The Sunday Poem: “Lady Day and Prez” by Henry Wolstat

At the bar of the
Towne Tavern, once
Toronto’s finest jazz club,
stage facing me,
sipping my one beer,
knowing even then
in my twenty-third year
I was witness to
a never forgotten gig.

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The Sunday Poem: “Front Row Seat For A Head-Bebopping Allergy Sufferer” by Francis Fernandes

The pollen is flying like mad –
frantic, crazy, amorphously Daliesque –
sort of like our trio the other day,
rollicking and lollygagging through Monk’s
Brilliant Corners, losing it so completely
that when Marty flung a stick at my head

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The Sunday Poem: “Watermelon Man” by Charles Albert

I admit I’d never heard of “Watermelon Man” before Harry Reid came to my kids’ elementary school to put together a concert band. He wasn’t a salaried teacher, but a part-time outsider brought in by the PTA.

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The Sunday Poem: “Dorothy Donegan: Queen of the Keys” – by Connie Johnson

Sensational
Largely unsung
Dorothy Donegan
Known by jazz insiders as
The female Art Tatum
His protégé
The one who made him say:
“She is the only woman who can
Make me practice.”

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The Sunday Poem: “Not Shelling Fava Beans With Alice Waters” by John Briscoe

I jammed
with the Afro-American Jazz Band
in the old Off Plaza on McAllister,
and with the blind Black pianist whose name I can’t remember
in the club we knew as The Question Mark
whose sign on Haight Street was just a neon ?,
when the club was straight and featured jazz

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The Sunday Poem: “How I Achieved Levitation” by Bryan Franco

. .   The Sunday Poem  is published weekly, and strives to include the poet reading their work. Bryan Franco reads his poem at its conclusion. . . ___ . . . . How I Achieved Levitation They all lived in the Walnut Building. Satchmo blew the roof off the house. Fats Waller tickled ivories. … Continue readingThe Sunday Poem: “How I Achieved Levitation” by Bryan Franco”

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The Sunday Poem: “Behind the Smile (for Satchmo)” by Antoinette F. Winstead

The Young Turk disregarded the old trumpeter
labeled him a vaudevillian minstrel
because he shucked and grinned,
having no privy to old man’s roiling anger within
fueled by slights and shames endured for years
despite his lauded, storied career.

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The Sunday Poem: “I Blame Chet Baker” by Lauren Loya

I blame Chet Baker
For opening a window into my past
Sensing that phantom trumpet in my capable hands
The smooth curves of the hard brass, the cold
Mouthpiece against my buzzing lips
Bright melodies blaring
From carefree days of my youth

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The Sunday Poem: “Fledging” by John L. Stanizzi

The woodshed was the hunting ground for wings of notes.
Black suits and ties, hipster hats and smoke rings of notes.

Was Robert Johnson alone, hellhound on his trail?
Was a deal made? Was Bird Satan’s plaything of notes.

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The Sunday Poem: “Musical Invocation” by Kathryn MacDonald

Strains of Charlie Parker’s alto sax fill
the empty apartment song-after-song –
“Dancing in the Dark,” “Loverman,”
“Embraceable You.”
Between every note I wish.

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The Sunday Poem: “The Church of St. John Coltrane” by Mark Fogarty

Coltrane said a prayer to his musical God
Straight through the horn of his saxophone.
Not a metaphor; he spoke the words
Through the reed and the music into the air.

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The Sunday Poem “Po’ Monkey’s Juke Joint: Merigold, Mississippi” by Marianne Peel

Shrouded in smoke and cigarette spheres
Jazzy speakeasy on a summer slog of a night

Where hips ramble in tandem,
Slide and slip in an out of rhythm

Juke Joint shifting with an uneven floor
Naked feet shuffling and colliding

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The Sunday Poem: “Being Smooth, Jazz, and Chill” by Christopher D. Sims

Smooth. Jazz. Chill.
Write. Think. Build.
Listen. Vibe. Poetically
design.

Spend time with jazzy
sounds elevating the
mind. Jazz is smooth.
Jazz is chill.

