“Under Quarantine” — COVID era poetry of Erren Kelly

March 19th, 2021

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"The Man Behind the Bass" by Samuel Dixon

“The Man Behind the Bass,” by Samuel Dixon

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“I think music and poetry and God have been the three things that have helped me keep it together during self-isolation.”

-Erren Kelly

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…..When historians look back at 2020 they will no doubt conclude that we lived in a traumatic era fueled by sickness – a pandemic, sure, but also societal upheaval, economic catastrophe, isolation and political dysfunction – and that these challenges triggered an inordinate amount of sadness, pain, anger, angst, and an intense desire for change.

…..There will also come a time when the art resulting from this breeding ground for creativity can be appropriately assessed.

…..What we see now is that interest in writing and reading poetry is on the rise.  Joy Harjo, the current Poet Laureate of the United States, told USA Today recently that “What often follows periods of decay and destruction and chaos is rebuilding and renaissance – periods of fresh invention in thought, in art. That’s what often emerges from the ruins. You see little plants like after a fire…coming up from the char.”

…..This past year poets from all over the world sought venues for their voices to be heard, including Jerry Jazz Musician, which, in addition to publishing quarterly collections of jazz poetry, published five editions of a series devoted to events challenging the world called “Poetry in the era of COVID, Black Lives Matter and a heated political season.”  The result is that through these collections, hundreds of poets have found this site, submitted their work, and enriched Jerry Jazz Musician beyond my wildest imagination.

…..One of them is Erren Kelly, a Boston-based poet whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician for several years.  I have long enjoyed his unconstrained, improvisational and provocative poetry, and watched with a great deal of interest as his submissions increased and intensified throughout the past year.  While the themes of poems he submits are generally weighted toward jazz music and its historic figures, it was clear that events of the year impacted his voice.

…..Many of his poems have “Under Quarantine” within their title and reveal Erren’s interaction with his COVID-era solitude and emotional depth, especially while listening to music, which is central to his work.  He told me, “When I listen to music, I listen to music – I see what I can take from it and how to use it to make my art and life better.”

…..The following collection is comprised of selections of Erren’s work he submitted to Jerry Jazz Musician, written during the eleven months of the “COVID-era.” Published chronologically, the poems allow us to witness his experience with the events of 2020.

…..I deeply admire Erren’s creative voice, and thank him for allowing me to share with readers this experience.

…..As always, I hope you enjoy…

…..Joe Maita

…..Editor/Publisher

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The statements found throughout this collection in bold, italic typeface are all attributed to Erren Kelly.

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Many thanks to Samuel Dixon for his consent in publishing his painting “The Man Behind the Bass”

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Click here if you would like to reach Erren via email

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Erren Geraud Kelly’s poetry has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Cacti Fur, The Stray Branch, The Grey Sparrow, Mudfish, The Chiron Review, The West Texas Literary review and in over 300 literary publications all over the world.  Mr. Kelly is the author of a chapbook “Disturbing the Police,” on NightBallet Press, and has read his poetry in numerous venues throughout the United States.  He received his B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.   

He lives in Massachusetts.

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“I started writing in 1990, when I was 23 years old, but even when I was a child people told me I had a way with words.  My grandparents were probably the first people to instill the love of words in me.  They made me read to people from the backs of cereal boxes and from newspapers.  When I’d go grocery shopping with them, they would have me point at the billboards and read them, and they’d brag on me to peeps.  It was embarrassing but I guess I got used to it.”

 

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Irony

What brought mankind to
Its knees wasn’t a nuclear
Bomb, or a movie villain
Or even an army
But something
You can’t see or
Feel
Or even fight
Man’s own creation
Turned on him
To destroy himself
Tomorrow we wake up
Hoping the movie will be
Over.

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 3/17/20

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Patrice Rushen

Reminds me of Hermione
From the Harry Potter
Books
If it was a crime for
Black women
To be smart
She’d rather go to
Jail
She plays keyboard
Like an octopus
Different planets
And galaxies explode
From her hands when
She plays
Between her and Herbie Hancock
They could cause a meltdown
In the solar system
Patrice plays jazz fusion
Like an aurora borealis
As if H.P. Lovecraft or Ray Bradbury
Composed the music
Patrice paints musical
Star storms across the
Galaxy

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 3/18/20

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Power In The Blood

maybe i should paint my door
with the blood of the lamb?
maybe that will make the virus
go away

i watch my chromebook, like
it’s my bible
and pharoah only distorts the truth
and tries to keep panic at bay
with lies

but pull back the curtain
and it reveals a high school kid
playing dictator
i wonder if his bone spurs hurt?

people roam the streets and beaches
thinking they are immune against the disease
an atheist mocks, trying to sell me logic
as a way out, but i rebuke him

i get on my knees daily,
i pray for everyone, even
those who don’t deserve it
hoping god’s benevolence
will cover us

there is power in the blood!

