy, a school administrator. A couple of her books for children were published in another hard back Life and are now on Amazon.

She is a member of the Redondo Poets who meet at Coffee Cartel and reads all around L.A. and as far north Atascadero.

She reads poetry backed by Richard Leach guitar in Alvas Showroom and the San Pedro Library.

Her poetry has been published in several anthologies like the Northridge Review, The Night Goes on All Night. Poeticdiversity, and other publications such as L,A. Jazz Scene, and Local 47 Overture.


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In This Issue

painting of Clifford Brown by Paul Lovering
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Spring/Summer, 2024 Edition...In this, the 17th major collection of jazz poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician, 50 poets from all over the world again demonstrate the ongoing influence the music and its associated culture has on their creative lives.

(featuring the art of Paul Lovering)

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
On turning 70, and contemplating the future of Jerry Jazz Musician...

The Sunday Poem

Tom Beetz, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
”When Sonny Gets Gray” by John Menaghan...

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem


“Revival” © Kent Ambler.
If You Want to Go to Heaven, Follow a Songbird – Mary K O’Melveny’s album of poetry and music...While consuming Mary K O’Melveny’s remarkable work in this digital album of poetry, readings and music, readers will discover that she is moved by the mastery of legendary musicians, the wings of a monarch butterfly, the climate and political crisis, the mysteries of space exploration, and by the freedom of jazz music that can lead to what she calls “the magic of the unknown.” (with art by Kent Ambler)


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

Book Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Jon Tobias’ MONARCH: Stories, and a reflection on our friendship

In Memoriam

photo via Wikimedia Commons
A few words about Willie Mays...Thoughts about the impact Willie Mays had on baseball, and on my life.


photo of Earl Hines by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Pianists and Poets – 13 poems devoted to the keys...From “Fatha” Hines to Brad Mehldau, poets open themselves up to their experiences with and reverence for great jazz pianists


photo of Archie Shepp by Giovanni Piesco
The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Archie Shepp...photos of the legendary saxophonist (and his rhythm section for the evening), taken at Amsterdam's Bimhuis on May 13, 2001.


CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
“On Coltrane: 4th of July Reflections” – a poem by Connie Johnson

Click here to read more poetry published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Calling All Poets!

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

Short Fiction

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

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


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?”


photo of Coleman Hawkins by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“The Naked Jazz Musician” – A playlist by Bob Hecht...As Sonny Rollins has said, “Jazz is about taking risks, pushing boundaries, and challenging the status quo.” Could there be anything riskier—or more boundary-pushing—than to stand naked and perform with nowhere to hide? Bob’s extensive playlist is comprised of such perilous undertakings by an array of notable woodwind and brass masters who have had the confidence and courage (some might say even the exhibitionism) to expose themselves so completely by playing….alone.


Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – Vol. 3: “Louis Armstrong”...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them. In this third edition featuring excerpts from his book, Rife writes about four novels/short fiction that include stories involving Louis Armstrong.

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.

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In Memoriam

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

Book Excerpt

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

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Jazz History Quiz #172

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

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

Who is the pianist he is describing?


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

Contributing Writers

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Coming Soon

An interview with Larry Tye, author of The Jazzmen: How Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie Transformed America; an interview with James Kaplan, author of 3 Shades of Blue: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and the Lost Empire of Cool; 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

Ella Fitzgerald/IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Click to view the complete 25-year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Judith Tick on Ella Fitzgerald (pictured),; Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz on the Girl Groups of the 60's; Tad Richards on Small Group Swing; Stephanie Stein Crease on Chick Webb; Brent Hayes Edwards on Henry Threadgill; Richard Koloda on Albert Ayler; Glenn Mott on Stanley Crouch; Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake; 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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