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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A Letter From the Publisher

An appeal for contributions to support the ongoing publishing efforts of Jerry Jazz Musician

In This Issue

The Modern Jazz Quintet by Everett Spruill
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Summer, 2023 Edition

A wide range of topics are found in this collection. Tributes are paid to Tony Bennett and Ahmad Jamal and to the abstract worlds of musicians like Ornette Coleman and Pharoah Sanders; the complex lives of Chet Baker and Nina Simone are considered; devotions to Ellington and Basie are revealed; and personal solace is found in the music of Tommy Flanagan and Quartet West. These are poems of peace, reflection, time, venue and humor – all with jazz at their core. (Featuring the art of Everett Spruill)

The Sunday Poem

photo via Wallpaper Flare
“Dink’s Blues and drum fills,” by Joel Glickman


photo courtesy of Henry Threadgill
Interview with Brent Hayes Edwards, co-author (with Henry Threadgill) of Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music...The author discusses his work co-written with Threadgill, the composer and multi-instrumentalist widely recognized as one of the most original and innovative voices in contemporary music, and the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music.


painting by Henry Denander
A collection of jazz haiku...This collection, featuring 22 poets, is an example of how much love, humor, sentimentality, reverence, joy and sorrow poets can fit into their haiku devoted to jazz.

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Fotograaf Onbekend / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
A thought or two about Tony Bennett


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FOTO:FORTEPAN / Kölcsey Ferenc Dunakeszi Városi Könyvtár / Petanovics fényképek, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
.“Community Bookshelf, #1"...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…

Short Fiction

photo vi Wallpaper Flare
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #63 — “Company” by Anastasia Jill...Twenty-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.


Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 16: “Little Waltz” and “Summertime”...Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. In this edition, he connects the recordings of Jessica Williams' "Little Waltz" and Gene Harris' "Summertime."


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This 28-song Spotify playlist, curated by Jerry Jazz Musician contributing writer Bob Hecht, features great tunes performed by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Lester Young, Stan Getz, and…well, you get the idea.


photo of Wolfman Jack via Wikimedia Commons
“Wolfman and The Righteous Brothers” – a poem by John Briscoe

Jazz History Quiz #167

GuardianH, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Before becoming one of television’s biggest stars, he was a competent ragtime and jazz piano player greatly influenced by Scott Joplin (pictured), and employed a band of New Orleans musicians similar to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band to play during his vaudeville revue. Who was he?

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“The Sound Barrier” – a short story by Bex Hansen

Short Fiction

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“Improvised: A life in 7ths, 9ths and Suspended 4ths” – a short story by Vikki C.


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Giovanni Piesco’s photographs of Tristan Honsinger


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“Tony Bennett, In Memoriam” – a poem by Erren Kelly


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Ella Fitzgerald, in poems by Claire Andreani and Michael L. Newell

Book Excerpt

“Chick” Webb was one of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the “Savoy King,” who reigned at Harlem’s world-famous Savoy Ballroom. Stephanie Stein Crease is the first to fully tell Webb’s story in her biography, Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America…The book’s entire introduction is excerpted here.


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An interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song; A new collection of jazz poetry; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
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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