A New Year’s message, and an invitation

January 1st, 2020




photo Creative Commons Zero – CC0



“If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?”

—Alice Walker




Greetings, and Happy New Year, Folks:

…..Two things happen today.  We bring in a new year, and with it a new decade.

…..There is great hope for the decade.   We have to hold that long-term hope, right?

…..I fear, however, that this year is going to a doozy.  The political tactics and smears we are likely to witness could be so tawdry and undignified that even the most hardened and experienced political operatives will be challenged to defend or even comprehend them.   Those addicted to the scent of power will do and say whatever necessary to hold on to it, and the media will do what they do – provoke us enough to watch their programs and buy their advertiser’s products.

…..Amid all this likely acrimony, it will take substantial effort to conjure up hope.

…..At the outset of this political year I resolve to watch less cable television, stay away from the cancer of social media, and bury myself in art and history – more reading and more learning and more viewing art in the hopes that, as Alice Walker says, it will make me “better.”

…..Publishing this site allows me the opportunity to be exposed to lots of art and literature.  I receive so much excellent work from the community of writers who contribute to Jerry Jazz Musician that at times I am surrounded, literally, by poetry and fiction.  It is incredibly rewarding and gratifying.  But, I would love to read more and to learn more from this growing artistic community.

…..With that, I invite writers and artists to submit your poetry, fiction, personal stories, art, photography and film for consideration of publication on Jerry Jazz Musician.  An immediate opportunity is participating in the 53rd Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest (details here).  Another is to have your poetry considered for inclusion in an upcoming Spring collection of poetry, to be published in February.  (Click here to read the Fall collection).  Ongoing opportunities abound, and submissions are considered throughout the year.  Details and submission guidelines can be found by clicking here.

…..The good news about provocative, unsettling times is that the art world tends to respond with creative fervor.  I hope this website can play a role in your desire to share your own creativity with others.

Best wishes for good health and happiness in the year (and decade) ahead.

Joe Maita


Jerry Jazz Musician



Bill Evans plays “You’re Gonna Hear From Me”





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One comments on “A New Year’s message, and an invitation”

  1. Hi Joe: To you, and a very heartfelt article. I find it, very, very sad no one else said something.
    I believe, art is all: jazz is all. Art and literature and jazz make the world survive. These are the hidden truths, over the decades and the senselessness of politics. If you cannot respond because of politics, you are, and jazz and music, and art are dead, to you.
    It took me awhile to write, I was concerned, of being judged. I have no politics, if I think like, you
    have the answer. Jazz and all the arts, have a beauty, out of all of time. They are special
    for the special people that know this. As my minister friend says to me, blessing to all of us,
    blessing for jazz and music to you…… Heartfelt, to you Joe, Alan

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In this 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.


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.


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.


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.”


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


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


photo by Brian McMillen
"Our Father, Who Art McCoy Tyner" -- a poem by John Stupp


"Out West, Thinking About Miles Davis," by Charles Ingham
Ingham’s “Jazz Narratives” connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. This edition’s narratives are “"Exactly Where She Is Supposed to Be," "In Memory of Clora Bryant, Standing Outside the Downbeat,” and “Out West, Thinking About Miles Davis”

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.


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

Jazz History Quiz #134

Photo by Brian McMillen/Brian McMillen Photography
Influenced by Charlie Parker and Phil Woods (pictured), before forming his own group this alto player got his start in Buddy Rich’s Big Band, and shortly thereafter played with Lionel Hampton. While leading his own band, he was famous for playing bebop covers of songs such as “The I Love Lucy Theme,” “Come Fly With Me,” and “Hooray for Hollywood,” and often performed with singer Eddie Jefferson. Who is he?

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.


News about the poet Arlene Corwin


photo of Stephane Grappelli by Veryl Oakland
Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of violinists Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, Zbigniew Seifert, and Leroy Jenkins

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.”

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music, author Gerald Horne writes about the severe cultural and economic obstacles jazz musicians have encountered since the music's inception

“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

Pressed for All Time

In this edition, producer Helen Keane tells Michael Jarrett, author of Pressed For All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums about how the collaboration of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans began, culminating in the 1975 recording, The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album.


photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Every Soul is a Circus," by Dig Wayne

In the Previous 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

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