Poetry by Michael Keshigian

April 1st, 2013

SATIN SATURDAY NIGHT

Thankfully, there’s a day
in each week
to fold away the toil,
set the table
with champagne and friends
at the jazz pub
below the street,

and let the smooth satin sound
of a saxophone melody
transform tired blood
into a sparkling flow
of toe-tapping, hip-swaying
funky, mellow music
as the bubbly tickles your nose,

and you move,
cheek to cheek,
one man, one woman,
no space between,
no tension,
just a stroke of magic
in the measures of a tune
to dance away the week.

CLARINET LESSON

This morning
I found the clarinet in a deep sleep
on the far end of the couch,
so I borrowed his black outerwear
designed with silver buttons
and placed it over my shoulders
to protect me from the cold
as I jogged into town
for my daily routine.
I figured he wouldn’t mind,
especially after we spent
so many hours the night before
in a jazz duet.
It was unexpected then,
upon my return
all covered in snow
with sweat frozen to my brow,
to find him angered,
his metal skeleton inflamed.
He seized his coat,
rummaged through the pockets,
and checked each little hole
to make sure no notes
from Eddie Daniels’ Blackwood
or Benny Goodman’s vivacious version
of Sing Sing Sing
had fallen into the deep snow,
lost forever,
especially those hidden
in the extreme upper range
which have a propensity to fall off
in the flailing wind.

MUSIC APPRECIATION

He asked them
to take the music outside,
listen as they held it toward the sky,
let the wind rattle its stems,
or place the sheet against an ear
to hear a tune
through the hollow of its shell.
He told them to jog
the parameters of the staves,
walk the winding road of its clef
and imagine living there.
Perhaps they could drop a feather
upon the music’s resonance,
follow its float among the timbres,
or ski the slopes of musical peaks,
gliding unencumbered into its valleys,
then thank the composer
for varying the landscape
when they left the lodge.
But the class was determined
to stalk each phrase,
analyze chords for manipulation, cunning
and seek the hidden form.
They handcuffed the notes
to the music stand,
even flogged the melody
with a drum mallet,
until it whistled a meaning never intended.

LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT

In college, he elected jazz
as a language,
dropped French so he could learn
that chops meant
playing the sax like Paul Desmond,
creating a sound,
resembling a golden hue
that only the angels
might duplicate,
carried so high
it might be heaven,
though he could sense
Desmond’s fingers
moving with elegance,
ballroom dancing on the keys.
He later learned
that Desmond played
in various modes.
They were not clubs
or bars he could frequent,
though the modes
were most often located in bars.
He found out
that Mel Torme had pipes,
beyond a collection of meerschaum,
an ability to sing songs
and scat like no one heard before
without ever leaving the stage.
Could say he also had chops,
but with singers it was different
because with one set of pipes
he created a timbre all by himself,
a degree of contrast as varied
as timber in the forest.

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In this Issue

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
Charles Ingham’s “Jazz Narratives” connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. Volume 7 of the narratives are “Torn from Its Moorings", "Watching the Sea" and "Plantations" (featuring west coast stories of Ornette Coleman and Billie Holiday)

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Jazz History Quiz #138

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Shortly following their famed 1938 Carnegie Hall performance, Benny Goodman’s drummer Gene Krupa left the band to start his own. Who replaced Krupa?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Book Excerpt

The introduction to John Burnside's The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century – excerpted here in its entirety with the gracious consent of Princeton University Press – is the author's fascinating observation concerning the idea of how poets respond to what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called “the noise of time,” weaving it into a kind of music.

Short Fiction

photo Creative Commons CC0
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #53 — “Market & Fifth, San Francisco, 1986,” by Paul Perilli

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Frank Morgan, Michel Petrucciani/Charles Lloyd, and Emily Remler are featured

Poetry

photo Bret Stewart/Wikimedia Commons
“Afterwards — For the Spring, 2020” — a poem by Alan Yount

Book Excerpt

A ten page excerpt from The Letters of Cole Porter by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh that features correspondence in the time frame of June to August, 1953, including those Porter had with George Byron (the man who married Jerome Kern’s widow), fellow writer Abe Burrows, Noel Coward, his secretary Madeline P. Smith, close friend Sam Stark, and his lawyer John Wharton.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Louis Armstrong on the Moon," by Dig Wayne

Book Excerpt

This story, excerpted from Irving Berlin: New York Genius by James Kaplan, describes how Berlin came to write his first major hit song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and speaks to its historic musical and cultural significance.

Pressed for All Time

In this edition, producer Tom Dowd talks with Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums author Michael Jarrett about the genesis of Herbie Mann’s 1969 recording, Memphis Underground, and the executives and musicians involved

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

In an Earlier Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive