Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – Vol. 2: “Fathers in Jazz Fiction”

In this edition, Rife writes about four novels/short stories that include stories involving relationships between fathers and children.

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June 12th, 2024

“I Married a Socialist” – a story by J. B. Cohen

.He answered my personal ad: “Classy rebel wishes to meet man of principle.” In the 80’s, it wasn’t normal to find love through advertisements, so I kept my effort a secret. At our first encounter in an Indian restaurant, he said. “I’m not sure if my principles are the right ones. You’re likely to find me at socialist meetings in church basements.” Though I was just a run of the mill, east coast liberal, I was over forty, so I decided to give him a chance. In fact, his commitment to left wing causes intrigued me; I wanted to hear more.

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April 2nd, 2024

“An Un-played Instrument” – a story by Terry Sanville

Floyd grabbed his cane and stepped out of his air-conditioned car into the late August heat. The afternoon sun warmed his stiff joints. It felt good. From the Honda’s back seat he pulled a battered guitar case, locked the car and shambled down Monterey Street to Premier Music Store. Its front door stood closed against blasts of hot Santa Ana winds.

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March 22nd, 2024

“Sayir” – a short story by Ron Perovich

It was the first Friday in months that we didn’t both have our own gigs lined up, so my friend Paul invited me out to one of his favorite haunts on 8th Avenue. He promised me the food was good, but told me that the real draw was the live music. Honestly, I tried not to roll my eyes when he dropped that detail on me in the cab. I mean, I love music and all–I’d have to if I was going to work this hard at it–but I kind of was looking forward to giving my ears the night off.

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March 12th, 2024

“The Winslows Take New Orleans” a short story by Mary Liza Hartong

This story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, tells the tell of Uncle Cheapskate and Aunt Whiner, those pesky relatives you love to hate and hate to love.

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February 26th, 2024

“Afloat” – a short story by Brian Greene

“Afloat” – a finalist in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest – is about a troubled man in his 40s who lessens his worries by envisioning himself and loved ones on a boat that provides safety and ease for all of them.

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February 19th, 2024

“A Single Furtive Tear” – a short story by Dora Emma Esze

A short-listed entry in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, the story is a heartfelt, grateful monologue to one Italian composer, dead and immortal of course, whose oeuvre means so much to so many of us.

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January 16th, 2024

“After The Death of Margaret: A True Novella” by S. Stephanie

This story — a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Short Fiction Contest — harkens back to Richard Brautigan’s fiction of the ’70s, and explores modern day co-worker relationships/friendship and the politics of for profit “Universities”

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January 2nd, 2024

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow

A story that takes place over the course of a young man’s life, looking specifically at all the women he’s loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

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December 18th, 2023

“Bashert” – a short story by Diane Lederman

This story, a finalist in the 63rd Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, looks at the hopes one man has that a woman he meets the night before he leaves for Camp Devens will keep him alive during World War I so he can return and take her out for dinner.

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November 7th, 2023

“A Song and Dance Proposition” – a short story by Richard Moore

Because of his childhood experiences, the story’s narrator loses his singing voice and as an adult neither sings nor dances. But when his marriage falls apart he meets a ‘song and dance man’ who turns out to be Iris, a woman with multiple sclerosis. With her help, he comes to grip with his inhibitions.

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October 10th, 2023

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

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.

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September 26th, 2023

“Not Just Another Damn Song on the Radio” – a short story by Craig Fishbane

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.

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August 30th, 2023

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

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.

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August 17th, 2023

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #63 — “Company” by Anastasia Jill

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.

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August 4th, 2023

“Partial Memories of Music and Love” – a short story by Lindsay Flock

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.

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June 8th, 2023

“Guy Ryan” – a short story by Alice Sherman Simpson

. . “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”

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May 22nd, 2023

“The Occasional Girl” – a short story by Mark Bruce

. . “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”

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April 24th, 2023

“Riff ‘n’ Tiff” – humor by Dig Wayne

. . “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”

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April 12th, 2023

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #62 — “Mr. P.C.” by Jacob Schrodt

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.

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March 13th, 2023

“Sketch in ‘D’ Minor” – a short story by Estelle Phillips

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.

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August 4th, 2022

“Blue Boy and the Flattened Third” — a short story by Carsten ten Brink

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.

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May 19th, 2022

“Thunder” — a short story by Robert Knox

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…

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April 18th, 2022

“Opus One” — a short story by Amadea Tanner

. . “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”

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March 22nd, 2022

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #59 — “His Second Instrument” by Dave Wakely

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?

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March 7th, 2022

“Cottonmouth Stomp” – a short story by Greg S. Johnson

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.

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February 22nd, 2022

“Old Man Hands” — a short story by Terry Sanville

Gordon sat in the corner of the Red Sky Café and stared at his fingers as they slid across the fretboard of his Fender Stratocaster. They seemed disconnected from the rest of his body but hardwired to his brain. When he thought blue, they moved to his favorite notes. When he thought joy, a new series of chords and major scales opened up. He thought, played, listened, and watched.

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February 7th, 2022

“Lydia” — a short story by Allene Nichols

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.

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January 31st, 2022

“Intersection” — a short story by Sal Difalco

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.

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January 18th, 2022

“A Girl You Couldn’t Hurt” — a short story by Con Chapman

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.

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December 9th, 2021

“Committee Room” — a short story by J.W. Wood

“What I have to say now stays between us.”

The Chairman’s face flushed a little. I sensed one of his rants was coming, and I was not disappointed:

“In my opinion, Jakub Hoch is a pseudo-liberal loudmouth of minimal talent who has no place as Musical Director of this orchestra.”

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November 23rd, 2021

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #58 — “Mouth Organ” by Emily Jon Tobias

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.

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November 8th, 2021

“Queen Mabelle’s Blues,” a short story by David Rudd

Maebelle had been surprised when, in 1934, a scout for the American Record Corporation invited her to come and sing at the General Store, “for our field recordings.”

“Field recordings?” she’d joked. “They wanna hear the Boll Weevil, close up?” She was recalling the Charley Patton song.

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September 29th, 2021

“Catbelly Heat on My Knees” — a story by Ewing Eugene Baldwin

. . “Catbelly Heat On My Knees,” a story by Ewing Eugene Baldwin, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 57th Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author. . .   photo via hippopx/CC0 1.0 Universal . Catbelly Heat on My Knees by Ewing Eugene Baldwin . ___ . … Continue reading ““Catbelly Heat on My Knees” — a story by Ewing Eugene Baldwin”

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September 3rd, 2021

“Ways to Look at Blind Lemon Jefferson” — a story by Larry Smith

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.

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August 21st, 2021

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #57 — “Constant At The 3 Deuces” by Jon Zelazny

In the closing weeks of 1949, the consensus of New York’s cognoscenti was unanimous: the American debut of London’s Sadler’s Wells Ballet was the triumph of the post-war era. The praise and attention lavished upon the visiting artists was unrelenting; the Yanks’ sudden passion for tutus, Tchaikovsky, and entrechat quatres bordered on obsession. And yet, three weeks into their engagement, with four performances at The Met remaining, their company’s esteemed music director and conductor Constant Lambert was bored to tears.

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July 6th, 2021

“Christmas, Stockings” — a story by Peter Newall

Prague, Christmas Eve, 1994. Midwinter. Snow. Anna and I have a room in the Grand Hotel Europa, which is not grand in the least but run-down and cramped, still bearing the stamp of its Warsaw Pact years. The floral wallpaper is worn and the carpet threadbare; the room is mostly taken up with the big double bed.

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June 22nd, 2021

“The Battle Scars of One Vinyl Record” — a short story by Anita Overcash

Brent didn’t really go to Japan as a tourist. He went to Japan as a record hunter. The “Land of the Rising Sun” was known to house some of the best record stores for free jazz and that, my friends, was more important than any shrine, temple or giant Buddha statue.

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June 8th, 2021

“The Lottery” — a short story by Charlotte Davies

A young man was walking up one of the roads that climbed out of the town, into the hills. He was tall, probably in his late teens, appeared fit and strong – looked like he’d pass a physical. Dark curly hair which was too long, but that could be easily taken care of, of course – give him a haircut, swap the t-shirt and shorts for an olive green uniform, the glasses for a pair of regulation army specs, and he’d look the part.

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May 25th, 2021

“Pentimento” — a short story by Tanisha Shende

The first time I tried to convince Veronica that we’ve met before, it was a dark summer night, honeyed and sulky, and beneath my feet, the earth was still swollen with rain. Under my right arm, I carried one of her paintings in a wooden case, while my left hand held the scrap of paper bearing the Trevisan family home’s address, given to me in a brief yet frantic call from her aunt.

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May 10th, 2021

“Shadow Ball” — a short story by David Eugene Everard

In all honesty, my father had been known to tell more than a few tall tales in his time. Yet, whenever I’d try to catch him on one he would pause, nod his head patiently, and then politely remind me there were always two sides to every story.

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April 11th, 2021

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #56 — “Celestial Vagabonds” by Max Talley

He drove uptown on Riverside Drive, the motor noise magnificent. Traffic increased as he approached Harlem. Other drivers jostling to get ahead noticed the car first. A red Ferrari was not subtle in gray Manhattan, and the engine roared money and power and European elegance. Then neighbors would study the man in outsized sunglasses. Some recognized him, smiling or shaking their heads in disbelief. Others looked aggrieved, even outraged that a person like him could be driving a vehicle like that. Ferrari only built three-hundred of their 275 GTB.

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March 12th, 2021

“An Archaeologically Authenticated, Gastro-Musicological Historical Artifact: The Menu For The Jazz Brunch At Jack’s Tea Garden” – humor by Lee Shamberg & Mark Shamberg

“An Archaeologically Authenticated, Gastro-Musicological Historical Artifact: The Menu For The Jazz Brunch At Jack’s Tea Garden” is excerpted from a work-in-progress entitled “The Hip Man Letters, vol. 2: Dear Morty.”

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January 26th, 2021

“I Can’t Breathe” — a story by Leke Adefioye

All of a sudden, I began to experience an unusual perspiration.  A perspiration that altered the rhythm of my heartbeat. The more the rhythm was thrown off, the more rapid my heartbeat pounded. I listened with displeasure as my heartbeat produced discordant tunes. The tunes were unpleasant to the ears.

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December 28th, 2020

“A Night Just Like Any Other” — a short story by Bradford Middleton

Frank’s day begins as so many have in the last decade, a decade lost to a job, a way of life, as his phone wakes him with the bourbon-drenched tones of Tom Waits announcing he ‘can’t wait to get off work.’  Frank knows he will have that sentiment lingering in his mind until he returns home later, much later in fact, after another shift at the tavern of ill-repute.  Beginning his day as he has almost every other he moves to his chair with a piping hot mug of tea and proceeds to construct and then smoke a big fat joint. 

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December 15th, 2020

“Sphinx” — a short story by Brian Greene

. . “Sphinx,” a story by Brian Greene, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 55th Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author .  . .   “Lucy XV,” by Vakseen . Sphinx by Brian Greene . 1. …..I met Leonor when I was 23 and she was 51. … Continue reading ““Sphinx” — a short story by Brian Greene”

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December 1st, 2020

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #55 — “Chromesthesia” by Shannon Brady

He still has his father’s old records.

 That single cardboard box is all that Ken has left of the man. That and memories. He remembers those swirling blue winter nights: sitting on the living room rug, right between the full-blast radiator and Dad’s battered old armchair, watching the record turn around and around and fill the room with Duke Ellington’s piano. The summer Sundays, where the warm breeze came in through the window, and the cleaning of their apartment turned into a game backed by Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, deep orange-pink like strawberry lemonade.

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November 16th, 2020

“Charm” — a short story by Gargi Mehra

Grandma’s mother had gifted her the bracelet on her tenth birthday. It hung upon her forearm every hour of the day, until her wedding. When the vermillion filled the parting in her scalp, she lost the permission to wear it. Her new husband adored the drink, and loathed the ornaments she carried from her mother’s house.

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October 29th, 2020

“All the Things That I Can’t Tell” — a short story by Blythe Asta

I methodically walk along. Stepping in tune to the pulsing soundtrack spilling out of the passing nightclub, littering the sidewalk. The electric guitar wailing something menacingly slow and strong. Almost soulful but still all the while punk at its core and insisting itself to be anything but a love song. I wouldn’t be surprised to catch a glimpse of Lux dancing inside as I pass. Lux, used to be Grace, and I almost miss the days when she was.

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October 13th, 2020

“Bella by Barlight” — a short story by Steve Young

. . “Bella by Barlight,” a story by Steve Young, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 54th Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author . . photo by-crosspraha- / CC BY-SA .   Bella by Barlight by Steve Young . ___ , …..The Pocono Lounge, in the basement … Continue reading ““Bella by Barlight” — a short story by Steve Young”

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September 28th, 2020

“Satin Doll” — a short story by Jack Tasker

. . “Satin Doll,” a story by Jack Tasker, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 54th Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author . . photo Creative Commons CC0 . Satin Doll by Jack Tasker .     The Pianist and The Cabbie . …..When the music stops … Continue reading ““Satin Doll” — a short story by Jack Tasker”

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August 26th, 2020

“Paris Street Symphony” — a short story by Jeannie Monroe

Pedestrians all around me narrow their eyes at the harassing wind and lower their umbrellas to help protect against the assault.

Not me. I lift my chin towards the grey skies and allow the wind to caress my face and to set my scarf dancing around my neck.

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August 4th, 2020

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #54 — “A Failed Artist’s Paradise” by Nathaniel Neil Whelan

He’s here again, his mossy hair visible at the back of the crowd. I’ve seen him a few times before and it’s always the same: he leans against a pillar, arms crossed, a hungry look in his eyes. There’s a bit of rebel in him. I don’t know if it’s the cigarette or the rimless sunglasses perched on the edge of his nose, but he doesn’t fit in with the polished and the proper.

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July 13th, 2020

“Roads Crossing, Crisscrossing” — a short story by Susandale

“One ticket please,” David said aloud to Gladys.

 Studying him with eyes peering over her glasses, the ticket seller, Gladys, squinted with disbelief at the sense of disproportion standing before her; David’s battered face and tortured eyes, so contradictory to his features of lapidary refinement.

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June 12th, 2020

“One August Morning”– a short story by Jeanine DeHoney

No one knew why he did it. Why early one August morning, the day after I turned eleven, when stores were just pulling up their metal gates, and delivery trucks were double parked in front of them, when as Mama said the sun was so oppressive you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, Mr. Carmichael left his seventh-floor apartment right above ours in The Bridgeton Apartments…

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May 14th, 2020

“Searching Alex” — a short story by Robert Knox

. .   “Searching Alex,” a story by Robert Knox, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 53rd Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author . . .   © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons/Flicker/CC BY-SA 4.0 .  . . “Searching Alex” by Robert Knox .     …..He remembered a happy … Continue reading ““Searching Alex” — a short story by Robert Knox”

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May 4th, 2020

“St. Anthony, St. Jude, & Deborah Walk into a Bar…” — a short story by L. Shapley Bassen

Deborah lost her wallet. Most of us have at one time or another. It’s one of the awful feelings, TMW you know you don’t know. Or the last time you knew … anything. It swallows you, that feeling. Utter loss. Utter failure. All the work it will take to regain lost ground. All the effort. If.

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April 27th, 2020

“Louie Armstrong on the Moon” — humor by Dig Wayne

The Saturn V mega rocket had a problem with syncopation from the get go. The uber squares shipped in the highest foreheads and keenest flat tops money could buy but the translunar queso bullseye refused to step and fetch it.

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April 14th, 2020

“Aubade” — a short story by Jeff Bakkensen

Doesn’t every house have its own unique smell? How is that, when everyone’s mom cooked the same pot roast, used the same cleaning powder? And why is it that you never notice your own house’s smell, but you’ll recognize it. Like a false memory. Deja vu.

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April 13th, 2020

“Oblivious” — a short story by Carolyn Geduld

Her granddad shook Bridgett awake. He was sniffling.

“What’s the matter? Are you sick?” She propped herself on her elbows.

“It’s Morrison. Gone.“ He was standing there in a faded tie-dyed shirt, smelling musty. His thinning gray hair, reaching past his waist, had not been tied back, but he was wearing his love beads.

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April 7th, 2020

“All Our Fields” — a short story by Jay Franzel

.I’m in bed, my windows open to the summer breeze, when I hear the guy outside again, singing. The curtains shift, as if with his voice, and glow a little, from the streetlight nearby. I’m thinking about the Apollo nose cone bobbing in the waves, about catching a tennis ball thrown high over the road. My dog’s on the floor, wedged between my bed and the dresser. He’s a Dalmatian, a big one. He got mean for a while—for weeks he’d try to bite whoever came near us.

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March 30th, 2020

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #53 — “Market & Fifth, San Francisco, 1986,” by Paul Perilli

You walk on the rose-colored strip of concrete that starts on the sidewalk, goes under the big black awning with the street light shining on it, and stops at the two heavy wood doors inviting in all of Central Ave. You pause long enough for Walt, the bouncer you should never irritate to the degree of getting his exclusive attention, to nod you inside even though he knows you.

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March 15th, 2020

“The Blues Are Always With Us” — a short story by Michael L. Newell

Rain sang off the roof for hours.  The ancient on the porch rocked, strummed his guitar, whispered, “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor,” one minute sounding like Sam Chatmon, the next his licks would have made Mance Lipscomb proud.

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March 2nd, 2020

“A Darling Interest” — a short story by Kevin Nichols

Don’t be surprised when kindred spirits meet each other at the right place at just the right time. People need people, even if they try to deny it. How many times do you see two people together and wonder, ‘Why do they get along so well?’ You see these people and they don’t look good or don’t seem to fit together; it baffles what should just be familiar.

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January 16th, 2020

“Piano Girl” — a short story by Shannon Brady

Arlena Sawyer’s mother had spent all seventeen years of her life warning her against what seemed like every last thing under God’s creation. With her thin, trilling voice she had done her best to hammer fear and caution into her only daughter’s head like the beak of a woodpecker into a tree.

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December 17th, 2019

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #52 — “Random Blonde,” by Zandra Renwick

I’ve been bitter a long time. It’s like sucking a wedge of lemon on and on and on, pulp disintegrating, everything dissolving until the flavor turns mellow and mild, almost sweet. I’ve been bitter so long it’s hard to know anymore how anything should feel, or which part of me navigating the world each day is tainted with bitterness and which part is how I always was, even before Ty Greggor smashed through my life.

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November 13th, 2019

“Father Kniest, Jazz Priest”…a short story by Con Chapman

. . Boston-based writer Con Chapman is the author of two novels, over thirty stage plays, and fifty books of humor.  Most recently, he is the author of Rabbit’s Blues, The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges. I had the good fortune of interviewing Mr. Chapman recently about Hodges.  That discussion will be published in … Continue reading ““Father Kniest, Jazz Priest”…a short story by Con Chapman”

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November 7th, 2019

“Gotta Dance” — a short story by Kevin Barry Howe

The rain had simply just stopped, as suddenly as it had started, with only an occasional leftover droplet now falling from a street sign or lamppost. Some made it to the sidewalk where they joined the puddles in tiny splashes; others were interrupted in their descent, hitting the folded newspapers held overhead by those caught without an umbrella.

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October 21st, 2019

“Sonata” — a short story by Kirk Loftin

Jonathan was only eight years old the first time he fell. It was the first winter in the new house, and he wasn’t used to the biting cold yet. It was a large, Gothic structure that scared him at first, but he had grown accustomed to the imposing house on the hill.

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October 14th, 2019

“The Stories of Strange Melodies” — a short story by Vivian Li

The girl lived on the outskirts of town. It was mainly deserted, save for a few wild beasts that roamed the lands. But she lived with the wolves, and couldn`t breathe without feeling their fur across her lips and teeth. She asked them: what would you do if I left? And the wolves shook their grey eyes and stared at her until she cried.

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September 30th, 2019

“In Herzegovina, near the Town of Gorjad” — a short story by Nick Sweeney

There’s a new song going around, with a maddening refrain as catchy as that flu plotting its course around the world, killing venerable ancients and babies newly out of the womb. You hear it everywhere and, no matter how much you hate it, you’ll find it bursting out of your head.

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September 15th, 2019

“A Price Too High” — a short story by Russell Waterman

Robert Shines lifted his sweat stained fedora just enough to wipe his brow. Stuffing his handkerchief back into his breast pocket he repositioned his hat at a slight angle, rakish style, just enough for a breeze to cool his skin, should one happen by. As luck would have it the Mississippi air was stagnant and sticky this August evening.

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September 3rd, 2019

“Oswald” — a short story by Rolli

. . “Oswald,” a story by Rolli, was a finalist in our recently concluded 51st Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author. . . .   Photo by. Jolanda van der Meer .on. Unsplash . Oswald by Rolli . _____ .   …..Mom was talking to the guy behind the … Continue reading ““Oswald” — a short story by Rolli”

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August 5th, 2019

“Brown Bear” — a short story by Bailey Bridgewater

The shimmering bulb of the brown Long Island sunset was barely enough to illuminate the silently flailing figure in the water.  The flaming ball stared down at the commotion from beneath its skin of smog, but the girl simply picked the loose sand up in her hands, running the granules through her stubby fingers, fascinated by the way it felt on her palms, but irritated by how it stuck under her bitten nails.

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July 22nd, 2019

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #51 — “Crossing the Ribbon,” by Linnea Kellar

Do you ever have a time in your life when you feel like you’re about to step off a cliff?

 I don’t normally have those moments. If I could organize my entire life playing by the rules, I think I could mosey along and get through living just fine. I am the student my teachers wish me to be. I am the daughter my parents desire. I am the perfect best friend to the girls in my class. According to choirmaster, I am one of the best sopranos in the church choir.

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July 9th, 2019

“Learning to Fly” — a short story by Mary Burns

Harry Delaney is a night janitor, and he is teaching himself to fly. As he works his mop up and down the dim corridors of Waterville Public High School, he can feel what it would be like, floating, say, four feet above the floor, moving easily through the air, though not fast.

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June 15th, 2019

A collection of Short Fiction — May, 2019

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest.  In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories…

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May 12th, 2019

“Live a Little,” a short story by Anisha Johnson

Stelle eyed herself in the bathroom mirror, nodded firmly at her reflection, and tore her wig off.
Her new shingle cut was so sharp it could have sliced through paper like scissors, and it gleamed the same glossy hue as ink. She smoothed the pads of her thumbs against her head to straighten the curls that had bloomed beneath the wig, and examined herself with satisfaction.

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May 9th, 2019

“This Music Is Not Your Nightmare” — a short story by Molly Ertel

She aimed her horn at my left ear and blasted it for 16 seconds that lasted the rest of my life. Even though the trumpet was pressed to her lips, I could see the smirk her mouthpiece couldn’t quite hide.

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April 23rd, 2019

“D-Natural Blues” — a short story by Salvatore Difalco

Galinsky was killing my buzz. I could not see his face behind a fuming joint, clenched between his tarry teeth, but I could see his hands—one holding a deck of playing cards, one opened gesturally. They wove with the languid rhythm of a Greek rhetorician as Galinsky droned on about the pratfalls of legalized cannabis: how the government had screwed up a good thing, how the government was greedy, how the government had put the kibosh on a thriving subculture—a tribe to which we after all, at this game, belonged. The black market had provided a beautiful service, in his words, without all the red tape and

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April 13th, 2019

“Before the Sky Was Blue” — a short story by J. Lee Strickland

It is tempting to say that this story took place a long time ago, but that would not be accurate. The place where this story unfolds did not suffer Time as we know it—the linear time of beginnings and endings, of what once was, of what might never be.