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4/3/20
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Self Isolation….(For Wallace Roney)

i listen to wallace roney
as i watch the sun rise
i make a safe haven out of
jazz
this music is social
but right now, i am alone
and wallace’s trumpet is my
life boat in an ocean of
chaos
my noah’s ark in a sea
of lies and half truths…
like a bear, i hibernate inside
a warm, honey groove
one day, a red trumpet will
call us home
i see the greyness of the world
from my window
but wallace sends his song from
heaven
declaring, do not be afraid…

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4/4/20

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Social Distancing

is nothing new for me
i’ve been practicing it for years
tho i haven’t always been good at
keeping the wrong ones
out
and letting the right one
in

a coffeehouse is the one place
i can surround myself with
people
with books, and a big table
i create my own
oasis

floating on a sea of

poetry…

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 4/6/20

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Rainy Day Melody

as she sits by her window
she dreams of walking on
the beach, the sand
blonde as her
hair
her footprints, leaving behind
a song, or more appropriately
a story of
her…

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 4/9/20

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“My dad was a cement finisher/construction worker, and my mom was a nurses’ aide.  They were just regular working-class peeps. 

“When I went to college at Louisiana State University, I was all set to be a lawyer, but then I started taking creative writing classes and attending poetry readings and literary events, and soon after law just wasn’t that appealing to me anymore.  

“When I told my mom I wanted to be a writer, she was like, ‘Well, great, but can you pay the rent with it?’  I’ve never been a gambler, not with money, anyway.  I just gamble in different ways.”

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Normal

i wash my hands constantly
as if the act could summon angels
from on high, for protection
i listen to jazz with a watchful ear
as if every note, were god
speaking to me, himself
i look at the rain coming down
maybe it could wash away
the dread, like christ’s blood
did
in music, words and the breath
of god, i search for normal…

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4/10’/20 (Good Friday)

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Listening To The Rolling Stones During Quarantine

the sun is out, but
hope seems far
away
i hear the whiskey
in mick’s voice
it fills my bedroom as
some of the states
are trying to get
………back to
…………..normal

and yet, the deaths keep
rising
like rivers of whiskey
i hear in mick’s
voice

but he’s not singing of
despair

…………………….only escape

like my dad used to

the bottle under the
front seat

as we’re out driving
his eyes barely slits
we’re both a heartbeat
away from death
yet somehow, we always
managed to get there
alive

sing us home, mick
let your whiskey-filled
song, be the lifeboat
that carries us all to
safety

even among the cries of
death
we manage to find our way
home

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5/6/20

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A Summer Without A Coffeehouse

tea and jazz fill my days
as the trees outside dance in
their own music
i watch people walking the streets
their faces covered, the new normal

we sit in our homes, alone
yet, together, thanks to the
internet
virtual reality becomes our reality
the ocean roars with anger
as if god were saying, “i
told you so…”

i imagine being my favorite table
with a café au lait
looking at the clouds dancing in
it
wondering what dream will
inspire me today?
but karma is a bitch
and she always gets her way

so i sit, in my kitchen
with a cup of tea
and wait for god to
give me dreams….

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5/15/20

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Irony, Too

Now when they
Want black people
To wear a
Mask in a
Store, they won’t wear
Them
Some days, you just can’t
Win

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5/17/20

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Sushi And A Saxophone

bird burnin’ bright in
my ears
like wasabi, dancin’
on my tongue
grows flowers like a geisha girl
burnin’ burnin’ burnin’
out of
dreams

dizzy gillespie schemes a prayer
as raw fish, rice and sake
grants me my
wish

the geisha girl disappears
reappears
funky as a tokyo night

i solve the mystery of ramen
as she grants me my
wish

she’s a different scheme
her breasts, burnin, burnin
with coltrane’s blessing
she’s brighter than the city lights
i’ve seen

she’s a ninja of love
an anime princess

a blue note in blue jeans…

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5/21/20 (for hana)

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A New World Coming…(For Duke Ellington)

no wars
…….no greed
no famine
…….no disease

………………….just rainbows
……………………………….and blessings

falling out of the sky

dolphins swimming carelessly in

……………………………….blue
…………………………………….clear
………………………………………….water

dawns glorious enough to make you sigh

no more days when children go
unfed

everyone will have a home
and a place to lay their
head

what a lovely sight, seeing dictators
on their knees

…………….and blacks and whites loving
each other

…………………………………….like piano keys

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5/25/20

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“No matter where I am, I write – at home, in bed, on the train.  I pull out my phone and compose poems on my notepad. 

