Archive for “Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins”

Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“The Piano Whisperer” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

     In the underground of how it used to be, in days long ago when things were quite good, when the only bad thing, if you want to call it bad, was poverty, which was longstanding, a dull ache of years that traveled with you through good times and bad and sometimes sang you to sleep like a sad horn, bwa la la la (high note) bwa la la la (high note) bwa la la, in that time, the song of poverty that belonged to everyone belonged also to Noname.

       Noname, pronounced Noh-nameh,  ran the bleak streets then 60 years ago when the world was kinder, a better place, where murder was just, well, murder, and horror, ordinary, conceivable, and every person, regardless of how they appeared, who they were, part of a diverse evolving unique American gyroscopic system. Even the most jaded soul understood being different was natural, even if your difference was made of so many facets, no one thing stood alone and nothing alone could capture it–save poverty herself, true interpreter of shades and depths of differences, which we celebrated on saxophone streets, in piano bars and when looking to the heavens for inspiration in the form of

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

News about Jerry Jazz Musician contributing writer Arya Jenkins

          In July of 2012, Arya Jenkins’ short story “So What”—a story about an adolescent girl who attempts to connect to her absent father through his record collection – was chosen as the 30th winner of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest.  When that outstanding work was soon followed up with another quality entry with jazz music at its core, I invited her to contribute her fiction to this website on a more regular basis.  We agreed to a commission of three stories per year, and tomorrow’s publication of “The Piano Whisperer” is her 15th story to appear on Jerry Jazz Musician.

         I recently received word from Ms. Jenkins that Fomite Press, a small, independent publisher out of Vermont whose focus is on exposing high level literary work, will be publishing these stories in a collection titled Blue Songs in an Open Key.  Publication date is

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“Lulu and Me” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

     The winter I ran away, I moved into a garret in Provincetown, where I wrote poetry under the light of a candle far into the wee hours. Out my window, two stories up, I could see snow glistening on slanted rooftops that led like an uneven staircase to the bay. Below me, a twisted narrow path led to Commercial Street, peaceful and stark as an unwritten page. It was 1973 and I had run to the end of the world as I knew it to find freedom.

       I knew Provincetown from spending summers with my dad and Grandma Tess in her cottage in Truro. It seemed she’d lived most of her life since Grandpa’s passing as a beachcomber. I liked following behind her when we collected

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“Voodoo Run” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

Allie drove her taxi with a smart ass attitude, smacking gum ceaselessly, and wore a Yankees cap backwards on her head on the job, even though she’d never watched a baseball game in her life, didn’t even like the game. Her dad had named her after a pitcher who’d won five straight World Series and Allie was always grateful that pitcher hadn’t been named Lefty or something like that.

Allie’s father had been the true baseball fan and Allie wore his cap in his memory. His real gift to her was love of music, jazz in particular. In her cab, she listened to WBGO, 88.3, remembering times she hung out with her dad in the garage listening to Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, experiments in sound, beautiful chaos while he fixed things. The garage was Bert’s space and his peace, or rather, the music was, and the smoke and silence that rose between them accentuated this. Whenever the strangers she drove around asked about her father, Allie always told them, “He went the way of the Marlboro man.” Cancer.

It surprised people to hear that she, a Millennial should enjoy jazz. “Jazz was like my Gerber food,” she liked to say. As a teen she dug hip hop enough to explore its fusion with jazz, but the fusion didn’t

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“Foolish Love” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

     That winter we lived among mice in the Berkshires, in a little cabin set not far from a large white clapboard house that belonged to the owner Betty, who was a widow. Two steps up to the cabin did nothing to keep the mice away. Their constant tweaking and bustle made me feel I was living in an indoor forest. Betty, who was a nice old lady, warned us. “You’ll never be able to keep the mice out. If you can stand them, the place is yours.”

 

      We had come up to the Berkshires figuring we might have to rough it, but had no idea. Van and I had been together about two years then. The summer before we had been married on a beach in

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“Like a Pigeon in the Park” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

“What a shame,” people always said whenever they saw the two of them, Jeremy and Jade. What a shame the beauty of the boy had escaped the girl, who had her mother’s small oval face and father’s prominent nose and small dark eyes that were filled with a peculiar, almost unnatural intensity. “Such a shame,” relatives observed unabashedly at family gatherings. The remaining phrase that hung in air unspoken was, ”that she isn’t the beautiful one. “

To herself in the mirror, Jade’s own face and visage seemed fine, just a part of her, not even all that consequential. Didn’t brains and character matter more? She was striking much in the way Zelda Fitzgerald had been—a beauty you could not capture in photographs, more in movement, gesture, articulation. Somewhere, not far from the small, provincial town where Jade lived, where people stared at you if you did not fit a mold, there were people like her who were different and proud of their differences and she looked forward to meeting them one day. In the meantime, she would have to deal with challenges.