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March 20th, 2019

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #50 — “And so we left for Paris,” by Sophie Jonas-Hill

And so we left for Paris, you in the green jacket I’d made you with the picture collar and turned back cuffs, and I in my blue pinstripe, which made me look like a handsome young man.
“You look like a boy,” you said, laughing as we stumbled to our carriage on the train.
“I suppose it would be easier if I were.”
“Not at all, darling,” you said, and pulled the window shade down so you could kiss me. “Anyway, who wants it to be easy?”

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March 11th, 2019

Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 9

On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician.will publish the 50th.winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 45 – 49

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March 4th, 2019

Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 8

On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician.will publish the 50th.winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 39 – 44

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February 25th, 2019

Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 7

On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician.will publish the 50th.winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 35 – 38

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February 18th, 2019

Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 6

On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician.will publish the 50th.winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 29 – 34

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February 11th, 2019

Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 5

On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician.will publish the 50th.winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 24 – 28

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February 4th, 2019

Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 4

On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician.will publish the 50th.winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 17- 23

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January 28th, 2019

Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest — Winning Author Profiles, Group 2

On March 11, 2019, .Jerry Jazz Musician.will publish the 50th.winning story in our thrice-yearly Short Fiction Contest. To celebrate this landmark event, we have asked all the previous winners (dating to 2002) to reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

This week’s edition covers authors of winning stories #’s 7 – 11

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January 14th, 2019

“The Wailing Wall” — a short story by Justin Short

. . “The Wailing Wall” by Justin Short was the winner of the 48th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest.  It was originally published in July, 2018, and is one of six pieces published on. Jerry Jazz Musician. in 2018 nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize   . .     __________ . .   . … Continue reading ““The Wailing Wall” — a short story by Justin Short”

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January 11th, 2019

“Arabesque” — a short story by Anisha Johnson

. . “Arabesque,” a story by Anisha Johnson, was a finalist in our recently concluded 49th Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author. . . . Arabesque by Anisha Johnson .   ___ .   …..The first notes of Debussy’s First Arabesque soared through the air, each note so light … Continue reading ““Arabesque” — a short story by Anisha Johnson”

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December 27th, 2018

“The Man Who Lives in My Head” — a short story by Luke Bergvist

  “The Man Who Lives in My Head,” a story by Luke Bergvist, was a finalist in our recently concluded 49th Short Fiction Contest.  It is published with the permission of the author.     The Man Who Lives in My Head by Luke Bergvist   ___     {A handwritten manuscript, fished from the … Continue reading ““The Man Who Lives in My Head” — a short story by Luke Bergvist”

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December 13th, 2018

“Uncle Joey Blows Trombone at Le Jazz Hot” – a short story by Lawrence J. Klumas

      Uncle Joey Blows Trombone at Le Jazz Hot by Lawrence J. Klumas   _____   You would think that for such a momentous occasion my memory would be crystal clear.  This is not so. I have no personal memory of hearing my Uncle Joey at Le Jazz Hot, that Friday night on … Continue reading ““Uncle Joey Blows Trombone at Le Jazz Hot” – a short story by Lawrence J. Klumas”

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December 4th, 2018

“High Notes” — a short story by Shan Richardson

     I drifted off into the best sleep I’ve had in weeks. In months even. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get into Fat Daddy’s as a regular. It’s the hottest – no, it’s the coolest jazz club there is. On any given night you’d find the club cradled with sweet melodies and rocked by spoken word poetry. And on Friday nights, you used to be able to catch us…

     Thing is, my band and I got banned last year. But before then, we had lines out the door with folks wanting to hear us play. The whites, the blacks, the browns and those that fell in between because their parents had jungle fever. The attention can become quite addicting. There wasn’t any fortune though, it’s a small town.

     Fast forward to now – a year later. I managed to befriend

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November 26th, 2018

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #49 — “Will You Play For Me?” by Hannah Draper

     The first time I saw her, she was puffing softly on a cigarette in the girls’ bathroom. She looked all too much the devil incarnate, with tattered jeans and a band shirt that left no doubt at all that their songs would consist of guitar smashing and angsty screaming. She had dyed her hair this brilliant shade of blue that was almost black it was so dark. Upon her exhale, a long strand of smoke twirled from her ruby stained lips and curled around a nose ring that

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November 7th, 2018

“The Best Dancer at St. Bernadette’s and Me” — a short story by Tricia Lowther

     Nothing can spoil today, not even our Sue. It’s the third Saturday in September, 1978. I’m 11 years old and like every other girl in our street, (and some of the boys), I’ve waited months for this. I know all the singles off by heart, I’ve watched the videos on Top of the Pops, posters of John Travolta have replaced Starsky and Hutch on my bedroom wall, and finally, FINALLY, after hearing the songs all Summer, the people of England can go to the cinema and watch Grease.

     All the Brook Street lot are going; kids from six different families with four of their mums; The Thompsons, the Maguires, the Connollys, the Yips, the Browns and us. I’m as excited as the rest of them, but the difference is, I can’t tell anyone who the flutters in my stomach are for.

     We all get the bus together. It’s packed and we have to stand in the aisle, fingers slippery on the

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September 18th, 2018

“Umbrella: A Play in One Act” — by Emilia Getzinger

Baltimore, Maryland. 1960. DAVID, a white boy in his late teens, is standing in the rain under an umbrella, waiting for the morning school bus. There is a bench behind him. Enter CLARE, a black girl his age.

 

CLARE

It’s so cold.

 

Long pause. DAVID is uncomfortable.

 

CLARE

Would you mind sharing your umbrella?

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September 11th, 2018

“Lay Out” — a short story by Barnaby Hazen

            You’ve played this gig at the Tennyson Lodge at least a hundred times by now you figure—three years times twice a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays. You just took a solo and now The Kid is thumping on his oversized instrument, oversized by comparison to his body. He’s a five-foot-nothing of a chubby student bassist having joined the quartet two weeks prior. His dark, stylishly teased hair is stuck in place by product, his eyes just barely open and he rocks left to right in a manner offensive to you for some reason.

            You don’t need a reason. You’ve been doing this long enough to call it like you see it and The Kid is nothing more than a vaguely promising hack. You might want to talk to him on break, get a better idea where his head is at, but meanwhile he’s wiggling around and you kind of hope he gets caught under a

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August 28th, 2018

“The Piano Whisperer” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

     In the underground of how it used to be, in days long ago when things were quite good, when the only bad thing, if you want to call it bad, was poverty, which was longstanding, a dull ache of years that traveled with you through good times and bad and sometimes sang you to sleep like a sad horn, bwa la la la (high note) bwa la la la (high note) bwa la la, in that time, the song of poverty that belonged to everyone belonged also to Noname.

       Noname, pronounced Noh-nameh,  ran the bleak streets then 60 years ago when the world was kinder, a better place, where murder was just, well, murder, and horror, ordinary, conceivable, and every person, regardless of how they appeared, who they were, part of a diverse evolving unique American gyroscopic system. Even the most jaded soul understood being different was natural, even if your difference was made of so many facets, no one thing stood alone and nothing alone could capture it–save poverty herself, true interpreter of shades and depths of differences, which we celebrated on saxophone streets, in piano bars and when looking to the heavens for inspiration in the form of

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August 14th, 2018

“Blue Venus” — a short story by Rhonda Zimlich

            Gas lamps lined the street lifting their warmth out into the world to stave off the night.  Their flickering orange reflected in the puddles along the curb and the cobble still shiny with rain long gone.  A storm had passed.  Leaves now settled in clumps along the gutters and at the feet of a slumped musician folded forward on a stoop.  The curve of his instrument’s dark case towered above him, concealing an elegant bass within.

            Brownstones framed the scene extending stoops from hidden entryways.  A newspaper fat with rain hung over a wrought-iron rail, the upside-down words “Congress Overrides Veto of Taft-Hartley” visible even in the obscurity of predawn.  A five-and-dime, closed for business until morning, hosted a shadowy window display advertising dry shampoo and

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August 6th, 2018

“Silent Soundtrack” — a short story by Bari Lynn Hein

Chris Chisholm’s suit jacket landed beside his foot in a black pinstriped heap. He studied his fragmented reflection in a mosaic of mirrors, raised his eyebrows and his glass and said, “A toast!”

            There was only one other person within view, within earshot. Phil the bartender stood beneath a clock whose hands were both pointed to the number one. “What’re we toasting, Chi Chi?”

            Chris opened his mouth to say, “To Reggie!” But what came out were the lyrics of a Led Zeppelin song: “The cup is raised, the toast is made again…” He trailed off, humming, as if he’d forgotten the rest. He hadn’t.

            Phil smirked and reinserted a rag into the glass he’d been drying. “Thanks a lot. Now I’ll have that love song stuck in my

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July 25th, 2018

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #48: “The Wailing Wall” by Justin Short

     When they came to build the wall, I played Mingus.

     I stood in the blistering sun, watched them arrive, and did my best to blow my lungs clean out.  They climbed down from hissing dew-sprinkled trucks, adjusted their hard hats, and went to work setting up the barricades.  They ignored me completely.

     They didn’t ignore me long.  I was off-key, and I was loud.  Ain’t always about hitting all the right notes, man.  A clarinet’s gotta be raw.  Real.  None of that philharmonic fast food commercial stuff.

     I could almost hear Tony taking the high notes right beside me.  He would have, too.  He always loved a good

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July 13th, 2018

“The Blues Museum” — a short story by Jay Franzel

      Camp looked through glass doors and across the shoulderless highway. A patch of grass across the road was covered with white trailers washed clean by the rain. He stared out a side window at the brown back of a gas station. A red and yellow sign, mounted so high he had to twist his neck to see it, seemed like it should have been turning but sat still against a gray sky.

      What do you find in a bus station? Long waits under dirty fluorescents, grimy floor and seats, gloom on scattered faces. Soup, coffee and candy vending machines. If someone could gather it up, all the pieces a bus station’s handed down through the years, you could start a museum. You could cover the walls with black and white photos, pictures of a million people. Pick out any one person, nobody special, just someone with some

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June 27th, 2018

“No Hiding Place” — a short story by Chris LaMay-West

     Seen from above, the motion probably exhibited some coherence. Like how the particles on the surface of a liquid jiggled around each other. What did they call it? Brownian motion. Seen from a distance, the mass of people no doubt also swirled in patterns that had a great deal of regularity. Was there perhaps even a meaning in the group activity, a secret swaying cadence that couldn’t be discerned just from watching the constituent parts? 

     Carl found how he engaged in metaphysical speculations when in these situations distressing.

     But God, you had to do something.

     Or else this dance club, The Edge of The World, the apotheosis of all that he had come to hate during this year and a half spent in

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June 18th, 2018

“The Launch” — a short story by Amy Tagle

     “How dare you play it like that!”

     I look up from my sight-reading piece, certain I had correctly executed all of the rhythms and notes, all of the articulations and embellishments. My questioning eyes found a passionate face, lined with wrinkles that were now quivering in angst.

     “I don’t care if you play a couple wrong notes here and there, but to play it so flat like that… so dull… that is inexcusable.”

     “Play it again.”

     I started again, trying to sense the life behind the ink, and I felt like the blind fool who

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June 8th, 2018

“Piano Hands” — a short story by Charis Shin

  He had beautiful hands — hands with long, slender fingers meant to caress ivory piano keys. Knuckles, she knew, were never the most flattering part of anyone’s body — gnarled and raisin-like skin stretched over delicate bones. And yet, there was a certain beauty in the way his knuckles bent and flexed over the piano, so she protested bitterly when he became a mechanic to make ends meet.