“I could easily write about sitting in church and enjoying a sermon as I could writing about the ineptitude of the now former president.  I get more pleasure writing about love and women than anarchy. 

“If God gives me the will and the strength to write, I’m putting it down.”

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Just A Thought…

its too bad doctors can’t put a knee on
the corona virus
like cops did to george floyd
it’s easier for governments
to make magic by printing money
then it is for magicians
to make cops
disappear

to live in america is
to be black and blue

to be black and american
is to sing the
blues

we railroaded bernie sanders away
because we didn’t want
socialism
and yet, the government gives away money
as a quick fix for pain
hoping the economy will stay in the
black
and not sing the blues
isn’t that socialism, too?

i take the cries of george floyd
and turn them
into blue notes
to be black in america
is to be black and blue

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5/29/20

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Listening To Brad Mehldau Under Quarantine

he makes me forget about the week
from hell
reminding me that
art can be
an oasis in a storm
he takes anarchy like radiohead
and turns it into an
olive branch
he shows me
we can live together as
brothers
he bends over the keyboard
in a bill evans
pose
and turns turbulence into
a thing of beauty
he is a magician with black and
white keys
creating brotherhood…

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6/2/20

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Just Like Jacky Terrason

i ride the metro for the first time
in 18 years
my imagination
defying the travel ban
and self-isolation
and the piano is love, carrying me
through dreams
of eliot

jim morrison sits with me
at a sidewalk cafe;
he tells me
even if he wanted to go
home, he wouldn’t
america is an experiment gone
wrong
a hipster chick smiles and offers
me half a bran muffin

i recognize the scent: it is chanel
it lingers, like a rift you played

i walk by the notre dame cathedral
i replay the burning steeple
falling in my mind
but my opinion is unswayed
i still believe in god more than people
i look at the women walking by the seine
they may be the death of me one day
but what is life without vice?
jacky, i listen to you play
and i decide, freud is
not the only one who can interpret
dreams…

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 6/3/20

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Joshua Redman

every time he plays
he reminds me of a love i
should’ve had, but never happened
every time he changed horns
they remind me of
her

when i first met her in the
music listening room
she was a dainty little thing
like the soprano sax
he plays

when he changes to a tenor sax
she is older, wiser, meaty
and curvy
a perfect S shape

the tones he blows from it
are fleshy and womanly
as her hips

as he plays, i think about
what could’ve been
and the love that never
was

i didn’t hate her for
cheating on her husband
i was only mad
she didn’t cheat with me…

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6/6/20

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A Work Of Art…

When darkness falls, she becomes a jewel
ever a diamond, burning brighter than an epiphany
Now she is a promise, only a dream can keep
Do not underestimate her, or the beauty a flower
Yields, Her wonder rises high as a sunflower

Such beauty always holds truth, as a song
Instantly brings release, she is sunflower and
Reverie, see how she laughs, it brings you joy
Awashed in colors, color the moment as if picasso
Colored his canvas, my poem is a portrait of you
Unforgettable as a revelation, a sunflower yields
As you become a work of art, for all time

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6/6/20

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Listening To The Dave Matthews Band Under Quarantine 

Even as the piano refrain slowly dies, you twirl around
Making your sundress into a heavenly flag, you are luminous
In the summer night, incandescent in the summer night
Like circe dancing on the beach, neither goddess, nor mortal
Your body, not old enough yet to tell stories, I

Take your hand, as only a poet takes a moment, and
Relish you; you are alive, awakened in your dreams
Even as you shapeshift, from muse, to flower, to joy
Beauty is always present within you, everlasting wonder
Only love gives you light, it gives you life
Unnatural, it seems your magic is, the devilish violin
Reveals you as a siren, under your dress, paradise begins

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6/10/20

 

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“Once I got into my 50s, I had said I was going to get away from writing about politics and become more of an ‘art’s for art sake’ poet – not that politics and social issues don’t matter to me, I just wanted to focus solely on being an artist.  I do not like to be put into a box or be molded into what people want; I am nobody’s Black man but me.  I am not a ‘Black poet,’ I am not a ‘political poet.’ I’m just me.

“But COVID and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor woke me up and made me realize I am still a Black person in America, and America is still a very racist country, and listening to the call of Martin Luther King, that ‘a threat to justice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.’  So, I pick up my pen and, speaking fearlessly and ignoring the consequences, I gotta do it.”

