True Jazz Stories: “Well You Needn’t: My Life as a Jazz Fan” by Joel Lewis

The journalist and poet Joel Lewis shares his immensely colorful story of falling in love with jazz, and living with it and reporting on it during his younger days in New Jersey and New York

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October 23rd, 2023

“Frank Zappa Presents Edgard Varèse” — a poem by Martin Agee

In the winter of 1981 we were hired to play Downtown—
a performance in Greenwich Village billed “Frank Zappa Presents:
a Musical Tribute to Edgard Varèse.” I sat on stage,
wearing black, tuning my violin, warming up,
looking out at the audience milling around, most of them
covered in tattoos and piercings of every body part

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November 14th, 2022

“Yalies Save Ellington Tune from Obscurity,” a true jazz story by Janet Lever, with Brad Dechter

The authors describe the circumstances surrounding the creation of an extended version of Duke Ellington’s little-known 1953 composition “Janet”

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June 30th, 2022

“So What!…or, Where were you when you first heard Kind of Blue?” — a true jazz story by Bob Hecht

Bob Hecht recalls his experience of first hearing “Kind of Blue,” the 1959 jazz album by trumpeter Miles Davis

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April 21st, 2022

“Heliocentric Ra Ra” — a story of finding artistic inspiration in the music of Sun Ra, by Meisha Synnott

The two versions of the 1965 album The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (Vol. 1) were part of the inspiration for Meisha Synnott’s enlightening artistic exploration

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March 20th, 2022

“The Cloth Coat” — a true jazz story by Ray Robinson

We’re going through Security at Dublin airport, headed to Philadelphia, thinking about what’s ahead of us. There’s something sinister about lines of people queuing up to be processed. Nobody likes it. Belt, jacket, phone, laptop, wallet. Do they need my shoes?  Everyone feels displaced, dehumanized somehow.

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February 10th, 2022

“A Quick Kill: A Final Episode Among Brothers” — a true story by J.S. Kierland

Three in the morning in the Hollywood Hills feels like five in the morning anywhere else. The coyotes and owls cross the northern boundaries and stray down under the big HOLLYWOOD sign that glistens in the moonlight at the top of Beachwood Canyon. Field mice, possum, snakes, and house cats become fair game for the wild intruders that prowl the narrow streets and canyons for a quick kill and a quiet meal with the family.

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January 11th, 2022

True Jazz Stories: A remembrance of jazz aficionado Al Summ

Friends remember Al Summ, whose love and appreciation of jazz showed up in a variety of ways.  His artwork was found (and rescued) by his friends Dan Brown, Dave Watson, Bob Crimi and “Andy” – a.k.a. “The Gang of Four”.

This remembrance is a reminder of how jazz and its culture can touch the soul of an enthusiast, and a demonstration of a longtime, devoted friendship.  I am proud to assist the “Gang” in sharing their heartfelt connection to their departed friend.

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November 24th, 2021

“Opus For Mary Lou,” a true jazz story by John Bliss

. . photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress Mary Lou Williams, c. 1938 . . ___ . . Opus for Mary Lou By John Bliss . …..“Baloney Bliss,” Mary Lou Williams said, lacing into my father. …..Mary Lou was Black and brought a spiritual magic into my white world. Her nose was petite like an … Continue reading ““Opus For Mary Lou,” a true jazz story by John Bliss”

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October 11th, 2021

True Jazz Stories: Musical Adventures of Joe Maita, Sr.

. .     Joseph Maita, Sr. c. 1935 . ___ .   …..My father Joseph Maita (Sr.) was affable, charismatic, and loving – gifted as a musician and, ultimately, a successful business owner.  He was also extraordinarily complex and challenged by having to make choices so many young parents find themselves confronting – following … Continue reading “True Jazz Stories: Musical Adventures of Joe Maita, Sr.”

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June 20th, 2021

“My Father Sings” — a prose poem (and true jazz story) by William Minor

I grew up in a household where music was second nature, always present, ingrained. My mother could sight read well and played not only classical pieces on the piano (Schumann, Liszt, Chopin) but show tunes—the full range of Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Irving Berlin, which she and I sang together.

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November 1st, 2020

“Sinatra and Me” — a true jazz story by Paul Brophy

Frank Sinatra floated through the air in my boyhood home and Philadelphia neighborhood.  My mother and two of her older sisters, Henrietta and Marge, had seen young Frankie in person at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier in the late 1930s, the thrill that wed these young Italian-Americans to Frank for life. “It’s Always You” reached them.   He was part of our Staffieri family — their fantasy husband.