     “We’ve got bills to pay,” he said with a matter-of-fact shrug, “And I can always

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April 28th, 2018

“Full Moon New Year” — a short story by Debora Ewing

     This is one of those parties I’ve heard about, thrown by people with new money in a house they don’t own; like Hipster Gatsby. This is not to disparage our host: he is a sincere human. When one finds one’s self in a cliché, the moment should be chronicled. I’m sitting on a mausoleum chair in the foyer of an upscale Seattle home with my glass of vodka perched on a music stand, chronicling.

      The jazz musicians in the living room are playing “Some Day My Prince Will Come.” 

      “Oh, good, it’s the Disney segment,” I say to nobody in particular. The drunk woman who earlier complimented my

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April 10th, 2018

“Plainsong” — a short story by Joyce Becker Lee

     Tansy steps up to the microphone, and the world shifts into slow motion. Behind her, the band pulsates, big brass, booming beat, and howling saxophones like foreplay. Before her, the shadowy movement of caliginous figures, backlit to opacity, a murky mob breathing as though one, daring her to entertain with the melodies stored in her throat and heart, perversely seeking the pleasure to be derived from her anticipated failure to enthrall.

            The mike’s silver orb becomes her focus, its aura a tight dome that pulls at her breath, sucking the notes from her depths, the rushing air inverting her

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April 3rd, 2018

“Speakeasy” — a short story by Matt Hayes

     I was recently at a speakeasy in Tbilisi, drinking wine and tapping my foot in time with a jazz quartet, when I noticed a dishevelled French magician approach the mysterious black-haired girl I’d had my eye on for the past ten minutes. This irked me less than it might have, because the Frenchman was clearly a drunkard of dubious repute, and the girl was plainly uninterested in him, not deigning to respond to his advances with so much as a word. He performed endless coin tricks and card tricks for her, and loudly complimented her exotic

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March 26th, 2018

Short Fiction Contest-winning story 47: “The Happy Thing of Bayou de Manque” by Erin Larson

     “Repeat after me: I will not hunt alligators while Désirée runs deliveries.”

     Léon blinks at me, rich hickory eyes peering up from a face darker than any glancing touch of the sun could produce. He wriggles in a barely-perceptible fashion, bare heels grinding ringlets into the muddy deck, a creature of obstinacy and faux innocence whose smile mystically exiles all suspicion from my mind.

     “’course, Dezzy,” he says. “There aren’t any alligators around right now, you know—they ain’t come out ‘til nighttime.”

      “They don’t come out ‘til nighttime,” I correct him, swiping a hand over the top of his

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March 15th, 2018

“Coloring Outside the Lines” — a short story by Debora Ewing

     I like the jazz because it plays in different colors: deep green and blue, translucent purple, ivory black; city storefronts, magenta sunsets; watercolor splashes here and there like a yellow crocus on snow or an orange goldfish tail — sudden, surprising, but always carefully placed.

     …Like the way people come in different colors — they just don’t know it. People walk along in darkness daily, ignorant of the color that’s surrounding them or the beat their music plays. That’s what I’m lying here thinking about, in my dark bedroom between the folds of cotton sheets. Africans, Asians, Seminoles…they all come in different colors — not their skins, but their insides. Each person glows from deep within, from a well that springs out of

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February 2nd, 2018

“Lulu and Me” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

     The winter I ran away, I moved into a garret in Provincetown, where I wrote poetry under the light of a candle far into the wee hours. Out my window, two stories up, I could see snow glistening on slanted rooftops that led like an uneven staircase to the bay. Below me, a twisted narrow path led to Commercial Street, peaceful and stark as an unwritten page. It was 1973 and I had run to the end of the world as I knew it to find freedom.

       I knew Provincetown from spending summers with my dad and Grandma Tess in her cottage in Truro. It seemed she’d lived most of her life since Grandpa’s passing as a beachcomber. I liked following behind her when we collected

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January 8th, 2018

“Icarus” — a short story by Ian MacAgy

     Near the end of high school I thought myself sophisticated, a fan of Pink Floyd and King Crimson and Kevin Ayers, but at a Weather Report Concert in 1972 I had a nearly religious conversion.  It was as though a stranger had run up to me and said, “hold this for minute” and ran off. Then the music exploded. I had never heard anything like this. Everything changed. 

      It was as though I grew hair in secret places and a new appendage.  I became a different creature.  After that night few of my suburban DC white friends’ guitar and lyrics-oriented ears could hear what mine could; the joy and heartbreak in this unfamiliar and ebonic timbre, this canvas painted in horn, acoustic bass, and polyrhythm; this blues, this brokenness, this homesickness.   

     There it was, though, for anyone who had ears for it—there, in the absence of verse, in the uncertainty and unpredictability of lengthy solos, in the timelessness of power beyond the moment from which

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December 1st, 2017

“Improv” — a short story by Lorna Wood

     This was all her fault, Sarah thought, as she watched the Victory Lounge clear out. She should have known Branchville wasn’t ready for improv jazz. But the bass player, Tommy Williams, had been so supportive after the workshop with the graduate wind students. Sarah had gotten so interested in the group’s ideas about jazz and improvising that she had gone straight to the practice room after the workshop and found their website. Earbuds in both ears, she was improvising to one of the rhythmic bass tracks there when she happened to raise the bell of her clarinet on a long high note the way she’d seen the quartet’s wind players do, and there was Tommy knocking on the door.

            He had been so just what a jazz bass player from Chicago should be, Sarah thought, with his dusky skin and his smoky voice, and his rakish fedora tipped over one eye. And at the same time he had been so genuinely

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November 18th, 2017

“One Suitcase” — a short story by Wayne Cresser

     Henry Bell wished the actress on the TV interview show wouldn’t smile so much. Most show folk, he thought, were not memorable. They were things, as he had written in one of his songs, made on the cheap from neon and crepe. Sometimes he believed it too. Then he’d remind himself that human beings wrote all kinds of wonderful tunes, like “The Wind” — the number that had made his mind reel when he was very young and made him think he could write songs.

     “The Wind” was eight, maybe nine, minutes of continuous jamming colored in with jazzy chords, an understated vocal and poetry. As a kid, listening to Dick Summer’s Subway show late at night on his transistor radio, stuck under the pillow to muzzle its volume, he thought he could trek into “The Wind” and the journey through its changes would be endless.

     Now, nearly forty, he wasn’t a kid anymore, and jazz-inflected rock music wasn’t his thing. At some point too, he’d decided that Circus Maximus was a pretty dumb name for a

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November 11th, 2017

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #46 — “Cotton Candy on Alto Sax,” by Julie Parks

At first, I simply sit on the front steps of my building, letting the summer sun bake my knees while I’m planning my getaway, trying to decide which subway to take to get to Caroline’s place faster. I know nobody will miss me. Nobody will even notice. Not like the first time I ran away.

The first time I ran away – OK, maybe I didn’t exactly run away, as the only thing I did was leave my house in the morning to go down to New Utrecht Avenue to sit in a subway station. But I didn’t come back. I wasn’t going to. I sat there all day, until it got late and dark, and eventually even darker and so late that it was time for my mom to come home. And when she did and saw that I’m gone, she called the cops and they found me instantly. Picture a pink haired girl sitting on a bench in an all Hasidic neighborhood. Not a rocket science to spot my cotton candy stack of hair even in the middle of a dark subway station. So I was brought home that same night, safe and sound, and feeling like an

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November 5th, 2017

“Voodoo Run” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

Allie drove her taxi with a smart ass attitude, smacking gum ceaselessly, and wore a Yankees cap backwards on her head on the job, even though she’d never watched a baseball game in her life, didn’t even like the game. Her dad had named her after a pitcher who’d won five straight World Series and Allie was always grateful that pitcher hadn’t been named Lefty or something like that.

Allie’s father had been the true baseball fan and Allie wore his cap in his memory. His real gift to her was love of music, jazz in particular. In her cab, she listened to WBGO, 88.3, remembering times she hung out with her dad in the garage listening to Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, experiments in sound, beautiful chaos while he fixed things. The garage was Bert’s space and his peace, or rather, the music was, and the smoke and silence that rose between them accentuated this. Whenever the strangers she drove around asked about her father, Allie always told them, “He went the way of the Marlboro man.” Cancer.

It surprised people to hear that she, a Millennial should enjoy jazz. “Jazz was like my Gerber food,” she liked to say. As a teen she dug hip hop enough to explore its fusion with jazz, but the fusion didn’t

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September 8th, 2017

Short Fiction Contest winning story #45 — “Last Stop with Louis Armstrong,” by Laura Hawbaker

            Wade missed the sweat. The sticky air that hugged you like a fat friend. The languid, dirty stench of swampy gutters. Of Bourbon street piss and puke. Of Dat Dogs at three in the morning, and the street mutts that cawed at the Mississippi. The rats and cockroaches scuttling around your shoes. The humidity. The heat.           

            He missed all of it.

            New York was cold. Not just the weather, but the people, too. Hardened pedestrians crushed the MTA platforms like stone statues, eyes glazed onto their phones or the wall or the floor. No smiles. No inward space given away to strangers. They hugged into their

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July 18th, 2017

“As good as it will ever get” — a short story by Julie Parks

Swoosh! Shhh. Shhhhh! I hear the ear numbing screech and the train finally stops moving. Nine seconds and the loud beep will announce the door opening. Heels clack against the icy early morning pavement. The mass of cigarette smoke hazes my sense of direction until we finally reach the end of the Binario 12 and my ears welcome the familiar sound of strings.

It’s distant and quite mellow but I can still make out the song. It’s a new one. He’s only played it a few times. I know it. Everyone loves it because it’s from that movie. The one with

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June 15th, 2017

“Foolish Love” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

     That winter we lived among mice in the Berkshires, in a little cabin set not far from a large white clapboard house that belonged to the owner Betty, who was a widow. Two steps up to the cabin did nothing to keep the mice away. Their constant tweaking and bustle made me feel I was living in an indoor forest. Betty, who was a nice old lady, warned us. “You’ll never be able to keep the mice out. If you can stand them, the place is yours.”

 

      We had come up to the Berkshires figuring we might have to rough it, but had no idea. Van and I had been together about two years then. The summer before we had been married on a beach in

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June 6th, 2017

An excerpt from “A Moment of Fireflies” — a novella by John McCluskey

     Michael continued down the darkening street.  A gust of wind blew off the Lake.  His eyes watered.  He turned his back to the wind, and the wind blew hard, unfurling his coat and his pant legs. He bent into it to soften its assault, but he soon turned his back to protect his face against the onslaught.   A man and a woman hurried across the street, almost bumping into him, holding hands as if one would fly away.  The lid blew off of a trashcan and crashed wildly into the street; a car rattled by up ahead at the intersection.  When at last the street was empty with no more cars and no more men or women about, Michael found himself alone but for a few

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May 24th, 2017

“All Aboard” — a short story by Susandale

    The dank and chilly hall echoed with a Marksmen rehearsal taking place. Lea and her spanking-new group rehearsed their music on a stage bordered by tables holding overturned chairs. And as David sat unnoticed in the dark hall, Lea’s caramel voice melted to run down the walls, and warm the empty pockets in his heart.                             

                                *Daydreams, I’ve got daydreams galore.

                                Cigarette ashes, there they go on the floor.”

     Scooting around, he wrestled with the chair’s wooden slats and wobbly legs versus his long limbs.    

     And while Lea was singing the third stanza, *”Let them laugh, let them frown … “ David was plotting his exit from the trailer. He was so engrossed with his plans that he didn’t notice the

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April 5th, 2017

“At Del Rey Rooms” — a short story by Tim J. Myers

            Years later he became a professor, a scholar—wrote a well-received book on epistemology.  But back then he was just a guy in love.