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The Sunday Poem: “Duke Ellington’s Big-Band Orchestra: Live at Basin Street East, New York City. Summer 1964” – by Alan and Arlan Yount

The poet Alan Yount and son Arlan write about a live 1964 performance by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra

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The Sunday Poem: “Jazz Within Me” by Jerrice Baptiste

. . The Sunday Poem  is published weekly, and strives to include the poet reading their work. Ms. Baptiste reads her poem at its conclusion. . . ___ . . David Dellepiane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons . . Jazz Within Me I like Jazz playing within me. ……………….Record that never skips. Since age sixteen, … Continue readingThe Sunday Poem: “Jazz Within Me” by Jerrice Baptiste”

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The Sunday Poem: “Nina As In Nina Simone” by Arya F. Jenkins

This narrative poem is informed by quotes and stories in What Happened, Miss Simone? the 2015 Netflix biographical documentary about the singer/artist’s life and art

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The Sunday Poem: “Wood Ticks on Fire: Cecil Taylor and the Forests of Sound that Plant Themselves in Us” – by George Kalamaras

The poet writes about the complexity of pianist Cecil Taylor’s music, and the liberation he feels from listening to it

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“Black Coffee Blues” – a poem by Mary K O’Melveny

Even if you never drank black coffee, that won’t stop you from drinking in the feelings that filter across a room whenever Sarah Vaughan sings Black Coffee. One could drown in that bottomless, inky liquid, that heartache-laden brew,

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Six poems, six poets new to Jerry Jazz Musician

These poems are new submissions by five poets relatively new to Jerry Jazz Musician, and are an example of the writing I have the privilege of encountering on a regular basis.

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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.

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“Compared to What?” – a poem by James Higgins

. . photo by Brian Mcmillen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons Les McCann at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner, 1980 . ___ . Compared To What? It’s Les McCann & Eddie Harris heard it back in ’69, heard it now not once but twice, so nice, but sadness got me tonight, hit me hard, Compared … Continue reading ““Compared to What?” – a poem by James Higgins”

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“Green Street” – a poem by George Kalamaras

How can somebody so blue, Grant, be named
Green? How can the ocean current

and its waves? Simple. Immediate. Each note comes
from you slow as underwater speech. Say

a fish tank and pufferfish hugging the glass. Imagine
being trapped. Gravel pumped through the gills

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“Four Sides Live” – a poem by Justin Hare

It tickles my fancy the way
francophone announcers
ornately say the names
of jazzmen in those live recordings
put to reel in Montreux.
Jack DeJohnette in particular
tickles me, perhaps because
it is a french-like sort of name.

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“Song of the Poplar Tree” – a poem by Jerrice Baptiste

. . “Tree”(1924) photo by Alfred Stieglitz/via Raw Pixel/CC0 1.0 Deed . .   Song of the Poplar Tree The song playing always catches me off guard. My trembling fingers quicken to remove the old vinyl record. I must stop her voice from singing. Even the wispy quality carries the heavy weight. I weep. Not … Continue reading ““Song of the Poplar Tree” – a poem by Jerrice Baptiste”

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“Thelonious Monk and Mama” – a poem by Erren Kelly

. . photo by Bernard Gotfryd/Library of Congress/PDM 1.0 Thelonious Monk, 1968 . ___ .   Thelonious Monk and Mama Thelonious Monk paints a picture of Mama with his piano, the way Monet or Matisse would, with paint: loud, bright colorful notes that are a Rorschach test, screaming on the page. Perhaps, Mama would’ve modeled … Continue reading ““Thelonious Monk and Mama” – a poem by Erren Kelly”

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“Wolfman and The Righteous Brothers” – a poem by John Briscoe

Barstow to Boron, bound for Bakersfield
we fly across the Mojave Desert, will wind
through and over the Tehachapis
only to come to rest in another desert
on the rim of the sink of California.

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Ella Fitzgerald, in poems by Claire Andreani and Michael L. Newell

Ella Fitzgerald is whispering
to me: “sit here and enjoy your dinner with my
sweet honey voice,” eternal bloom of time,
filling the corner of the street where I eat
with a Golden Age long gone but that remains
like an idea, lingering, like the steam of a
hot bath leaving
traces of fingers on the mirror

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“Tony Bennett, In Memoriam” – a poem by Erren Kelly

. . David Becker, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons “‘Benedetto’ means the ‘blessed one’ and I feel that I have truly been blessed.” -Tony Bennett . . ___ . .     Tony Bennett, In Memoriam Lightning strikes as your voice makes magic on a summer night i think of a tall girl … Continue reading ““Tony Bennett, In Memoriam” – a poem by Erren Kelly”

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“Solace” – a poem by Terrance Underwood

. . Lester Young,  1946 . . Solace I relish the cultivation of my Lester afternoons an endeavor still absorbing at my age captive in that garden of ambient sound …………………that Young tenor breath ………………………….a zephyr expulsion stirring atmosphere rare these days for this climate caressing time & movement with a tone to stream still … Continue reading ““Solace” – a poem by Terrance Underwood”

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“Old J.S.— Running Through the Changes” — a poem by Joel Glickman

So long ago, before Ornette Coleman,
Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane—
all those free spirits running up and down
the alphabet of jazz, there was old
J.S. Bach, running through the changes.
I always picture him, and hear him,
at the pipe organ in Tomas Kirsche
all by himself,

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Paying homage to vinyl record albums — in three poems

One of my greatest joys for decades
was exploring unknown record shops.
I once walked into a newly opened used
shop around the corner from my university
and discovered a used album, apparently
the improvisatory result of a session
set up by Norman Granz that included

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“Alabama: Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Matthew Garrison” — a poem by John McCluskey

                Yes, it is hot,
     night sweats beneath
     Spanish moss and the terror in trees
     now knowing no cover of darkness
     to greet a Sunday morning

     10:22 a.m.
                      under the stairs
                                     16th Street Baptist Church.