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Desire In The Rain…

dancing with her daughter
who is half the color of day
she protects her from everything
but life, itself…
she is a waterfall and melody
and a rock, she rolls over
on my bed, smelling of rock
and roll, clove cigarettes,
and chamomile tea
she lays on my bed, her naked body
perfection
like the day, like a mermaid, perfect
humming, crash, she is venus
rising…

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6/10/20

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A Mermaid…

When the cherry blossoms bloom
Every spring, it is a sign she is near
Naturally, you can expect bliss,
Dreams and wishes become reality
You will know calm in moments with her

Such as music soothes the savage beast
Instantly, she brings peace and wars cease
Rage is no more, only positive energy, only light
Anger becomes an ocean at rest; she is a mermaid
Causing the oceans to know a song of calm
Under the sea, is where her world lies, she is
A gentle flower, a song of jazz, flowering

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6/22/20

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Listening To 80s Music Under Quarantine

I sing physical through my
Face mask on the train
Embracing the new normal
80s playlist I know on my
Phone like the Psalms 91
And 27
Other peeps get on the train
We are a community
Of masks
Six feet apart
Defines our reality
Corey Hart brags about
Wearing sunglasses at night
And I want to morph into
Dancing in the dark
Springsteen
Or at least do The Carlton
Well

A girl gets on, wearing a face
Mask, emblazoned with
The American flag
I want to sing to her,
Let me hear your body talk
My mind spins right round like a
Record, in the winds of
Change
I pass by the beach, watch
The people and wonder
If ignorance is bliss?
That maybe dumb is strength?
A redhead gets on the train
She looks like Molly Ringwald
I remember in 12th grade
I used a brunette who played
Trumpet in marching band
And substituted her for Molly
She became my first white girl
Crush
Even in winds of change
Music is the soundtrack of
My life
Some white girls remind me
Of classic 80s songs
Don’t tell me it was just
A phase !

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6/23/20

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Boaz

i have no right to ask you
for your hand
you are lovely as night
i am white as sour cream
my kind has heaped
ages of misery
upon yours

when i saw you gleaning in the field
i thought of the treachery we did
to your brothers
but i’m a brother, too
if only from another mother

but one night,
you lie with me on the threshing floor;
you chose me
i bought you and some property
for a sandal
but i only wanted a wife
not land

and all lives matter to me

tearing down statues and renaming buildings
will not make history go away

but if you take my hand
we can create our own melody
to find our happy ending

love is love is love is love

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6/24/20

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“I think the events of 2020 brought out the worst in people.  People became more paranoid, more racist, more hateful, and even more distrustful of the government.  The masses are easily persuaded by anyone who can tune in to their anger and frustration and can say the right buzzwords to make them do what they want. 

“People are tired. they want relief, they want to feel they matter, that’s why the alt-right and far left have become big.  They can capitalize on people’s frustrations and become a megaphone for their anger.”

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Ryo Fukui And You

thinking about you as the piano plays
the notes, falling like your footsteps
the keys, paint a dream of you
as we walk the streets of kyoto

every moment, is delicate as you
the song you become, rare
personal and true

the piano grows a song
of cherry blossoms
in spring

the keys tell a tale of you
in my eyes, you are
everything

the way he strokes the keys
makes the song feel right

i touch you a sleek cat
dancing in the kyoto
night

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7/1/20

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Listening To Dave Brubeck Under Quarantine

he plays the piano, the way my dad
held a polaroid camera
he didn’t just take a picture:
he captured a moment
for posterity
like my dad, i love women
and see them as Dave saw melodies
not something, merely to behold
but to be revered
i could touch a woman the way
Dave touched the keys;
She would become a story
in pictures and in song;
her body either a moment
or math, only Dave or my father
could solve…

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7/1/20

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Blue Line, Wonderland Train

Even through her mask
Her face is something to
Behold
Exquisite like a Ruby
She checks her email
Long brown hair
Flowing across her neck
Her long turquoise dress
Makes her a summer flower
Her breasts are a song of
Dreams
Her body is a wonder
On the wonderland
Train

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7/13/20

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53  (a birthday under quarantine)

daddy, roderick and i
each have a bottle to challenge
the heat

daddy raises his bottle of whiskey
to an al green tune, as sunlight crowns
his head with a halo

i drink a corona, the good
kind and think of
jazz music as my bible

roderick, sips his crown royal
as 2pac gives us life in the
sunlight

and so we ride, once more
along these streets
as the old south, gives way
to the new

we ride as men, not
as symbols, or cliches or
casualties
of blackness
but as stories, our music
creating a path for the future

whether this is real or a dream
i do not care
i hug my brother and father in the
sunset
as men, in the fading
light

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7/13/20

 

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“I have been listening to jazz since my college days, about 25 years now. I don’t know all the technical stuff and preferably don’t care to, I just listen to the music and let it saturate my mind and soul and just learn from it.  If it feels good, I’ll keep listening to that artist and their other works and any artists related to him or her.”