            They’d taken a cheap room in Venice for the summer, a run-down place a couple of blocks from Dockweiler Beach.  You could always smell the sea, its powerful mix of salt freshness and rot.  He’d never lived with a woman before; she’d had other boyfriends.  She was from back-county San Diego, told him she’d come to L.A. looking for a real life.  He’d just graduated from

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March 11th, 2017

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #44 — “Da Capo al Fine” by J. Lee Strickland

     I wake up when the door opens. Instant-awake, alert. I’m staring at the ceiling, at the ornate medallion in its center. Late-night city glow from the windows casts awkward shadows on the plaster. The light clicks on, and I hear a gasp. I feel a sympathetic shot of adrenaline hit my chest. I look toward the door, and there’s a woman there, a stranger. A beauty, too, dressed in a black pants-suit, purse slung over a shoulder, the jacket cut and fitted to her slim waist matador-style. Beneath the jacket, she’s wearing a white blouse with an enormous collar that flares out over her shoulders and breast, like gull wings. Her hair is loose, brown, shoulder-length, streaked with bits of blonde, her face around her dark eyes a mix of fear and puzzlement.

     “Who are you?” she says, her hand still on the light switch. “What are you doing here?” Her voice quivers.

     I look around. The ceiling looks like my

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March 4th, 2017

“Storyville” — a short story by Matthew Peel

Jeffrey’s fingers hovered inches above the ivory. His heart pounded. The oak bench creaked as he leaned forward, only the toes of his scuffed leather shoes making contact with the floor. The hand-written notes on the page in front of him bounced up and down with every panting breath. He recognized most of the squiggles and lines cascading up and down the staff, but he couldn’t read a single word that surrounded them. Ms. Joetta’s voice echoed in his head, reverberated out of the hole in his threadbare fedora. Play, son. The first chance you get, and don’t look back. He could feel lightning in his fingers, almost driving him past the fear deep in his

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January 28th, 2017

“Like a Pigeon in the Park” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

“What a shame,” people always said whenever they saw the two of them, Jeremy and Jade. What a shame the beauty of the boy had escaped the girl, who had her mother’s small oval face and father’s prominent nose and small dark eyes that were filled with a peculiar, almost unnatural intensity. “Such a shame,” relatives observed unabashedly at family gatherings. The remaining phrase that hung in air unspoken was, ”that she isn’t the beautiful one. “

To herself in the mirror, Jade’s own face and visage seemed fine, just a part of her, not even all that consequential. Didn’t brains and character matter more? She was striking much in the way Zelda Fitzgerald had been—a beauty you could not capture in photographs, more in movement, gesture, articulation. Somewhere, not far from the small, provincial town where Jade lived, where people stared at you if you did not fit a mold, there were people like her who were different and proud of their differences and she looked forward to meeting them one day. In the meantime, she would have to deal with challenges.

Growing up, many of them had to do with her brother, who was two years older. Although Jade garnered high marks in school, not much was made of it so

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December 8th, 2016

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #43 — “Pandora’s Sax” by Robert Glover

In the back of a closet, on top of a shelf, under two empty shoeboxes, and behind a small, carry-on bag lurked a humped, black, plastic case. Years of knocking about in the backs of vans and offstage in smoky clubs had etched lines into its surface. Every song had scuffed another memory: Dewey Redman’s “Imagination” or Clifford Brown’s “Night in Tunisia”. An accidental kick from a ska fan had left a dent even after the shell had popped back into place. For twenty years, it had remained closed, a relic of temptation, while inside a saxophone slumbered, waiting for its silent call to beckon again. It was patient. It had time.

Nathan Gold heard the call. It was a Saturday morning in mid-spring as he returned from racing his mountain bike along the Long Beach boardwalk. Pumping the pedals, he glided up the

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November 1st, 2016

“Requiem For Ishmael” — a short story by Jeanine DeHoney

There had to be hundreds of people standing in the rain, waiting to get into Misty’s Supper Club on Lenox Avenue for my brother Ishmael’s memorial. I swallowed the lump of grief in the back of my throat and surveyed the crowd, fans and protégé’s of his music, as varied as a pot of jambalaya.

Some people recognized me from seeing

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September 20th, 2016

“Psalm” — a short story by Ian Rictor

     I watch my hand remove the phone from the wall above the couch’s arm and there is a sweat in my ear as I hear a distant Miles Davis. I am called by the distorted voice of Miles Davis rasping my name.

     John, he says, are you busy?

     I let my eyes blur into my mother’s sofa, melting a monotonous no out of my mouth toward the receiver. I feel the room sloshing peacefully in waves around me and the buzzing of my lips from my mouthpiece and reed. My saxophone sits strewn across the floor along with my

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September 3rd, 2016

“Our Perspective” – a short story by Joy Bergman

“I don’t know…I still don’t see it.” I grumble to myself, sloping my head down in a perfectly coordinated position with the rest of my body. Slope. Coordinated. It all just makes me think of math. Math. “That’s it,” I tell myself silently, still looking around the empty halls, though no one is there. I sigh. I suppose it may not really be a fact, but everyone knows that statistically minded people, like me, see numbers. But people like her – well, I guess they see what I’m looking at. “No,” I run a hand through my gelled hair. She would see it all differently. What did she say again? I check my phone and then casually hold up what she said it would look like to the picture. “A black parked car with white windows near the dock in a blazing sunlight overlooking the ocean.” I focus on the

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August 13th, 2016

“Louisiana Pearl” — a short story by Bokerah Brumley

The faraway trumpet’s trill drifted into the home we shared. The tune stirred the heavy air. It should have been spring weather, but a heatwave had taken over our parish. It made the air heavy and made us languid during the days.

Mama hummed along with the hand-me-down song while she worked, stirring the wash or cooking supper or mixing herbs. Her mama taught her to hear it, same as she taught me. It was as constant as the wind.

Mama’s gray strands peeked from beneath a dark blue kerchief, the majority braided then twirled in an age-thinned bun. She didn’t know how old she was. Best she could figure, she was

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August 1st, 2016

“Intergalactic Language” — a short story by James E. Guin

I was playing my weekly gig at Café Reinhardt when Bella, one of the waitresses, whispered in my ear, “They want you out back.”

She had disturbed me from a zone. I had been through all of my arrangements and was improving on the chords to “Minor Swing.”

“They?” I asked.

She shrugged her shoulders. Straight to the point, no small talk, Bella was my kind of gal. In the second it took to place my guitar on my guitar stand a million thoughts circled around in my mind. Did Chad, the drummer, want to borrow money again? Had the musician’s union caught on to the fact I wasn’t paying my dues? Another one of the agent Jimmy’s scams? Groupies? Oh yeah, jazz musicians haven’t had groupies under the age of forty-five since the 1940s.

I stood up, and as Bella was strolling to a table near the front door, she said, “Take your guitar.”

Ah, nothing complicated just someone wanting to test out my chops before a gig. People can be peculiar when it comes to inviting musicians into their home. They want to meet you, form a relationship, and get the feel for

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July 20th, 2016

Short Fiction Contest winning story #42 — “Playing for Tips,” by Kevin Bennett

It was a persistent and gentle nudge—always was. He knew who was prodding him and what she would say without turning, so he continued to run his fingers up and down the keys—there was a major seventh followed by a fifth interval; repeat several times, arpeggiate, transpose—

“Sir? I’m sorry sir—”

The nudging again. He spoke as if distracted—which he was: “Yes?”

“Some of the people are trying to work,” she said.

“Have them come and talk to me,” he replied, and continued to play.

The barista was put-off for a moment, but she jostled him again. “If you could just play a little quieter—”

The words were like daggers. They weren’t new, they weren’t original, and they brought hate like bile to his mind and body; coursing in and throughout him like a thousand

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July 9th, 2016

“The Horn: Whispers of eternity in F major” — a short story by Mi West

Some lives turn out healthy and long, some more fulfilled than long. Bro was sick and much older. He passed away last spring, so his voice sounds both new and familiar to me, as it whispers,

Go to my place and visit my old room.

“Why?”

I’ll let you know.”

An ascending airliner outside wakes me up, and I realize I was dreaming. I’m still yawning as I look up a weekend bus, but the online timetable shows more blanks than connections.

It’s dry September weather, so I grab my key to his door, fill up my water bottle, and make this a bike trip in heat haze instead, like the

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April 6th, 2016

“THE BLUE KISS” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

She stood in a room at The Met glancing at the painting on the wall, which was of two women kissing. From her vantage point, standing slightly away and to the side, the two women lying together interlocked in bed appeared cushioned awkwardly in space, free-floating yet connected.

The painting was by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the alcoholic French dwarf artist, and she tried to imagine what it was like living when he did in Paris at the time of the painting, 1892, and what it might have been like for these two prostitutes and others like them who often turned to one another for relief from a world of men then.

Mireille, it was reported, was one of the girls in the brothel in the Rue d’Amboise, when Lautrec was commissioned to create a series of panels about the lives of the girls there, and she was one of his favorites. He visited the salons of the brothels in the Rue des Moulins and Rue d’Amboise many times to study and paint the women, who felt very free to be

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February 2nd, 2016

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #40 — “The Blues Museum,” by Jay Franzel

Camp looked through glass doors and across the shoulderless highway. A patch of grass across the road was covered with white trailers washed clean by the rain. He stared out a side window at the brown back of a gas station. A red and yellow sign, mounted so high he had to twist his neck to see it, seemed like it should have been turning but sat still against a gray sky.

What do you find in a bus station? Long waits under dirty fluorescents, grimy floor and seats, gloom on scattered faces. Soup, coffee and candy vending machines. If someone could gather it up, all the pieces a bus station’s handed down through the years, you could start a museum. You could cover the walls with

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November 16th, 2015

“Woman Plays Horn” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

She was born into a family of musicians. Her father had played bass in a jazz band and traveled with Dizzy until an accident had cost him his arm and his career. Getting out of a limousine that had stalled on the highway en route to a gig in Chicago, he opened the car door to get out at the wrong time, just as a truck was passing.

“C’est la vie” he always said about that, as if it meant something. He had to go on, a musician without a limb, without his instrument, because he was a man and had children and a legacy to uphold through them, but inside, where nothing touched him, he felt as torn as his shoulder had been that night. Something had shifted. Only his wife, his gentle, meek and attendant wife who saw him sitting at the edge of their bed each night head bowed counting his blessings, all but one, only she knew what

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November 1st, 2015

“Songs for Sometime Losers: A Bebop Suite” — by Beth Spencer

Slow slow slooooooooooooooow; the river was practically dry, a river in name only, a few puddles on the mudflats where standing water reflected the cottony clouds that moved perpetually east, dropping nothing anymore but empty promises. Unsettling in the most literal sense. Many people sold their houses or just abandoned them, heading north, and those who stayed finally got serious about

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August 22nd, 2015

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #39: “The Lot,” by John Hyde Barnard

Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.

John Hyde Barnard of Los Angeles, California is the winner of the 39th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on July 3, 2015.

*

“The Lot”

by John Hyde Barnard


He brought the cigarette up to his lips. As he took a hit the orange
glow briefly lit his face and faded back into shadow as he slowly exhaled
a cloud of blue smoke. He crushed the butt on the windowsill, sparks and
dying embers leaving a trail that quickly became black and cold. As he
flicked the butt into the night air he glanced over the rooftops. It
seemed the horizon was a shade lighter. Had he been sitting there that
long?

Unable to sleep since arriving at the apartment some hours earlier,
he sat at the open window: musing, arguing, longing and laughing with his
thoughts. He had not discovered an epiphany or revelation, only a comfort
with the warm night. It was the first warm night of the season; the
unmistakable promise of

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July 3rd, 2015

“Don’t Threaten Me with Love, Baby” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

Chantal Doolittle wasn’t like anybody else she knew. Who else, for example, would stand transfixed before a record player or stereo, still as stone while listening to music — not merely attending to it — her very cells taking in the song, calculating and absorbing. “That girl is special,” Nana Esther always said.

When she was a kid and Motown was the thing, Chan would sing Marvin Gaye’s tunes to her grandmother in their high ceilinged apartment, where, more often than not it was soul music, the harmonizing voices of The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, drifting in from the surrounding windows and disappearing into the sky that was perennially a washed out gray, as if there was an invisible flag always at half mast, hanging outside heaven. From the time she was five or six, all Chan had to do was hear a song once and she would know it. She knew all the Motown tunes word for word, and sang them right on key, perfectly, which is why Nana Esther dubbed her, “my little songbird.”