Growing up, many of them had to do with her brother, who was two years older. Although Jade garnered high marks in school, not much was made of it so

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“THE BLUE KISS” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

She stood in a room at The Met glancing at the painting on the wall, which was of two women kissing. From her vantage point, standing slightly away and to the side, the two women lying together interlocked in bed appeared cushioned awkwardly in space, free-floating yet connected.

The painting was by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the alcoholic French dwarf artist, and she tried to imagine what it was like living when he did in Paris at the time of the painting, 1892, and what it might have been like for these two prostitutes and others like them who often turned to one another for relief from a world of men then.

Mireille, it was reported, was one of the girls in the brothel in the Rue d’Amboise, when Lautrec was commissioned to create a series of panels about the lives of the girls there, and she was one of his favorites. He visited the salons of the brothels in the Rue des Moulins and Rue d’Amboise many times to study and paint the women, who felt very free to be

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“Woman Plays Horn” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

She was born into a family of musicians. Her father had played bass in a jazz band and traveled with Dizzy until an accident had cost him his arm and his career. Getting out of a limousine that had stalled on the highway en route to a gig in Chicago, he opened the car door to get out at the wrong time, just as a truck was passing.

“C’est la vie” he always said about that, as if it meant something. He had to go on, a musician without a limb, without his instrument, because he was a man and had children and a legacy to uphold through them, but inside, where nothing touched him, he felt as torn as his shoulder had been that night. Something had shifted. Only his wife, his gentle, meek and attendant wife who saw him sitting at the edge of their bed each night head bowed counting his blessings, all but one, only she knew what

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Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“Don’t Threaten Me with Love, Baby” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

Chantal Doolittle wasn’t like anybody else she knew. Who else, for example, would stand transfixed before a record player or stereo, still as stone while listening to music — not merely attending to it — her very cells taking in the song, calculating and absorbing. “That girl is special,” Nana Esther always said.

When she was a kid and Motown was the thing, Chan would sing Marvin Gaye’s tunes to her grandmother in their high ceilinged apartment, where, more often than not it was soul music, the harmonizing voices of The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, drifting in from the surrounding windows and disappearing into the sky that was perennially a washed out gray, as if there was an invisible flag always at half mast, hanging outside heaven. From the time she was five or six, all Chan had to do was hear a song once and she would know it. She knew all the Motown tunes word for word, and sang them right on key, perfectly, which is why Nana Esther dubbed her, “my little songbird.”

Of course, there was nothing little about Chantal, but, being her grandmother’s one and only, she was “a little one” to her. Chantal was tall, big for her age, and when she developed as a young woman, busty too. She stood out even before she opened her mouth, due to her attitude. Her nana had taught her to be “confident as a man,” and she had seemingly […] Continue reading »

Literature » Jazz Fiction by Arya Jenkins

“A Man’s Hands En Clave” — a short story by Arya Jenkins

Club Havana was known for hosting decent Afro-Cuban jazz bands. There was dancing Thursdays through Sundays, and Sunday afternoons, the management handed out free cigars. Hector became close to the house band, whose rhythm section inspired him. He thought the drummer Manny was off the charts. Completely bald, he wore leather bands that cinched his pump wrists as if to keep his hands from flying off his body whenever he played fast and furious. A skinny, short guy played bongos, and a drunk worked the tumbadoras. Jorge, Carlos and Javier, all dapper guys, played horns. As if to distinguish themselves, one wore a mustache; another, a hat; and the other, wire rimmed glasses. Additionally, there was a young Julliard graduate on piano, a white-haired Cubano on flute, and a sax player who looked exactly like Lester Young. One afternoon, before their gig, Manny and Hector got to talking, and Hector started messing around on the tumbadoras, imitating what he had so often seen and heard. Manny raised his eyebrows and cocked his head. He liked this kid, and his sound was good.

“Why don’t you come hang with us this weekend. A few of us like to jam at Columbus Circle. Come along and let’s see how you work those congas in a group.”

Over the course of the summer, Hector hung out in the park. It was there he met […] Continue reading »