     “Three minutes”
     and the siren wails

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“Liner Notes for ‘Stardust’ — In Seven Choruses,” a cycle of short poems by Doug Fowler

“Liner Notes for ‘Stardust’ — In Seven Choruses” is a cycle of short poems framed as imaginary liner notes and prompted by poet Doug Fowler’s favorite musical covers of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” In essence, according to Fowler, they are “imaginary liner notes for a real song about an imaginary song about love.”

The cycle is also partially a tribute to Chu Berry, who died as the result of a car accident in Conneaut, Ohio, in 1941, not far from where Fowler lives.

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“As Long As You Living Yours (For Keith Jarrett)” — a poem by Erren Kelly

not even schroeder from the peanuts
comic strip
is as dedicated to the piano
and he has a bust of beethoven
gracing his steinway!
you pull sounds out of the air
making something out of nothing

you call it improvisation:

i say, god’s just using you as
a transmitter for his thoughts…

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Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius”

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film.  This edition is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter. 

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Jazz History Quiz #171

In addition to being one of the greatest musicians of his generation, this Ohio native was an activist, leading “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group formed in the late 1960’s who “adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs (i.e. the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett [pictured] and Merv Griffin) in protest of the small number of African-American musicians employed by networks and recording studios.” Who was he?

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“I Married a Socialist” – a story by J. B. Cohen

.He answered my personal ad: “Classy rebel wishes to meet man of principle.” In the 80’s, it wasn’t normal to find love through advertisements, so I kept my effort a secret. At our first encounter in an Indian restaurant, he said. “I’m not sure if my principles are the right ones. You’re likely to find me at socialist meetings in church basements.” Though I was just a run of the mill, east coast liberal, I was over forty, so I decided to give him a chance. In fact, his commitment to left wing causes intrigued me; I wanted to hear more.

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Community Bookshelf #2

“Community Bookshelf” is a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share information about their recently authored books.

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“An Un-played Instrument” – a story by Terry Sanville

Floyd grabbed his cane and stepped out of his air-conditioned car into the late August heat. The afternoon sun warmed his stiff joints. It felt good. From the Honda’s back seat he pulled a battered guitar case, locked the car and shambled down Monterey Street to Premier Music Store. Its front door stood closed against blasts of hot Santa Ana winds.

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“Sayir” – a short story by Ron Perovich

It was the first Friday in months that we didn’t both have our own gigs lined up, so my friend Paul invited me out to one of his favorite haunts on 8th Avenue. He promised me the food was good, but told me that the real draw was the live music. Honestly, I tried not to roll my eyes when he dropped that detail on me in the cab. I mean, I love music and all–I’d have to if I was going to work this hard at it–but I kind of was looking forward to giving my ears the night off.

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“The Poetry Gods Want to Know” – Emmett Wheatfall on the impact of climate change on poets

The Portland, Oregon poet Emmet Wheatfall – whose jazz poetry has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician – talks about the connection between poetry and the environment, and the impact of climate change on poets and other artists, and the rest of humanity.

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A Black History Month Profile: Miles Davis

In a 2003 Jerry Jazz Musician interview, John Szwed, author of So What: The Life of Miles Davis, reveals a brilliant, inventive, intensely driven musician who was plagued by a host of internal conflicts and contradictions.  “Miles’ life as a whole is not easy to grasp,” Szwed reflects, “and the meaning of it, with or without his help, is resistant to quick interpretations.”

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“The Winslows Take New Orleans” a short story by Mary Liza Hartong

This story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, tells the tell of Uncle Cheapskate and Aunt Whiner, those pesky relatives you love to hate and hate to love.

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A Black History Month Profile: The Harlem Globetrotters

in this 2005 interview, Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, discusses the complex history of the celebrated Black touring basketball team.

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A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2

The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

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A Black History Month Profile: Zora Neale Hurston

In a 2002 interview, Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, talks about the novelist, anthropologist, playwright, folklorist, essayist and poet whose work is is taught in American, African American, and Women’s Studies courses in high schools and universities from coast to coast.

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“Latin Tinges in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht

A nine-hour long Spotify playlist featuring songs by the likes of Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Ahmad Jamal, and Dizzy Gillespie that demonstrates how the Latin music influence on jazz has been present since the music’s beginnings.