Of course, there was nothing little about Chantal, but, being her grandmother’s one and only, she was “a little one” to her. Chantal was tall, big for her age, and when she developed as a young woman, busty too. She stood out even before she opened her mouth, due to her attitude. Her nana had taught her to be “confident as a man,” and she had seemingly

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May 30th, 2015

“Dizzy Moods” — a short story by Daniel Alvarado

Three cars honked almost in union. Then successively, each a blare in order, one two three, then two three one three four with the line through, beat ripitum boom, ba, riptum boom, now hear it a little faster, just a little faster, lips to instrument, trumpet, three valves, infinite notes to jot to sing to blow, perched lips, fat cheeks, cosmic energy of the union, the intertwined with keys of ivory.

Marcus Breck was recalling stepping on stage the first time. Nervousness rising from toes to a tingling head. Dry mouth, the initial silence of the room that precedes the beginning of

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March 31st, 2015

“A Man’s Hands En Clave” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

Club Havana was known for hosting decent Afro-Cuban jazz bands. There was dancing Thursdays through Sundays, and Sunday afternoons, the management handed out free cigars. Hector became close to the house band, whose rhythm section inspired him. He thought the drummer Manny was off the charts. Completely bald, he wore leather bands that cinched his pump wrists as if to keep his hands from flying off his body whenever he played fast and furious. A skinny, short guy played bongos, and a drunk worked the tumbadoras. Jorge, Carlos and Javier, all dapper guys, played horns. As if to distinguish themselves, one wore a mustache; another, a hat; and the other, wire rimmed glasses. Additionally, there was a young Julliard graduate on piano, a white-haired Cubano on flute, and a sax player who looked exactly like Lester Young. One afternoon, before their gig, Manny and Hector got to talking, and Hector started messing around on the tumbadoras, imitating what he had so often seen and heard. Manny raised his eyebrows and cocked his head. He liked this kid, and his sound was good.

“Why don’t you come hang with us this weekend. A few of us like to jam at Columbus Circle. Come along and let’s see how you work those congas in a group.”

Over the course of the summer, Hector hung out in the park. It was there he met

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February 18th, 2015

“Masters of the Jazz Kazoo” — a short story by Con Chapman

“Masters of the Jazz Kazoo” is a short story by Con Chapman about a man whose goal was to make it in New York’s cutthroat world of the jazz kazoo!


_____


Like all jazz kazoo players, getting to New York City was always my goal. To turn the Sinatra song on its head, until you made it there, you hadn’t made it anywhere.

Yes, I’d cut every kazooist in the Quad Cities, the sub-metropolitan area of Iowa that from the air appears to be what it is full of — squares. Then I’d moved on to Chicago, like Louis Armstrong, where I found a wider audience for my “kool kazoo” stylings. It may be America’s “Second City” (actually third, but who’s counting) but landing on my feet there was like a

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February 4th, 2015

“Father Kniest, Jazz Priest” — a short story by Con Chapman

“Father Kniest, Jazz Priest” is a short story by Con Chapman about “a man of the cloth…deputized by a higher power to save jazzmen’s souls from the lures and wiles and temptations of bad taste.”

_____

I’m getting too old for this, I thought as I made my way down Boylston Street, my tambourine in one hand, the Good Book in the other. I started ministering to the jazz scene in Boston back when Estelle Slavin and Her Swinging Brunettes were the house band at Izzy Ort’s Coney Island Club on Essex Street. Floogie Williams and the Unquenchables were ensconced at the Tip-Top Lounge, which didn’t sit well with the sconces that came with the place as trade fixtures, but so what? We were young and crazy for jazz — we didn’t care.

But now I’m closing in on eighty, and eighty’s looking over its shoulder, nervous as hell. I’ll catch it soon enough — if I don’t die first.

Back in ’55 I was just out of the seminary and was assigned by my

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January 7th, 2015

“In a Blue Moon, Once” — a short story by Richard Herring

“Night of the living dead,” a voice screamed in Tom’s head. A softer voice pointed out it was still late afternoon. It sure wasn’t life as he wanted to know it. In reality, it was just another long Thursday afternoon of monthly staff meetings, with new mandates and standards flowing downhill from the top. All the nodding mannequins around the conference room would take it all in, shoot a few inane, brown nose comments back at the presenter, then go back to do their jobs tomorrow the same as always.

Sylvia’s attention was on the crochet hoop in her lap. Jack’s eyes had been closed for the better part of 45 minutes. Tom’s life support system came through the cord fed neatly up beneath the lapel, to the headphones partially obscured by thick sideburns and abundant head of hair. A collection of earpieces was present among these old codgers, but his was connected to the brand new cassette player in his suit coat pocket.

The tape Mikki turned him on to seemed to emanate from a place beyond his routine, tired existence. It was as if the music offered a

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December 16th, 2014

“HEAT” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

1. Savoy Blues

Mercies would have put blues on the menu if it could, but that was a province of the kitchen, where I worked four and a half months too many. I heard actual blues music and caught a gust of air conditioning whenever I snuck through the dining area early in my shift to use the guest bathroom before customers arrived, passing the line of booths next to the orange and black walls on which hung colorful modern paintings of jazz musicians and the

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December 3rd, 2014

“Silent City” — a short story by Adam Murray

Although only one story wins our thrice yearly Short Fiction Contest, since we typically receive well over 100 entrants, often times there are several worthy of publication. Our last competition, our 37th, was won by Kenneth Levine. His short story “Homage” — about the effect Chet Baker’s drug addiction had on a father and son relationship — was published on November 4.

A finalist in the competition was Adam Murray’s “Silent City,” an excellent story about “how we can’t have the things we can no longer have because they no longer exist.” In this case, what we can’t have again is the 1940’s jazz laboratory known as Minton’s Playhouse. When I sent an email to Murray requesting his permission to allow me to publish “Silent City,” he wrote back and agreed, informing me that he had written this story specifically for Jerry Jazz Musician and “from there just kinda’ crossed my fingers.” In that same email, Murray wrote; “I’m currently homeless in Australia and penned this piece with my back to the brickwork behind a little jazz joint here called Ellington’s, digging on the swing, the night and the street, so your acceptance is a fitting coda for me. I’d be honoured to appear in your publication with like minded souls and voices.”

Murray’s email is an extraordinary reminder

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November 19th, 2014

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #37: “Homage,” by Kenneth Levine

New Short Fiction Award

Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.


Kenneth Levine of Wethersfield, Connecticut is the winner of the thirty-seventh Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on November 5, 2014.


Homage

by

Kenneth Levine


_______________________________

I deplaned in Amsterdam to confront my father. In 1990, the year I was born, after the likes of Stan Getz and Freddie Hubbard dubbed him “the reincarnation of Chet Baker,” he quit his part-time job repairing cars in Gilbert, Iowa to go on a worldwide tour from which he never returned.

From the airport I boarded a train to Centraal Station, across from which the Prins Hendrik hotel is situated at the Northern end of Zeedijk Straat, and by early evening I had navigated through the designated lanes over which walkers, bicyclists, and motorists coursed to stand before a bronze tablet on the hotel’s brick front that featured a haggard Chet Baker playing the trumpet over an inscription that read: “Trumpet player and singer Chet Baker died here on May 13th, 1988. He will live on in his music for anyone

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November 5th, 2014

“When the World Was Young,” a short story by Willard Manus

A finalist in our recent Short Fiction Contest, Willard Manus’ “When the World Was Young” is a love story between a man and a woman, and a woman and her musical inspiration — Clifford Brown

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September 25th, 2014

“Broad Street” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

The publication of Arya Jenkins’ “Broad Street” is the fourth in a series of short stories she has been commissioned to write for Jerry Jazz Musician. For information about her column, please see our September 12 “Letter From the Publisher.”

For Ms. Jenkins’ introduction to her work, read “Coming to Jazz.”

__________

The day I moved into Broad Street, the roiling waters of the Long Island Sound burst over sea walls along the Connecticut coast from New Haven to Greenwich, flooding Bridgeport so badly, a poor, emotionally disturbed man actually drowned in a sewer. At Seaside Park, water rushed across two parking lots, swirled around a few skimpy trees and headed straight for the historic set of row houses that included my basement apartment. It was early December as I arrived, two knapsacks in tow, only to find my new landlady Rosie and my neighbor Alice knee-deep in galoshes in muck, hauling out my furniture.

A week earlier, Alice had lured me with, “There’s a vacancy next door and it’s yours. Everybody’s an artist here. You belong.” I had felt that the studio with its cozy rooms

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August 5th, 2014

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #36 — “Fever” by Yvonne McBride

Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.

Yvonne McBride of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the winner of the thirty-sixth Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on July 12, 2014.




Fever


by

Yvonne McBride

_______________________________




Royal had studied her from the bandstand each and every night since their first gig. Such a little thing she was. Nicely curved, tightly packaged — but such a small little thing he had a notion she would break if even his fingertips glazed her. And he had tried. To touch her. Had been trying to get close to her for the past two and all night long.

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July 12th, 2014

“Epistrophy” – a short story by Arya Jenkins

The publication of Arya Jenkins’ “Epistrophy” is the third in a series of short stories she has been commissioned to write for Jerry Jazz Musician. For information about her column, please see our September 12 “Letter From the Publisher.” For Ms. Jenkins’ introduction to her work, read “Coming to Jazz.”

__________

Disenchanted leaves fell early through the trees the summer I left my life for an ashram. The path to the ashram snaked into the woods not far from Tanglewood and reminded me less of where I had been than where I was going with its rotund emphasis on kindness and formality-Within a year I would be studying Buddhism in a monastery and teaching English at Cornell in Ithaca.

I was attempting to put a punto finale to the moneyed nonsense in which I’d lived too long in Fairfield County, and wanted to quell my fulminating instinct, my destructive fires and find some kind of peace and stability, even at the expense of boredom–which may have been expecting too much.

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April 16th, 2014

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #35: “The Usefulness of the Blues,” by Sam Lieberman

I’m lonely most nights. It’s part of my job. You can’t be happy if you want to play the blues. But there were some nights that made my misery worth it, where I felt light for once and everything fit together. I’m sure it was the absence of thought that did it. When I think about things, I realize how awful they are. But when I float out of my chains, having known what they were like, the freedom is all the sweeter.

January 8th was such a night.

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March 15th, 2014

“The Bluest Train,” a short story by Arya Jenkins

My friend Carl lived in a house full of ghosts with an evil sonofabitch brother who stole his shit, I mean all of it. But Carl himself, man, Carl was good as gold. He would give you the shirt off his back–everything, and did.

I moved in with my ex-old lady across the street from him in the late 80s when I was drying out and desperate for change. Marcy took me in, even after I had been such a dick. She knew it was the booze made me sleep around, and even though she kicked my drunken ass out on the curb, she took me in once she saw I was sober and clean. By then, she was already shacked up with a polite, fat, slob who was everything I wasn’t or would ever be.

Homestead Avenue, where we lived, was a pleasant street in a nice section of Fairfield called Black Rock, near the water. At the time, people were starting to navigate to the hood, although since then real estate prices have dropped due to the many storms–there have been too many storms in the area, man. But because of Black Rock’s proximity to the sound, which is like the sea, artists and strange people gravitate there.