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October 3rd, 2020

“The Night McCoy Tyner Said ‘That’s Cool'” — by T. S. Davis

.It must have been the late 1980s when my girlfriend and I put on our best clothes and shelled out more money than we had to hear McCoy Tyner at the very elegant Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in downtown Seattle.

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March 14th, 2020

“All Blues: The Story of a Lost Friendship” — a true jazz story by Bob Hecht

…..I have to wonder how many friendships have been forged over mutual love of Miles Davis’ album, Kind of Blue. The one I want to tell you about came to pass in an unlikely setting back during the winter of 1963…

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December 19th, 2018

“Whistlin’ the Bird” — Two True Jazz Stories by Bob Hecht

Part 1: Confirmation (1969)

 

     It wouldn’t be the first time my penchant for whistling jazz tunes got me in trouble…nor the last.

     I’d been crazy about whistling from my boyhood. Perhaps I inherited my obsession from my late father. He wasn’t a jazz fan like I am, and I barely even remember him whistling—he wasn’t around much when I was a boy and he died when I was twelve—but my mom later told me he was an outstanding whistler. “He could do triple tonguing and everything,” she said.

     So maybe it was in my DNA. But at any rate, after his death I determinedly taught myself to whistle. I have a good ear and decent sense of pitch, so I found I could easily get in sync with whatever music I was hearing. And then I practiced and practiced, whistling along with jazz compositions and solos for years until I got

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September 17th, 2018

A true jazz story — “The Sober Years” by Robert Hecht

From a small balcony above the stage of the Maybeck Recital Hall in Berkeley, I’m looking down on the jazz duo of bassist Red Mitchell and pianist Roger Kellaway, while tapping my foot to the earthy, swinging beat they are laying down.

It’s a Sunday afternoon in 1992 at this unique venue. The recital hall is part of a house originally built by the famed architect Bernard Maybeck in the early twentieth century. (Maybeck designed the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, along with many other notable buildings in that city.) The hall accommodates only about 50 people, and it’s a warm, redwood-paneled room with beautiful leaded glass windows on three sides. It actually feels a lot like being in a little chapel—but the religion being worshipped here is that of acoustic jazz, primarily of the pianistic variety.

For several years now, ‘The Maybeck’ as it’s familiarly called, has hosted a who’s-who of

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July 5th, 2018

A true jazz story: “Woody ‘n Me” — by Robert Hecht

I’m driving up Raymond Boulevard toward downtown Newark. In the darkness the huge lighted sign atop the Public Service Electric & Gas Company serves as a beacon for approaching the city. Yet tonight something is off with the sign, and I laugh out loud as I see that its ‘L’ has burned out…and that it is now offering ‘PUBIC SERVICE’ to the community!

I am on my way to work at radio station WHBI where I am a staff announcer but also produce a nightly jazz show. On the car seat next to me is my

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May 21st, 2018

“In Your Own Sweet Way” — A Bill Evans Memory, by Robert Hecht

     It was the kind of New York night not fit for man nor beast. Sleet and wind whipping about, snow banks and ice everywhere. With my ‘49 Dodge slipping and sliding on the Village streets, I make my way to the Vanguard to catch the midnight set. The small sign outside the entrance inconspicuously announces: “Bill Evans Trio.” This is the 1962 edition of the trio, reformed after bassist Scott LaFaro’s death the year before; and this is the club where Bill had played his last sets with

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January 25th, 2018

“Bird Lives” — a memory of Charlie Parker’s Kansas City, by Robert Hecht

     The night I truly ‘got’ the shining genius of Charlie Parker I was in my girlfriend’s apartment on the Lower East Side. The year was 1961. I was nineteen, she was much older and hipper, and had turned me on not only to some great music but to getting high as well. She had all the essential jazz records, including the one on the turntable that night. It was The Fabulous Bird, on the old Jazztone label, consisting of reissues of some of Bird’s phenomenal 1947 Dial sessions. She had a very low-fi stereo—I can still see the nickel she had scotch-taped to the tone arm to keep it in the grooves. But the fidelity didn’t matter, in part at least because this evening I had just smoked a

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January 3rd, 2018

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)

Publisher’s Notes

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

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

In Memoriam

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

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.

Site Archive