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A Black History Month Profile – Pianist and composer Eubie Blake

In this 2021 Jerry Jazz Musician interview,  Eubie Blake biographers Ken Bloom and Richard Carlin discuss the legendary composer of American popular song and jazz during the 20th century

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“Jazz and American Poetry” – an essay by Tad Richards

Tad Richards is a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades. ..He frequently writes about poetry, and the following piece about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry (2005). It is published with the permission of the author.

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A Black History Month Profile: Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin

In a 2003  Jerry Jazz Musician interview, John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, talks about one of the most important figures of the American civil rights movement, and a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King.

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Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 19: “The Universal Tone”

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. This edition is influenced by Stillpoint, the 2021 album by Zen practitioner Barrett Martin

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The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Mal Waldron

Beginning in 1990, the noted photographer Giovanni Piesco began taking backstage photographs of many of the great musicians who played in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, that city’s main jazz venue which is considered one of the finest in the world. Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish portraits of jazz musicians that Giovanni has taken over the years. This edition is of the pianist/composer Mal Waldron, taken on three separate appearances at Bimhuis (1996, 2000 and 2001).

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“A Single Furtive Tear” – a short story by Dora Emma Esze

A short-listed entry in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, the story is a heartfelt, grateful monologue to one Italian composer, dead and immortal of course, whose oeuvre means so much to so many of us.

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Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer

The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

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On the Turntable — The “Best Of the ‘Best Of’” in 2023 jazz recordings

A year-end compilation of jazz albums oft mentioned by a wide range of critics as being the best of 2023

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From the Interview Archive: A 2011 conversation with Alyn Shipton, author of Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway

In this interview, Alyn Shipton discusses Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the country’s most beloved entertainers.

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Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song

In Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, the book’s author Judith Tick writes that Ella “fearlessly explored many different styles of American song through the lens of African American jazz, [and] treated jazz as a process, not confined to this idiom or that genre,” and who “changed the trajectory of American vocal jazz in this century.” Ms. Tick. who is professor emerita of music history at Northeastern University, talks with about Ella – and her book – in this wide-ranging October 23, 2023 interview.

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Book Excerpt from Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, by Judith Tick

In this excerpt from the Introduction to her book Becoming Ella: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, Judith Tick writes about highlights of Ella’s career, and how the significance of her Song Book recordings is an example of her “becoming” Ella.

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Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 18: “The Sermon”

Hammers in a construction site
sound like a band warming up,
weird solos by a bunch of drummers.
Jimmy Smith comes down draped in groove,
sermonizing your stride,
clouds chest-out like they know something.
A man standing in front of a house,
shouting, I got nothing from you!

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From the Interview Archive: A 2013 conversation with Guthrie Ramsey, author of The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop

In a 2013 Jerry Jazz Musician interview,  Guthrie Ramsey talks about Bud Powell, one of the greatest pianist’s in jazz history, and the collision of two vibrant political economies: the discourses of art and the practice of Blackness.

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The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Anthony Braxton

Beginning in 1990, the noted photographer Giovanni Piesco began taking backstage photographs of many of the great musicians who played in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, that city’s main jazz venue which is considered one of the finest in the world. Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish portraits of jazz musicians that Giovanni has taken over the years. This edition is of the saxophonist Anthony Braxton, taken in January, 2015.

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Interview Archive: Gary Giddins on Thelonious Monk

The former Village Voice writer Gary Giddins, who was prominently featured in Ken Burns’ documentary Jazz, and who is the country’s preeminent jazz critic, joins us in a December 23, 2002 conversation about jazz legend Thelonious Monk.

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Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 17: “All I know about music is not many people ever really hear it”

I don’t know where it starts, he said, but can you imagine
watching  They Cloned Tyrone  and the music playing,
almost the whole dance club version of  Love Hangover,
I can’t even watch anything, my mind looks through the settings,
the dialogue is like a crowd talking in a club and I want to listen in,
go into that Diana Ross whisper singing love voice

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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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In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories

A collection of Connie Johnson’s poetry is woven among her audio readings, a personal narrative of her journey and music she considers significant to it, providing readers the chance to experience the full value of her gifts.

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The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Arthur Blythe

Beginning in 1990, the noted photographer Giovanni Piesco began taking backstage photographs of many of the great musicians who played in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, that city’s main jazz venue which is considered one of the finest in the world. Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish portraits of jazz musicians that Giovanni has taken over the years. This edition is of the saxophonist Arthur Blythe and his trio, taken on the evening of June 24, 1999.

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Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 16: “Little Waltz” and “Summertime”

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. In this edition, the poet connects the recordings of Jessica Williams’ “Little Waltz” and Gene Harris’ “Summertime.”

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