I noticed Carl right off the bat. You couldn’t help but see him sitting on his porch with his supersized feet, head and limbs, a Franken monster. So I crossed the street one day to meet my neighbor, who looked a sorry sight–blackish long hair

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January 14th, 2014

“Sonny’s Blues,” by James Baldwin — “The most famous jazz short story ever written”

In the introduction to The Jazz Fiction Anthology, editors Sascha Feinstein and David Rife cite James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues” as “the most famous jazz short story ever written,” and is pointed to by Baldwin biographer David Leeming as “the prologue to a dominant fictional motif in the overall Baldwin story, the relationship between two brothers that takes much of its energy from the close relationship between James and [brother] David Baldwin.” The story, originally published in Partisan Review in 1957, centers on the narrator’s need to, in Leeming’s words, “save his brother [Sonny] from the precariousness of his life as an artist.” Sonny, in turn, finds his voice by playing bebop in the Village, which results, according to Leeming,

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December 6th, 2013

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #34: “Alto Saxophone,” by Joe DiBuduo

In a little town in Illinois, in a bar near the Wisconsin border, one man blew honey-dripping sounds from his saxophone. A woman’s body swayed in time with the sweetness emitting from that horn. She kept time with the beat and moved like melodic notes going up and down the scale. I imagined blowing musical sounds into her ear.

I crossed the wooden dance floor where she whirled, grabbed her hand and began to spin. Like musical notes, one black, one white, we danced all night. I softly sang into her ear, “Imagine how we’d dance in bed.”

She laughed in a low contralto voice, and changed it to a soprano when the high notes flowed.

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November 19th, 2013

Connecting Fiction with Music

While in the midst of reviewing the stories from the over 100 entrants in our current Short Fiction Contest, I have been impressed by the spirit of creativity that shines through in virtually every submission. No matter the story theme, the creative energy and spontaneity is as frequently evident in the writer’s turn of a phrase as it is in a jazz musician’s harmonic progression.

The other day I got into a conversation about how jazz musicians of the 1950’s and the Beat era writers shared an artistic language and had similar creative values that showed up in a variety of examples. The one that came to mind first was in Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” where Kerouac is inspired by a jazz performance in Chicago…This is what he writes:

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October 15th, 2013

“Soliloquy,” by Arya F. Jenkins

I am a bastard son of the late great Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who came to this country in 1970, amassed many followers and bedded many women, among them, my dear mother. My parents never married. My mother left my father and moved with me to the Big Apple when I was still a toddler. While my mother met and married a broker named Irv and had my sister Pearl, my own father went on to become a famous teacher and big lush.

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September 15th, 2013

“Coming to Jazz,” by Arya Jenkins

On the occasion of my 12th or 13th birthday, my father presented me with my own copy of a favorite album of his, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out and said, “This music is going to change your life.” The music sounded like nothing I’d ever heard. It was original and different and piqued my curiosity although I would not embrace it until later in my life. In the early 90s, when I was reading my poems in cafes that often played jazz in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, I started really listening to the music, and found it captivating.

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September 15th, 2013

A Letter from the Publisher/Introducing Jazz Fiction writer Arya Jenkins

For 11 years, Jerry Jazz Musician has sponsored 33 Short Fiction Contests resulting in 30 different contest winners. During that time, I estimate that I have read and considered over 3,000 short stories.

The stories vary in content and quality, of course, and it has been my goal to publish the best story regardless of its theme. This has at times led to confusion by some writers over the years who believe that, since Jerry Jazz Musician’s focus is on jazz history – and in particular within the confines and culture of mid-20th Century America – the winning story should always be about jazz or a character within that setting.

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September 12th, 2013

New Short Fiction Contest-winning story #32: “The Valley of Ashes,” by Anna Dallara

She didn’t dance to the music; she danced with it. The melody wrapped his arms around her and the chords ran ivory fingers through her curls. Harmony whispered in her ear and she laughed at all his jokes. She twirled up and down scales with him, the hem of her skirt swirling a single syncopated beat behind her. Her form in her red dress was as curvaceous as the treble clef, and her quick smile flashed staccato at the other dancers and drinkers, lingering largo in the hearts of those who were gifted with the lively beats.

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March 8th, 2013

New Short Fiction Contest-winning story #31: “Night Cafe,” by Joe DiBuduo

When my doctor released me from the asylum in Saint-Remy, he warned me to stay away from absinthe or my hallucinations would worsen. I didn’t tell him I had no need for absinthe to hallucinate. I often had company, even when there wasn’t anyone with me.

I’d spent some of my time in the asylum playing billiards. Everyone assured me that I was a natural, the best player they’d ever seen. Maybe, instead of painting, I’d play billiards for a living. As soon as I walked past the gates of the asylum,

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November 8th, 2012

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #30: “So What,” by Arya Jenkins

Whenever I’m pissed off, I escape to the pit. Out the kitchen door, fists deep in the pockets of my tight ass jeans, I head towards the woods back of the house.

I cross the backyard, past Moreno, the poor chained up son-of-a-bitch boxer. Rosa clinches his leash, pulling him close like a kid. The poor son-of-a-bitch tenses as I go by, his spindly legs and stubby tail shivering at my wrath, ears perked, head cocked – Was up girl, grounded again?

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July 15th, 2012

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #29: “Inspiration,” by Gabriella Costa

The garden by the sea is just beginning to grow into itself. Its green has started to spill out over the fence and tumble onto the walk that lines the side of the shore house. The weather is warming, and combined with the rich soil of the ground, the plants reap the favor of the earth, led to grow lush and vibrant across the expanse. The tendrils of the cucumbers have travelled far up their trellises, continuing to curl out into the air, while the bushes of basil nearby explode into a happy, bright leafed green.

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March 8th, 2012

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #28: “Resolution,” by N. Barry Carver

It’s a shame that, in the 21st century, there are still men of my age who do not know who fathered them. Setting aside the moral issues, I need to know about my family medical history and bloodlines. What if, through twisted fate, my one true love were revealed to be my half sister? Or find out, while facing an ill-informed press, that I am the progeny of some great hero, or desperate criminal, and under the presumption of similar habits. At forty-eight, I still don’t know if I should be honoring the birth of a savior, celebrating the miracle of lights or dancing naked in the woods on the dark of the moon.

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November 8th, 2011

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #26: “The Improvisational Distance,” by J. A. Reynolds

Everyone is afraid to knock on the door when they hear the trumpet behind it. A closed door is like an On Air sign or a red light outside a dark room. Still, they have to talk to him. Sonny is nowhere to be found. And Thibodeau is too busy eye-fucking the women at the hotel bar to practice. And Baldwin is just tired.

They wait for a lull, a break. Three minutes waiting outside the door, and it comes. They knock soft, one of those we didn’t want to have to bother you but didn’t see any other recourse knocks; a musician has a way of using sound, its timbre, its breadth, to say everything. Knocking is no different.

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March 4th, 2011

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #25: “Fahrenheit,” by Danny C. Knestaut

A trumpet squealed in the hospital halls. The note, like a brass rabbit, zipped past room 334. Moments later Mr. Fahrenheit watched two orderlies jog past the open door: not too fast, not real slow. It appeared to be the speed of indicated hurry. A few more notes from the trumpet whizzed down the hall before they too slowed to a jog, and then drew themselves out into expressions of gold, blue, green – then stopped before Mr. Fahrenheit could call the name of the song to mind. The next few notes he tapped out on the back of the hand he held in his own. His wife did not respond. Even he had begun to forget to expect a response. She inhaled. She exhaled. The eyes beneath her blue lids quivered and shimmered.

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November 1st, 2010

Short Fiction Contest-winner #24: “Alone: A Love Story,” by Abby Cummins

When I was ten, I was in a movie. It was a very famous movie. It ran in theaters for over a month, bringing in more and more revenue for the production company. When it finally came out on VHS (it was old enough that it was a tape, with reels inside it), the film grossed in the millions. The director was hailed as “visionary”, the actors as “superb”. The film itself became famous for having been one of the best horror movies of the year (1992). Critics said that it had “truly ushered in a new era of horror, one in which the innocent and benign murder recklessly”. The review that held these words was taped to my wall, for I’d been mentioned by name, praised, and it was a very well known newspaper, indeed. “Sharon Ellis, a real child actor who will no doubt amount to something great, gives a phenomenal debut performance. Her emotion and sensual expression are truly remarkable for such a young girl so new to the scene.” I used to read those words, over and over again, and imagine the critic who had written them watching me on the big screen before them.

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July 10th, 2010

Short Fiction Contest-winner #23: “Bumps Out Then Bumps Back,” by Trudy Carpenter

One black leather pump hides under the sofa; the other skidded behind the front door, keeled over in shock. Stockings lie limp on the carpet, slim legs broken, and shrunken feet awry at the heels, pale rungs shred up the thigh, as jagged and useless as fear. A gold chain lies coiled like a snake, broken beyond repair, not sparkling, just stunned.

In the bathroom, water gushes wild and wide from the metal spigot, creeps up the sides of steep white porcelain an inch at a time, swirls with thick steam and current from the source, a dank basement room, a mystery pumping system, a light hum in the pipes and a bill at the end of the month. She squeezes her lashes then twists the tap shut. Leg poised, she dips a foot

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March 10th, 2010

Short Fiction Contest-winner #22: “No Thanks,” by Karen Karlitz

Thanksgiving, 1968. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night, but I see that day as clearly as if I’m watching it on an old Magnavox. My mother Rose buzzes around our cramped two-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York, her hair in rollers, no makeup. She’s beautiful though, anyone would agree. It’s early in the day. She retrieves the tablecloth my grandmother embroidered when a teenager herself from the back of the hall closet, and sets the dining table in the foyer with her best dishes (black and white Noritake), silver plate from Fortunoff’s, and real cloth napkins in a tasty shade of pumpkin. She’s been up since five cooking; pies were baked the night before. But although her culinary plans are running smoothly, my mother’s mood is lethal.

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November 10th, 2009

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #21: “Parker’s Mood,” by Leland Thoburn

In the fall of 1991 I believed I would be the next Charlie Parker. Few of the bands on campus had even heard of Bird, and the few that had did not want a flute player. This did not deter me. I was out on the commons at UCLA riffing on “Confirmation” when Nadine found me.

“That makes my nipples hard.” She smiled.

I lowered my flute and stared. She was wearing a man’s dress shirt, as if she’d spent the night away. The shirt did little to hide the truth of her statement. But that wasn’t what got my attention. It was her face. She had the knack of smiling with her whole face – eyes, cheeks, lips, nose. Everything got into the act.

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July 15th, 2009

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #20: “Maybe Marrying Margaret,” by Jocelyn Crawley

There’s this painting she keeps staring at.

She imbibes it, absorbs everything it has to offer. A lilting shade of lavender, it features fourteen flawless flowers arranged with a meandering dissonance that flies in the face of the frame’s four square corners. They make its math seem maddening, symmetry superfluous.

“I like it,” she says quietly, tucking long brown strands of slightly curly hair behind her ears. She turns towards me slowly then, notes the slight adversarial something in my eyes. Intimately familiar with my proclivity for irreverent mocking, she now offers a slight smirk that seems just one shade shy of sly. Aware of my antagonism,

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March 15th, 2009

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #19: “Offkey” by Kate Robinson

If Mom and Dad had heard about my friend Benny and all that jazz from me, they’d have handled it. But when my fifth grade teacher ratted on us, it became a big, fat deal. Mom had to meet me in the front office after school and we silently trudged back to my classroom, both taking refuge in our own mental world.

Mrs. Drake motioned us to identical chairs in front of her desk. “I don’t want to alarm you. This isn’t an emergency, Mrs. McKenzie.” She forced her goosy face into a sympathetic mask. “Cathy’s not a problem child by any means.”

Mom’s shoulders relaxed under her starched cotton housedress, but her hands clutched the white gloves and tooled leather pocketbook positioned mid-lap.

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November 7th, 2008

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #18: “The Notes,” by Brian Greene

The first of my notes read I’M IN A STATE OF DISBELIEF. I left this one on top of a counter at a place where many of the thousands of people who worked in the same building as I did went to get their coffees and pastries in the morning.

The second note went AN ANGEL GOT IN BED WITH ME LAST NIGHT — OR MAYBE IT WASN’T AN ANGEL. I taped this one to the inside of the door of one of the stalls in the public bathroom of the same building.