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For Emily Remler

a nice jewish girl
who inherited not only
wes montgomery’s black
thumb
but also his
soul
i write you out of heroin’s
grip
and shield you from its
madness
little lady from new jersey
may your resurrection
be the blues rising in the
delta
your bloodstream, coursing instead
euphorically
with the rush of
jazz

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7/15/20

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Listening To Pearl Jam Under Quarantine

no kids to call me dad
i should be grateful for a life
without a wife
i’ve grown out of archaic political views
and i rarely watch the news
i am careful about which lies to
believe
i tell a girl, i have nothing up my sleeve
i’ll take a drink or two, every now and
then
maybe a beer, nothing strong like gin
i’m careful about the battles i choose
some days i like jazz, others, its
blues
i like a girl with curves, but i’ll confess
one flat as a board, could also suit me
best…
another year, and i turn the page
getting comfortable, as i age
i look to the future, with earned insight
and no longer care about being left
or right
i see a young girl, smiling at me
with a hungry grin

i wish i was back in the mosh pit
again…

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7/23/20

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Listening To Country Music Under Quarantine

i’ve been called a hobo
i’ve been branded a
tramp
but i dont care, cos I’m a
child of god
i’ve never hopped a train
but i’ve known zip codes like the
scriptures
a person should be lucky
to have gypsy feet
my backpack is my wealth
and i’m richer than jeff
bezos
my books are gold or dynamite
depending on what day it is
i’ve been through too much to
be scared
i no longer beg god
to make the rain to go away

i just smile, glad i can still walk in it

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7/29/20

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Listening To Dexter Gordon Under Quarantine

Softly, you arrive ’round midnight
Holding my heart like dreams, stardust and wonder
All lie in your breasts, you are curvaceous as the
Notes pouring out of Dexter’s saxophone
Naturally, you’re the fantasy he concocts.
One never wonders of your motives
Near me, you are a song of stars, the sax gives

Birth to every night, I’m
Reborn with you, you’re my jazz
Alive in my DNA, we replicate
Desire; you become my madness
Bring yourself to me, dear lady
Ethereal as the night, we
Revel in the love we grow, like the sax, you are
Roses, your breasts, tender as roses, as song, as stories
You lie in my lap, as Dexter plays, you become a garden

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8/20/20

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Listening To Beethoven Under Quarantine

I would ask God to shave a few
Years off my life
In exchange for more
Beauty, wonder and
Magic
More love and music
Like Beethoven
To rid the world of ugliness
That’s covering it like
A cancer now

We are forced to choose between
Two racists:
One, a megalomaniacal narcissist
The other, a doddering manchild

Its sadness makes me cry
Like a cello

It rained earlier
I wish every drop
Could cleanse us of our
Sins and hate
So that we will not
Need to March
Or have people put
Sign in their windows
To say ” you matter ! ”

It is sad…

Misery rains down like a sonata
Written by Beethoven, who was
Supposedly half-black
Which is why I lose myself
In its grooves and find
Soul

But soul is not about color
But about feeling

The virus keeps breeding
As piano trills race up
And down my skin
And the only thing
Sadder than the
Virus
Is the people’s reaction
To it, being blase’
Welcoming death with open
Arms

Women walk by my table
And they become Mona Lisa’s
I hate it that we can create beauty
And madness with the same
Minds and hands

I am ashamed to tell God
We broke his promise

So I listen to Beethoven
And let music be my drug
My joy, my way to escape
The failure of the world…

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8/23/20

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Listening To Freddie Hubbard Under Quarantine

Stars fall like dreams in the fall night
How your face moves me, like a dream of angels
As I hold you, as the trumpet plays, you are my prize
Never to be taken for granted; you are my night flower
Never lovelier, as the song of the trumpet, gives you its shape
Once you were a ghost, living inside a horn, silent, a prayer
Now I hear you, burning bright, my ivory flame

Because fall is a season of magic, you are reborn;
Righteously, you give your power to me, through touch
As the trumpeter, brings fall to life, in a night song
Dance around me, dear lady, anoint me with dreams of wonder
Bless me with your ebuillence, the music your laughter gives
Ever golden, naked, you are golden as a trumpet, with a song of desire
Race to me, and i will hold you, as the leaves dress the earth with fall
Reds, browns and greys, are the color of fall, their motto
You are a season of songs inside a trumpet, Freddie plays dear

