2018 Pushcart Prize nominees

Jerry Jazz Musician is fortunate to have had hundreds of accomplished writers and poets submit their work for consideration of publication during this calendar year.  Many thanks to everyone who thinks enough of this website to desire sharing their creative vision with our readers.  The works published are outstanding examples of the connections that exist between jazz music, its culture, and the literary arts.

I am proud to report that I have nominated six exceptional published pieces for the prestigious

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December 4th, 2018

Coming Soon…Religious scholars discuss Billie Holiday, Ralph Ellison and Langston Hughes

     On Monday, I had the great privilege of hosting a conversation among three prominent religious scholars, Professors Wallace Best (Princeton), Tracey Fessenden (Arizona State) and M. Cooper Harriss (Indiana University), each of whom has recently published fascinating works on, respectively, Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison.

     Their work is brilliant and entertaining, and of significance to anyone with an interest in expanding their knowledge of these three iconic Americans, and the worlds – particularly the religious worlds – in which they moved.

     The conversation, which featured a wide range of topics (i.e. the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling) will be published in January.  Meanwhile, the authors have provided statements that will provide initial information about their work. 

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November 8th, 2018

An update from David Amram

In addition to his brilliance as a musician, composer, conductor and author, a major part of the 88-year old David Amram’s biography will forever be his role as Jack Kerouac’s musical collaborator, when, in the late 1950’s, their work together – an “intoxicating stew” combining theater, poetry, and jazz – was the first “performance art” of its kind. 

In my 2002 interview with him, he said that during these performances he “never knew whether Jack was reading something that he made up on the spot or if it was something of his own. There may be something by Walt Whitman in there, or maybe a fragment of a poem by Hart Crane, or something from Shakespeare, Beowulf or Chaucer. He knew all of these French poets like Celine, and he would say ‘check this out’ or ‘dig this’ and start reciting a

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October 15th, 2018

Driving Don Shirley

On November 21, Universal Pictures will release Green Book, a film directed by Peter Farrelly, and starring Mahershala Ali as African-American pianist Don Shirley, and Viggo Mortensen as “Tony Lip,” a New York bouncer who worked as Shirley’s driver during his 1962 concert tour of the South.

Shirley’s musical style can most easily be described as varied.  His cabaret-style jazz playing at times sounds like “Eric Satie meets Erroll Garner,” while his impressive classical work took him to, among others, performances with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and Detroit and Chicago Symphonies.  He also composed several symphonies, string quartets, and classical piano pieces.  His work caught the attention of Duke Ellington, who hired Shirley to play at his 1955 Carnegie Hall performance.  His career featured a long stint with Cadence Records, where, during the 1950’s and 60’s he recorded 16 albums, including 1965’s

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October 9th, 2018

Coming Soon…from Jerry Jazz Musician

Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Gary Giddins, author of the forthcoming second volume of his biography on Bing Crosby, Swinging on a Star:  The War Years, 1940 – 1946.  Look for the interview to be published sometime around the October 30 publication date of his book. 

Also, around the time the Giddins interview is published, Jerry Jazz Musician will have a new look – new design, masthead, magazine-style layout and publication schedule, and (hopefully) better

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October 2nd, 2018

News about poet Michael L. Newell

     I am always happy to report when a writer published on Jerry Jazz Musician finds success with their work.  Michael L. Newell informs me that a new book of his poetry, “Meditation of an Old Man Standing on a Bridge,” is now available from Seattle’s Bellowing Ark Press.  This is particularly rewarding as I have proudly published many of the poems Michael has submitted to me since 2015 – two of which appear in this collection.

     Michael’s poetry is a gift to those of us who love and appreciate the culture inspired by jazz music.  His creative spirit is aligned with those musicians he writes about, maintaining a sensitivity critical to communicating the music’s cultural aesthetic.  

