Life (and living) in the era of isolation and social distancing

April 6th, 2020



photo Creative Commons Zero – CC0

photo Creative Commons Zero – CC0




Dear Readers:

…..I hope you and your family and friends are well, and that you are discovering ways to find the right combination of solace and inspiration as you travel this demanding path.   I thought I would share some ways I am coping with this alarming situation, fill you in on a few things that are going on with Jerry Jazz Musician, and finally to invite you to share your own thoughts during this time.

…..I live in Portland, Oregon, a state that “locked down” on March 23.  As of yesterday, April 5, our state has 1,068 confirmed cases of COVID-19, although many believe it is much higher than that since widespread testing is still not available, and outcomes for tests being conducted can be long delayed.  My daughter was tested on March 26 and we still await her results (thankfully, she is feeling better).  A dear friend of mine was not tested but is in self-quarantine due to a doctor’s diagnosis of COVID-19.   Needless to say those of us who know him are concerned, but he is hopeful, and so are we.

…..Isolation and social distancing have no doubt led to economic and mental hardship.  While residential neighborhoods are alive with pedestrians, Portland is now a city of closed shops (including our iconic Powell’s Books) and shuttered restaurants – only the  grocery stores seem to be thriving, and many of us don’t dare step inside them.  Nonetheless, the strategy feels as if it is having a positive impact on the state’s ability to confront this health crisis, which was of course its goal.

…..An overabundance of information does not feel healthy, so I keep my news and screen watching to a minimum, and have discovered that if I tune out the politics and follow the advice of those local and national leaders who respect data and science, I can better control my own personal response to the situation, and keep my anger to a minimum.  When I do take in the news, I am frequently in awe of the efforts of the medical and mental health workers at the center of this (two of whom are my wife and daughter).  You hear this a lot of late, but it’s true – these people are heroes, and when this is over, should be forever respected as such.

…..An important component for my own health is to keep busy.  That has always been the case, and especially now.  In addition to publishing Jerry Jazz Musician, I am making time to read and listen more.  For sheer escape, I have been reading The Trip: Andy Warhol’s Plastic Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure by Deborah Davis, which is a fun history of early Warhol and his adventures while traveling with three friends in a Ford Falcon from New York to Los Angeles in 1963.   I am also slow-reading two wonderful books; 1) the Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh, which is opening me to the ideas of being more “in the moment” and living an aware and more spiritual life, and; 2) Brian Doyle’s One Long River of Song – a work so soulfully philosophical and soothing that, given all that we are currently going through, feels almost other-worldly.

…..I am also giving myself the time to listen to music. A few years ago my son gave me a 900-page book called 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die by Tom Moon, and last week I began making a game of every day opening the book randomly and (via Spotify) listening to an album recommended on that page. I never would have guessed that I would fall in love with The Decemberists last week, or rediscover Joe Henderson’s Power to the People.   I also have truly heard the brilliance of Van Cliburn on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #3, and learned to better appreciate the importance of Gram Parson’s visionary Grievous Angel.  I am also active with a group of jazz enthusiast friends who choose a topic each month to discuss.  Last month we dug deep into the work of the jazz violinists (and discussed them via our inaugural experience with Zoom), and this month we are focusing our listening on jazz recordings made in 1969.

…..The work involved in editing and publishing Jerry Jazz Musician is a blessing because it keeps me busy, and it also connects me to a wonderful community of writers and readers, some of whom have been submitting their work or writing just to “check in,” and others to provide information that could be helpful during this time.  One example: the New Jersey poet Felicia Chernesky wrote and provided a link listing several resources to writers and musicians in her area, including information about the Jazz Foundation of America, which assists musicians in need, and is now in need of support themselves.  I am also hearing from writers sharing exciting news about their work.  In one such instance, Karen Karlitz – winner of the 22nd edition of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest – wrote to report that her book Stoner Ghosts of Santa Monica has just been published, which is a wonderful achievement.

…..In the coming days I will be putting together the spring collection of poetry, which I hope to publish by the end of the month, and have just made arrangements to interview Ms. Maria Golia, author of Ornette Coleman:  The Territory and the Adventure, which I am delighted about because it will put me deep into the world of Ornette for awhile.

…..So, minus the ongoing concern about the health status of my family and friends, and the sorrow for those who have been impacted by COVID-19 that hits me broadside time-and-again, that is some of what I have been thinking and doing during this initial time of isolation and social distancing, and I now invite you to share with readers your own activities and thoughts.

…..An example came from the poet Erren Kelly, who in an email to me yesterday wrote:


i have been listening to a lot of jazz the past three weeks, everything from tradition, hardbop, bebop, cool jazz , jazz fusion, etc as a way to deal with all of this…

i think some good poems will come out of this…

 i want us all to survive…beauty and life will come out of this crisis…


…..And, how about you?  What are you doing while living in isolation?  What are you discovering about yourself?  What are you listening to?  Watching?  Reading? Are you writing?  And, if you wish, please know you are welcome to share your thoughts on how the isolation is effecting your creativity, or your world.

…..You can send your responses to me at, and with your permission I will do my best to publish them – if appropriate, of course, and as time allows.  I am hopeful this can help bring our community of readers and writers closer together during such a challenging time.

…..Meanwhile, please take care, and heed the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose words often have a way of bringing humans to a reflective and sane place, none more suitable right now than “the first wealth is health.”




Joe Maita







Share this:

3 comments on “Life (and living) in the era of isolation and social distancing”

  1. Hi Joe: Very well written and very inspirational. Thanks for writing this for all of us. We need
    this, in these strange times. I liked Erren Kelly’s “I have been listening to a lot jazz.” What I have
    been doing is listening and watching jazz DVD’s. This kind of doubles the “magic carpet ride,”
    of both listening and watching. Great escapism!!!!!!! I recently got a DVD titled: “Al Di Meola,
    Jean-Luc Ponty, and Stanley Clarke, Live At Montreux, 1994.” Every track is great, and so are
    solos by the three main guys. What is amazing to me (also as an upright bass player, plus trumpet),
    is Stanley Clarke’s upright bass solo. Please, someone write, if you think this is one of the
    best upright bass solos you have ever seen and heard, really!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Best Alan

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)


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...


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.”


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 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)


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?


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 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


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.


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


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


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.”


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