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9/18/20

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Listening To The Beatles Under Quarantine

Sunday belongs to the
Beatles, as I sit outside
The coffeehouse at a
Table
How I am eager to raise
My Oreo flag
Always eager to celebrate my
Eclectiveness

Now, Helter skelter, fills my
Ears
You never looked lovelier
In mini skirt
Only Lucy in the sky
With diamonds
Matches your coolness

Now, walking down Abbey road
I want to hold
Your hand

Bring back yesterday…

When love ruled
Your kaleidoscope eyes
Changed from brown to
Blue
As we traveled down
The long and winding road

Dancing in a Liverpool rain,
You belong to the
Universe
My psychedelic child

Even seageant pepper
Could not have found a
Better muse than
You

Roaming through the strawberry
Fields
A door reveals our destiny to
Us

You lose yourself in a twist and
Shout

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

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9/20/20

.

___

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When Is A Life A Life?

When it is worth more
Than a hill of beans?

Of course, they could say
The knee didn’t kill
Him
It could have been the
Meth swimming in
His bloodstream
The truth can be manipulated
Even if facts doesn’t care about
Your feelings

Of course, that was her home
Why else would she be there
She wasn’t just cleaning
It

But bullets don’t care about
Your feelings…

When is a life a life?
Does it matter when
A grand jury says it
Matters

Or when God says so?

.

…………For George and Breonna

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9/24/20

 

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_____

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“I usually listen to the composition a few times, and then I write, drawing from the experience of listening.  There is no right or wrong way to listen to jazz, just as there is no right or wrong way to write a poem.  I get the content down first, then give the poem its structure.  I’ve never rewritten a poem more than two times. I like to keep it organic.”

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_____

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Listening To Sonny Clark Under Quarantine

Just as fall brings its colors into the day
Usually, a jazz song fills the air like perfume
Like you, the scent is a siren’s call, a piano’s
Irresistible tinkling or a trumpet’s shout
As a saxophone mimics your curves, you

Keep the music inside your speech, long as a
Rose, you shine and sparkle, like a melody
Inevitably, jazz becomes your heartbeat,
Such are the wonders of music and medicine
Treatment from you is like a jazz melody
In your face, sweet healing lies, a jazz beat
Never to be surpassed, music like a cure, you
Always keep in supply, fulfilling demand

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9/25/20

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___

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Listening To 70s Music Under Quarantine

I never saw a cat in a cradle
And I missed the man
On the moon
But I remember my mom
And dad, defying the odds
And keeping it together
Before they came
Apart
Like Nixon did

I think of my friend Cheryl
Who would have been
Twenty something then, who
I would know later in
College
But for dramatic purposes
She is recast here as
Rollergirl
The coolest thing
In denim and skates

I no longer think of
My Oreo Gene
As a curse, but as a
Way to teleport to
Different
Cultures
Perhaps if I were named
Tyrone, I would have
Escaped it

No matter how much my
Daddy or grandmother
Made fun of the way
I talked
The hood never lived in
My mouth
Even when I lived In the
Hood

Even when Cheryl told me
Years later
She loved someone else
I just simply let it
Go

I always tell people
When my mom and
My brothers and sisters
And me
Moved into a house
Away from dad
I was listening to
“Love will keep us
Together.”

Get the irony?

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10/7/20

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___

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November

another month begins and
the snow is gone, but the visions
of Marilyn, remains

like the leaves, she was a clever girl
who came and went with the
seasons
giving people enough, but not too
much, always leave them wanting
more

she was mysterious and magical
as the fall

the best role she ever played was
herself

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11/2/20

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___

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Freestyle

Just like the seasons change, you are a flower
Unique as a sunset, you thrive on sponteneity
Like a sunrise, you born into a new moment
Irresistible, to whoever encounters you
As love is born out of dreams, you are a dream, I

Keep close to my soul; the music i hear, you become
Rising in the light, you are as warm as the sun and
Instantly, you heal; you are a dream made from words
Suddenly, you are the vision i’ve long desired, a
Time i thought i would never relive again
Instantly a look from you, takes me to bliss;
Nurturing a power, few muses will know
Always, I am grateful, for moments like this

.