     Whenever I receive submissions from Michael, I know I will be reading the poetry of a well-traveled man whose work can lead me anywhere – a rainy window in Kigali, a snowy stroll in Tashkent, a Christmas spent alone in Jordan, a puzzling evening in

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September 22nd, 2018

“Whistlin’ the Bird” — Two True Jazz Stories by Bob Hecht

Part 1: Confirmation (1969)

 

     It wouldn’t be the first time my penchant for whistling jazz tunes got me in trouble…nor the last.

     I’d been crazy about whistling from my boyhood. Perhaps I inherited my obsession from my late father. He wasn’t a jazz fan like I am, and I barely even remember him whistling—he wasn’t around much when I was a boy and he died when I was twelve—but my mom later told me he was an outstanding whistler. “He could do triple tonguing and everything,” she said.

     So maybe it was in my DNA. But at any rate, after his death I determinedly taught myself to whistle. I have a good ear and decent sense of pitch, so I found I could easily get in sync with whatever music I was hearing. And then I practiced and practiced, whistling along with jazz compositions and solos for years until I got

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September 17th, 2018

Ralph Ellison’s record collection

In a wonderfully entertaining and informative 2004 New Yorker piece titled “Ralph Ellison’s Record Collection,” Richard Brody reminds us of the Invisible Man author’s passion for jazz music — what he referred to as “American music” — and of his somewhat controversial (for the time) opinion of the musicians coming up.  While often revering the music of Armstrong, Ellington, and Lester Young (and who can blame him?), of Charlie Parker’s music, he wrote “there is in it a great deal of loneliness, self-deprecation and self-pity,” and, in a letter to friend Albert Murray following a 1958 Newport Jazz Festival performance, described Miles Davis as “poor, evil, lost little Miles Davis.”  He famously characterized bebop as “a listener’s music” that “few people are capable of dancing to it” — although this critique was probably more of a lament of a lost culture. 

But the crux of the story is not Ellison’s opinion about music, rather the recordings he collected, reported by Brody as

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September 12th, 2018

“Transcending the Blues” — a critical essay by Matt Sweeney

     Mac’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Eugene, Oregon is where the blues aficionados in Central Oregon congregate to enjoy Cajun type bar food and dance joyously to pounding, power guitar driven blues.  Our friends Alan and Susan go there a couple times a month to satisfy their boogie dance cravings.  Whenever my wife and I pass through Eugene, we end up at Mac’s with Alan and Susan.  They also attend a lot of blues festivals around their neck of the woods and can be considered connoisseurs.

     I too love the blues.  I also love jazz.  Susan loves the blues.  She does not love jazz, “modern” jazz to be specific.  Susan explains that when she’s dancing at Mac’s, she feels the pounding bass and drums and screaming vocalist and Fender Stratocaster vibrating her bones and muscles and eyeballs.  That’s her heaven.  That’s how she wants to

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September 3rd, 2018

An invitation to writers and poets

Hello folks:

In November I will be devoting space to the music and culture of World War II, the centerpiece of which will be my interview with author Gary Giddins, whose highly anticipated book Bing Crosby:  Swinging on a Star, The War Years, 1940 – 1946, will be released at that time.

I am seeking a limited number of short stories and poems about events, figures, music, etc.  that can be associated with the World War II era.    While I am unable to

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August 24th, 2018

“The Color of Jazz” — an essay by Bob Hecht

     The late, great trumpeter Clark Terry once offered one of the most pointed, and humorous, comments about the perennial controversies in jazz over race and the perceived abilities of white versus black musicians…

     He said, “My theory is that a note doesn’t give a

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August 16th, 2018

“Jazz and Democracy” — by Bob Hecht

     As someone who both adores the best qualities that jazz has to offer, and abhors our current national politics of polarization, I’m often struck by how the two realms of jazz and politics so dramatically conflict, in their respective expressions of two great American inventions.

     It’s not supposed to be like that, though, because jazz and democracy,  theoretically at least, share so many core principles.

     Jazz, I believe, contains the best of democratic values. In jazz, everyone has a ‘voice’ and a

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August 1st, 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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