“Blue Venus” — a short story by Rhonda Zimlich

            Gas lamps lined the street lifting their warmth out into the world to stave off the night.  Their flickering orange reflected in the puddles along the curb and the cobble still shiny with rain long gone.  A storm had passed.  Leaves now settled in clumps along the gutters and at the feet of a slumped musician folded forward on a stoop.  The curve of his instrument’s dark case towered above him, concealing an elegant bass within.

            Brownstones framed the scene extending stoops from hidden entryways.  A newspaper fat with rain hung over a wrought-iron rail, the upside-down words “Congress Overrides Veto of Taft-Hartley” visible even in the obscurity of predawn.  A five-and-dime, closed for business until morning, hosted a shadowy window display advertising dry shampoo and

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August 6th, 2018

“Silent Soundtrack” — a short story by Bari Lynn Hein

Chris Chisholm’s suit jacket landed beside his foot in a black pinstriped heap. He studied his fragmented reflection in a mosaic of mirrors, raised his eyebrows and his glass and said, “A toast!”

            There was only one other person within view, within earshot. Phil the bartender stood beneath a clock whose hands were both pointed to the number one. “What’re we toasting, Chi Chi?”

            Chris opened his mouth to say, “To Reggie!” But what came out were the lyrics of a Led Zeppelin song: “The cup is raised, the toast is made again…” He trailed off, humming, as if he’d forgotten the rest. He hadn’t.

            Phil smirked and reinserted a rag into the glass he’d been drying. “Thanks a lot. Now I’ll have that love song stuck in my

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July 25th, 2018

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #48: “The Wailing Wall” by Justin Short

     When they came to build the wall, I played Mingus.

     I stood in the blistering sun, watched them arrive, and did my best to blow my lungs clean out.  They climbed down from hissing dew-sprinkled trucks, adjusted their hard hats, and went to work setting up the barricades.  They ignored me completely.

     They didn’t ignore me long.  I was off-key, and I was loud.  Ain’t always about hitting all the right notes, man.  A clarinet’s gotta be raw.  Real.  None of that philharmonic fast food commercial stuff.

     I could almost hear Tony taking the high notes right beside me.  He would have, too.  He always loved a good

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July 13th, 2018

Short Fiction Contest…update

I just returned from a wonderful vacation in Italy and Germany, so we have fallen a bit behind on determining the winner of the Short Fiction Contest.  For those of you who entered your story, I appreciate your patience.  I hope to have the winning story published by July 15.

Meanwhile…you may enjoy this 2011 interview of

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July 6th, 2018

“The Blues Museum” — a short story by Jay Franzel

      Camp looked through glass doors and across the shoulderless highway. A patch of grass across the road was covered with white trailers washed clean by the rain. He stared out a side window at the brown back of a gas station. A red and yellow sign, mounted so high he had to twist his neck to see it, seemed like it should have been turning but sat still against a gray sky.

      What do you find in a bus station? Long waits under dirty fluorescents, grimy floor and seats, gloom on scattered faces. Soup, coffee and candy vending machines. If someone could gather it up, all the pieces a bus station’s handed down through the years, you could start a museum. You could cover the walls with black and white photos, pictures of a million people. Pick out any one person, nobody special, just someone with some

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June 27th, 2018

“No Hiding Place” — a short story by Chris LaMay-West

     Seen from above, the motion probably exhibited some coherence. Like how the particles on the surface of a liquid jiggled around each other. What did they call it? Brownian motion. Seen from a distance, the mass of people no doubt also swirled in patterns that had a great deal of regularity. Was there perhaps even a meaning in the group activity, a secret swaying cadence that couldn’t be discerned just from watching the constituent parts? 

     Carl found how he engaged in metaphysical speculations when in these situations distressing.

     But God, you had to do something.

     Or else this dance club, The Edge of The World, the apotheosis of all that he had come to hate during this year and a half spent in

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June 18th, 2018

“The Launch” — a short story by Amy Tagle

     “How dare you play it like that!”

     I look up from my sight-reading piece, certain I had correctly executed all of the rhythms and notes, all of the articulations and embellishments. My questioning eyes found a passionate face, lined with wrinkles that were now quivering in angst.

     “I don’t care if you play a couple wrong notes here and there, but to play it so flat like that… so dull… that is inexcusable.”

     “Play it again.”

     I started again, trying to sense the life behind the ink, and I felt like the blind fool who

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June 8th, 2018

“The Improvisational Distance” — a short story by Justin Reynolds

Everyone is afraid to knock on the door when they hear the trumpet behind it. A closed door is like an On Air sign or a red light outside a dark room. Still, they have to talk to him. Sonny is nowhere to be found. And Thibodeau is too busy

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May 24th, 2018

“Piano Hands” — a short story by Charis Shin

  He had beautiful hands — hands with long, slender fingers meant to caress ivory piano keys. Knuckles, she knew, were never the most flattering part of anyone’s body — gnarled and raisin-like skin stretched over delicate bones. And yet, there was a certain beauty in the way his knuckles bent and flexed over the piano, so she protested bitterly when he became a mechanic to make ends meet.

     “We’ve got bills to pay,” he said with a matter-of-fact shrug, “And I can always

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April 28th, 2018

“Full Moon New Year” — a short story by Debora Ewing

     This is one of those parties I’ve heard about, thrown by people with new money in a house they don’t own; like Hipster Gatsby. This is not to disparage our host: he is a sincere human. When one finds one’s self in a cliché, the moment should be chronicled. I’m sitting on a mausoleum chair in the foyer of an upscale Seattle home with my glass of vodka perched on a music stand, chronicling.

      The jazz musicians in the living room are playing “Some Day My Prince Will Come.” 

      “Oh, good, it’s the Disney segment,” I say to nobody in particular. The drunk woman who earlier complimented my

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April 10th, 2018

“Plainsong” — a short story by Joyce Becker Lee

     Tansy steps up to the microphone, and the world shifts into slow motion. Behind her, the band pulsates, big brass, booming beat, and howling saxophones like foreplay. Before her, the shadowy movement of caliginous figures, backlit to opacity, a murky mob breathing as though one, daring her to entertain with the melodies stored in her throat and heart, perversely seeking the pleasure to be derived from her anticipated failure to enthrall.

            The mike’s silver orb becomes her focus, its aura a tight dome that pulls at her breath, sucking the notes from her depths, the rushing air inverting her

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April 3rd, 2018

“Speakeasy” — a short story by Matt Hayes

     I was recently at a speakeasy in Tbilisi, drinking wine and tapping my foot in time with a jazz quartet, when I noticed a dishevelled French magician approach the mysterious black-haired girl I’d had my eye on for the past ten minutes. This irked me less than it might have, because the Frenchman was clearly a drunkard of dubious repute, and the girl was plainly uninterested in him, not deigning to respond to his advances with so much as a word. He performed endless coin tricks and card tricks for her, and loudly complimented her exotic

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March 26th, 2018

In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

Contributing writers

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