11/3/20

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___

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Listening To Charlie Parker Under Quarantine

Just like Charlie, you are a most flamboyant bird
Usually, the color of your feathers reflect his
Liveliest tones, an elfish face works magic; you are
Irresistible as a night time groove, i want to hear
A saxophone and think of you, riding down sunset boulevard

Keeping you close, as the wind blows through your hair
Rendering it fabulous and unruly; i want to see you on the beach
In a swimsuit, demure like Marilyn, playing a womanchild
Singing peace, like the sea; your eyes holding no secrets
Today, I’m your only audience, as you perform wonders
I watch your saxophone body kicking up sand, as sun kisses you
Now, your smile is joy, as you move, free as a bird
As you laugh a lovely melody, like bird

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11/20/20

.

___

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She Is A Song, She Is A Symphony

Keeping joy in her heart, she is a lively instrument
As shiny as brass in sunlight, or like a a saxophone, her
Tones as colorful and melodic, winding like her curves
If she were a song, she would be beatleesque, lasting
Eternal, like their melodies, Or maybe, she would be Dylan’s

Muse, her principles, shattering complacency, as she
Unites the world, leading the way for change
Like a guitar, she tells her story in four chords
Lingering long after the song ends, but she’s no one hit wonder
Even years from now, all who encounter her will sing praises of her, she is a
Trumpet’s wail, moanng sweet jazz in the moonlight, or like Mozart
To hear her, is to witness, the genesis of beauty…

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11/24/20

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___

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Listening To Christmas Music Under Quarantine

I give a gift of peace to my enemies (even if you don’t apologize)

I give a gift of peace to the Chinese (I know it wasn’t your fault…)

I give a gift of peace to Coach Harris (you were the father I should’ve had, the friend I didn’t deserve)

I give a gift a peace to my family (your validation is no longer needed)

I give a gift of peace to those who don’t deserve it (but who is worthy of anything???)

I give peace like jazz gives healing and sanctuary

Like a breath that becomes a snowfall

Like a tear that becomes a muse

Like a shadow that becomes a love

I have everything I need inside my heart

I have music love poetry dreams

Dreams become god

Dreams complete me

Dreams are my gift I give to the world

Like God becoming my muse, giving me dreams made from

Tears…

.
11/25/2020

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___

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Christmas on Mars

Bethlehem lies far away from here
and home is a speck in the eyes of dreamers
we had to getaway to get our
peace on earth

joni sings about a river, mixing snatches of jingle bells
with the accompaniment to soften her despair
i watch you dancing among the red rocks
pretending it was a beach

home was so long ago

we came here to never get old
and yet, it gets so cold, sometimes
and words are the weapons that hurt
the most

but you glow in my eyes like the milky way
a child of andromeda
like a mermaid, you float around in the air

i remember back in california, how you’d
walk around sunset beach, with a surfboard like
gidget, forever a goddess

funny how i had to go so far away
to find a piece of home

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12/18/20

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_____

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“I figure that I’ve listened to over 2000 hours of music in 11 months of quarantine, everything from Monk, to Miles, to Dizzy, to Chick, to Bill Evans, to Bird, jazz singers, Dixieland jazz, ragtime.  You name it, I’ve heard it.”

.

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_____

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Ruby My Dear…My Thoughts On Monk

I think the best way to make sense of thelonious monk is don’t. otherwise you will up like some critics who think they know the deal but don’t. monk is like an island, which only a few are ever fortunate enough to discover. he is a musical haven, an oasis in a medium, too often confined by its own limitations. like brubeck, monk doesn’t let himself be a slave to time signatures; most often he defines them. make his own freedom out of conformity. his bandmates often understood this, choosing to let him go along with the flow, that’s not to say they don’t work their magic either, for a group is merely the sum of its parts and every instrumentalist who performed with monk, gave their own colors and tones to his sonic paintings…I have heard much of monk’s music over the last 9 months. he has been a quarantine staple. daily, bright mississippi, greeting me like a faithful friend. thelonious’ use of notes is never gratuitous. he always knows what to say, how much to play and when to play it. monk is also good and knowing what not to play, letting the silences between the notes tell their own vibrant stories. as i’m listening to ruby my dear, i can’t help thinking of someone that should’ve been more to me, but has now become only a memory. Monk may play second to coltrane’s saxophone, but both convey the misery of lost love. and sometimes, monk reminds me of an old man on roller skates, he just takes the music, manipulates it, and almost looks as if he’s gonna fall, but somehow, manages to catch himself and rights himself up again…It is for these reasons i’ll never stop listening to thelonious, never tiring of the roller coaster ride…

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12/26/20

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___

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The First Baby Of 2021

is a child of lattes, masks and skinny jeans
is black and white
does not see the world in black or white
or think in black or white
this baby is a zoomer
and will zoom through life
courtesy of uber
its parents are “yes we can” and
conspicuous consumption and
24 hour news channels
it was conceived on a millennial
night
somewhere in a safe zone

even its grandmother, a “karen,”
would not deny it

as it grows, youtube, kindle, and audible
will educate him
flat screen tv’s will play its life story
it will learn at home, because home school
rules
and tell you it went to harvard

if it goes to college, its loans will be
forgiven, because opportunity will be
its mantra
it will fall in love, but will protect itself
with a prenup
it will use birth control like
its uses amazon.com

and google will know its location

it will be smarter than the rest
and its health care will be the best

and it will be the one who makes america
great again

yes, it can…

.