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July 10th, 2008

Short Fiction contest-winner #17: “Mountain,” by Mark Kerstetter

I can’t fight. I’m not made for it. When I’m backed into a corner I can run, and that’s what I’m good at. I can’t gather myself to put up an opposition. I begin to quake and crumble and the parts of myself split into ever-smaller parts that want to get away as fast as possible. I’m an explosion, a spectacle to momentarily confuse the enemy. Also a physical wreck. The only movement that suits me is flight. My parts will converge into a fluid line of energy, but only in movement. It’s the way I’m made. If I held my hand out, lengthened my fingers for you and attempted to keep as still as possible, you would marvel at the trembling. But then give me a guitar and this same hand will produce a line no less marvelous in fluid grace.

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March 5th, 2008

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #16: “Cipher,” by Colleen Anderson

It had been warm all day, the type of day where the heavy air presses into you and makes it hard to move. It didn’t help that her shift had been spent calling customers and listening to endless streams of why they couldn’t make their hydro payments. And they would yell, swear at her as if she had caused their loss of job, their alcoholism, their way of life. She absorbed it all, the words sinking through the membrane in her ear and resonating within the membrane of her mind long after the calls had stopped.

If there’d been a breeze, or a slight coolness to the air, then those words could have lifted from her. They heated her, churning and boiling within so that by the time she got the apartment door open her flesh looked glossy with the sweat.

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November 1st, 2007

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #15: “The Prayer For Swift and University,” by Joanne Seiff

Stories burst out of her as a magician’s trick pulls out scarves; multi-colored patterns, solids and conservative checks spilled out of her mouth and hands when she least expected it. In the end, of course, she recognized it as it was. These were the stories of all our lives, every human soul’s experience could produce that knotted, impossibly long scarf string that sprung out of the local magician.

Yet, most people did not have a new story to tell very often at all. At first, this was a wonder to her — why did all the interesting things happen only to her? But of course, this was self-centered, she realized. These things do happen to all of us on this earth. It was just that few people noticed the stories as they blossomed. It’s in the observation of it, she discovered, that one finds a good story.

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July 15th, 2007

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #14: “The Red Underwear,” by Ellis J. Biderson

I have a problem, Father.

No, no “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” and the rest. Not this time.

And that’s it, really: I’m here again, in confession with you, as I have been for a long time, but I don’t think I’ve sinned.

Yes, of course, Father, I understand about confession. Penance, really, because that’s a sacrament, that’s how a person gets forgiveness of sins. There is absolution by a priest, but you – I, because I am sitting here now – have to have true sorrow and confess your sins, and do something about your behavior. You really have to mean it, not just want a pass for what you’ve done – and may do again, unless you’re genuine in your confession and really want to change.

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March 15th, 2007

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #13: “Mystery in C Minor,” by Bruce Golden

January 30, 1946 — Allied Headquarters, Paris, France

“What is it, Captain? I’m very busy.”

“Sorry to disturb you, Colonel, but you said you wanted a report as soon as I completed my investigation.”

Colonel Washburn searched his desk muttering, “Yes, yes. I’ll read your report as soon as you’ve filed it.”

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November 10th, 2006

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #12: “Mute,” by Mary Jo Marcellus Wyse

Megan Watson pushes open the front door of the old house, escaping the cold. On the left, a welcome mat, wet from snow, rests before the entrance to a vegetarian restaurant. She’s not hungry. Turning to the dry stairwell with the faded violin painted on the wall, she begins her ascent to the shop upstairs.

Paper taped at the top stair reads, “Press Doorbell.” When the door draws open, an older gentleman with a full, white mustache, smiles down at her. Running his palm over the top of his head, he looks tired, but curious.

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July 18th, 2006

Short Story Contest-winning story #11: “Stalking Bella,” by Hope Payson

The whole stalking thing started with the footprints. They were so large that his size twelve’s fit easily into the indents in the snow, and the space between them was so wide that following them forced him into an awkward little step-jump. Large paw prints ran parallel to the human prints. He assumed that they belonged to a dog. What else could they be? Yet, what did he know about the customs or recreational habits of these Northern Maine people? For all he knew they strutted through the pines chatting with bears.

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March 8th, 2006

Short Story Contest-winning story #10: “Uncle Evil Eye,” by Carole Bugge

My father died quickly and cleanly in the waning days of autumn, just two months before the arrival of the millennium. A massive neural hemorrhage took him — his brain, drowned in blood, was gone within hours. It was ironic that his own blood finally accomplished what years of alcoholism had not: heavy as his drinking was, he remained utterly lucid and sharp until the early morning hours of a late October Tuesday, when a tiny blood vessel in his head gave way, loosening the flood of fluid that killed him. Until then, his memory, both short and long-term, remained unimpaired. True, his body was falling apart; his liver and heart were bad, he suffered from diabetes, gout, macular degeneration — you name it, he had it — but his mind remained as sharp as the day he graduated with a PhD from Harvard.

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November 1st, 2005

Short Story Contest-winning story #9: “The Sound of Dreaming,” by Mary Burns

(One)

She has begun to daydream about having an affair.

She imagines herself with the men she sits next to at dinner parties, their wives across the table pulling down their mouths as she engages their husbands intensely in conversation, as she lays her hand on their arms and smiles over her wine glass. Then she looks away, smiles at her own husband seated two or three or four people away from her, nods and smiles, raises an eyebrow.

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July 1st, 2005

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #8: “Natural Selection,” Jackson Lassiter

The rigid wooden slats of the park bench press relentlessly against the length of my goose-pimpled back. A stocking cap rides low over my ears and most of my forehead, and a wool blanket — cocooned around my prone body — laps over my chin and tucks snugly around the sides of my face. Only my eyes, nose, and weather-cracked lips brave the raw chill. I gaze skyward as the frozen minutes slowly pass. I wouldn’t normally choose to rest here in the dead of winter, but tonight I didn’t have a choice. In life you are either a have or a have-not. Mike and I are have-not’s.

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March 15th, 2005

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #7: “Inheritance,” Diana Spechler

The workers at Jackson’s favorite record store wear bumble-bee striped tights, black plastic glasses, leather boots that lace straight up their thighs. Jackson’s wearing the purple beret he always wears, with his blond hair sticking out in back, and his cords, and his corduroy jacket that smells like him. It’s April, too warm for corduroy, but Jackson always wears corduroy, along with T-shirts that tell the world he’s been to every blues concert and jazz festival you could think of.

To me, it all sounds the same — jazz, the blues, whatever — it’s all horns, but Jackson’s got two hundred seventeen records — vinyl, he calls them — and a saxophone, too. Clearly, he’s got music in his blood. His dad also plays the saxophone, at bars in Harvard Square, and they kind of look alike, only Jackson’s dad has eyes like power drills that would tear your clothes clean-open if you didn’t look away in time.

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November 1st, 2004

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #6: “The Place Where Colored Notes Play,” by Rebecca Marshall-Courtois

Today, Celina is going tolive up to the promise she made to him fifteen years ago, that November dayin the neurologist’s parking lot, when he told her, “When my voice goes,I go.”

Ray can still hear the pitter-patter of raindrops onthe umbrella they’d shared that day, drumming out the minutes that passedas they stood, emotionally and physically immobile, terrified at the thoughtof taking another step. And he can still recall the wet wool smell of hersweater when he tucked his face into the hollow of her neck to hide his tears.But he thought Celina had chosen to forget that day and her vow, until twomonths ago when she asked him if he’d changed his mind. “Squeeze my arm ifyou still want to,” she’d told him.

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July 1st, 2004

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #5: “Traveling Magic,” by Kay Sexton

There are coyote in The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in West Travis County, Texas. One family; with three cubs. As always, the alpha female is the only one to breed, her two sisters will help her rear the cubs to maturity. She is a young female, less than two years old, and her sisters are her littermates: this family, barely more than striplings themselves, have fought hard to establish themselves in this reserve, managed for deer and birds, but not for coyote. Most Texans still shoot first, and ask themselves only afterwards if the beautiful golden corpse in front of them could possibly have posed a risk to livestock or pets.

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March 5th, 2004

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #4: “Anacostia,” by Qevin Oji

One. Anacostia lay there. Two. Three. Counting gunshots. Four. Five. He imagined the bullets cutting the sky, wondered how this tradition had begun. Six. The first time he held a gun, fired his first shot, he was six years old. It was on this same night — New Year’s Eve — thirteen years ago, just after midnight. Seven.

* * *

His father’s yellowy, roach-burnt fingertips stretched and folded his hand, his small fingers, barely skilled using a pencil, around the handle and trigger. I’m gonna make you a man. A chill shook his small body. He had never felt anything so cold, not a popsicle fresh from the ice cream truck, not the cold air gushing from inside the fridge onto his face in summer. Not even snow was this cold. When he had finished molding the boy’s hand to the gun, he let go. It fell immediately to Anacostia’s knees. A flat, open palm, smacked the back of his head. You ain’t no bitch. Lift that gun up, boy!

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October 15th, 2003

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #3: “Dancing Universe” by Kate Robinson

Though she sat alone, Mira wasn’t lonely. Woman, chair, patio, trees and sky merged in her nightly meditation. Mira finished her prayer, touching the crown of her head, forehead and heart center with folded hands, crossed herself, and opened her eyes to the East, observing in one smooth movement her indigenous heritage, Catholic upbringing, and conversion to Buddhism.

Gathering and tossing her long raven-wing hair over one shoulder, Mira shifted her weight from one hip to the other, rubbing her ample belly. She turned over mental stones from the last few months, examining the process of shock, resignation, and acceptance that marked this pregnancy. The youngest of five daughters, she ruefully watched her older sisters succumb one by one to the entanglements of family life. She vowed while still a teenager to never clip her wings.

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June 15th, 2003

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #2: “Tin Soldiers,” by Kirk Bjornsgaard

Donna walked into the student union on the evening of the Kent State shootings while thunderheads roiled over the Toledo River. They invoked little-girl notions that God brought storms until she checked herself with the atheism sweeping the Milestone College campus that semester. In the foyer mirror she stroked long chestnut hair and nodded terse approval of her denim mini-skirt, leotards, and khaki jacket.

Descending the circular staircase to the basement, Donna replayed the scene in the dining commons–Chris, flanked by his entourage, requesting that she report after dinner; how girl friends had flashed wide-eyed grins that heightened her excitement–“God, Donna! No freshman poly-sci’s ever been invited to work with him before!”

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February 10th, 2003

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #1: “Coloring Outside the Lines,” by Debora Ewing

I like the jazz because it plays in different colors: deep green and blue, translucent purple, ivory black; city storefronts, magenta sunsets; watercolor splashes here and there like a yellow crocus on snow or an orange goldfish tail — sudden, surprising, but always carefully placed.

…Like the way people come in different colors — they just don’t know it. People walk along in darkness daily, ignorant of the color that’s surrounding them or the beat their music plays. That’s what I’m lying here thinking about, in my dark bedroom between the folds of cotton sheets. Africans, Asians, Seminoles…they all come in different colors — not their skins, but their insides.

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October 4th, 2002

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 via RawPixel
"23 Poets remember their father…"

This space on Sunday is generally reserved for a single poet to read one of their works, but this week’s issue -Father’s Day – features 23 poets who weigh in on the complexity of their relationship with their father, revealing love, warmth, regret, sorrow – and in many cases a strong connection to a common love of music.

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

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.

Interview

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

Art

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.

Poetry

The cover to Joni Mitchell's 1976 album Hejira [Asylum]; photo by Norman Seeff
“Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada” – a poem (for Joni Mitchell) by Juan Mobili

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

pickpik.com
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

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"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...an extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.

Feature

Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – (Vol. 1)...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 initial edition featuring his story essays/reviews, Rife writes about three novels that explore challenges of the mother/daughter relationship.

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

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

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

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

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?

Community

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

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

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

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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