“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

John Coltrane — musical innovator “with physics at his fingertips”

In a 2016 Business Insider post, the physicist Stephon Alexander – author of The Jazz of Physics:  The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe – writes about the connections between John Coltrane, described by Alexander as a “musical innovator, with physics at his fingertips,” and Albert Einstein, who “was an innovator in physics, with music at his fingertips.”

Coltrane’s music, particularly his final three records, helped Alexander realize that improvisation is a characteristic of both music and physics.  “Much like Einstein working with his thought experiments, some jazz improvisers construct

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July 2nd, 2018

Great Encounters #52: Monk, Hawk, and Coltrane in the studio, 1957

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons.  In this edition, Art Blakey tells a story of Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane that took place during the 1957 recording session of Monk’s Music.

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April 19th, 2018

Miles and Coltrane’s final tour together

     In a March 29 post on Slate, Fred Kaplan writes about the newly released bootleg recording of Miles Davis’ quintet (featuring John Coltrane), The Final Tour, a four-CD box set of live concerts in Europe from 1960.  The tour happened a year after the release of Kind of Blue, so many of the tunes played during it is from that classic album.  According the Kaplan, the music found on this Columbia/Legacy set is “radically different” and such a “jarring departure” from the album that “it demands we revise the conventional wisdom about these two musicians (Miles and Coltrane) and fills in some blanks…in the story of jazz, and where it was going, in those pivotal years.”

     Kaplan’s essay includes a critique of the music itself – but of particular interest is his reminder of the

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April 1st, 2018

Dylan, The Byrds, and John Coltrane

In Robbie Robertson’s entertaining biography Testimony, the rock guitarist tells a short story about a conversation he overheard Bob Dylan having with The Byrd’s Jim (a.k.a. “Roger”) McGuinn concerning John Coltrane’s influence on McGuinn when he wrote “Eight Miles High.” 

The setting was Los Angeles, 1966, during a Dylan tour that employed Robertson and, among others, bandmates Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, who are referred to in the excerpt.  The “Levon” in the story was the drummer Levon Helm, who left the tour after a month out of frustration of playing with Dylan during his initial “electric” period, when folk music purists routinely

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January 7th, 2018

“The Runner” — a poem (for John Coltrane) by Freddington

The purpose of motion begins,
A clear mind, aware and in focus,
Ahead, the optical pathway lies empty and silent,
Slow at the start, breathing steady,
Stepping through the changes,
Favouring a motif,
Blowing hard,
As the intensity builds,

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June 18th, 2017

“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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February 19th, 2017

“The Quick Hands of Hampton Hawes” and two other poems by Daniel Shapiro

For years, the autobiography proved elusive,
speeding east like the double-jointed run
that skipped from white keys to black,
soldiers chased from Central Avenue battles.
Then the book took a rest, hiding out
in a nondescript store among academic texts,
tomes whose covers bore geometric shapes.
Cardboard screamed orange, red, and white,
the slow burn of a

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September 13th, 2016

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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