1/2/21

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___

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Listening To Billy Joel Under Quarantine

a new york state of mind is
my default setting
i am not a political poet
nor, merely a love poet
i am a poet of beauty
i look at a woman and
she becomes my canvas
just like the empire state
building

i want to see it again, but the virus
proves it’s bigger than me
so, i sit in my bedroom
and dream of girls walking
along 5th avenue
i want to hold them
and make music
like piano keys

i’d rather fight than love
would rather cover a girl
in roses, than cover a city
with bombs

2017 came three years late
and we’re living the sci fi
movie
i watch a girl dance, she is
fluid as rose
though she can be as volitile as
a subway train

when baby brother died
i walked the street of manhattan
from battery to 125th, not caring
about death
the streetlights were playing my
anthem
they gave me peace

.

 

1/27/21

.

___

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Social Distancing 

Keep away from her, though she doesn’t
Appear aloof, she sees her cocoon as
Total shelter, her sanctuary from the outside
Isolated, she finds her paradise her bliss
Evergreen as dreams, this girl of frost

Makes her music in silence, she
Undulates in the darkness, being
Lost in her nocturnal ballet, she a
Leaf falling slowly, or a special snowflake
Ever her face, shines a bright light
Tonight, alone, she burns, the brightest and best

Tonight, she is the star, god loves best

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2/1/21

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___

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Listening To Bill Frisell Under Quarantine

the guitar notes punctuate the snowfall
coming down outside my window
an hour ago, the flakes started small
now, they are heavy and thick
as if, an angel sheds her wings
i imagine her this time, not with a surfboard
but in her goose down coat
walking among the white birch tree
the girl of frost, moving along the
snowflakes, becoming a snowflake
her every breath and word, resonating
as jazz

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2/9/21

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___

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Listening To Ahmad Jamal Under Quarantine

Jonah fell into the body of
a whale and
discovered the song of
a jazz piano inside

he knew no matter how far
he ran
he couldn’t escape destiny
so he went back to Nineveh to
warn them of god’s
fate, the people repented
and god spared the
town

though he was spared, jonah
felt he wasn’t worthy
but a man who fears god
will be covered in his blessing
like a song

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2/11/21

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___

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Listening To Chick Corea Under Quarantine

Keeping an eye on her from afar
A romantic warrior never loses faith
True to his goal, he keeps her in sight
In a flash, she appears, like a windmill
Even Hemingway would’ve approved of her

Moving in the pub, like Lady Brett, like a man, but
Ultimately, she is all woman, A spirit like fire
Like jazz fusion, she is two worlds, two journeys, merged
Like Barcelona, like Paris, she is European sophistication
Evolving into America savvy, like Dulcinea, she doesn’t have
To explain herself; a woman never does; like a windmill, he
Takes her close to heart, so close, yet so far away…

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2/20/21

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_____

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“Jazz is the soul of the blues.  It is America’s heartbeat.  It gave birth to rhythm and blues, which gave birth to rock ‘n roll, which gave birth to pop and so on.  All musical genres feed off each other.  When I listen to music, I listen to music – I see what I can take from it and how to use it to make my art and life better. 

“I’ll bet if you ask anyone if music helped them survive the pandemic, you’ll get a resounding ‘YES!'”

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_____

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Click here if you would like to reach Erren Kelly via email.

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To view a wide selection of Samuel Dixon’s art, click here

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One comments on ““Under Quarantine” — COVID era poetry of Erren Kelly”

  1. As usual, it is a distinct pleasure to read the work of Erren Kelly. His poems are filled with thought, imagination, unexpected metaphors and similes, and the narrative voice is always colloquial, yet skillfully moves the flow of each poem along in ways that are unique to his work.

    This particular collection of his work envelops a reader as though the reader is standing in the center of a waterfall. Quite an achievement.

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In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

Miles Davis "'Round About Midnight" (1957/Columbia Records)
“You Never Forget Your First” – by Brian Kates

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.

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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