Life (and living) in the era of isolation and social distancing

I am writing to share some of the ways I am coping with the current alarming situation, to fill readers in on a few things that are going on with Jerry Jazz Musician, and to invite you to share your own thoughts during this time.

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April 6th, 2020

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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August 13th, 2018

Our commitment to music in the digital age

In the October 17 edition of the New York Times Magazine, in an article titled “Streaming Music Has Left Me Adrift,” Dan Brooks articulates what many of us who grew up with the long playing record album have long mourned, the passing of the era when consumers “owned” their own music collection based on a dedication of pursuing musical interests.

With the current ability to listen to just about anything ever recorded with merely an insignificant monetary monthly subscription (Brooks calls it “sharing the same record collection”), gone are the days when

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October 24th, 2014

“One For Daddy-O” — in honor of my dad on Father’s Day

Besides doing his best to help raise three kids, during my 1960’s childhood my father worked his heart out at two jobs — one of which was as owner of a restaurant on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue, and the other as a musician, playing trumpet and viola throughout the San Francisco Bay area, mostly on evenings and weekends in “casual” jobs. For years he was part of a strolling quartet that entertained San Francisco’s elite at the World Trade Club — an ensemble that at its peak toured the Philippines, playing to an audience that included “strongman” Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda.

Prior to that, in the 30’s he traveled the country and led his own band in Sacramento. In the 40’s, he spent the war years as a member of the Winged Victory Orchestra. And, in the late 40’s and 50’s, among many musical pursuits (although toned down once he married my mom in 1947), he played in the Jack Fina Orchestra, as well as in Ernie Heckscher’s orchestra, which famously played at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.

He loved his music, and part of my own early appreciation for music came as a result of hearing his practice sessions. To this day I can still very clearly hear the sound of his viola

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June 15th, 2014

The Beatles — post Ed Sullivan appearance critical reviews, a Charles Mingus rant, and perspective

With the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan prominently in the news this past week, it is interesting (and entertaining) to revisit some of the critical perspectives of their music following the performance.

On February 10, 1964, Theodore Strongin, music critic for the New York Times (who Wikipedia describes as a “champion of new music”) wrote that “The Beatles’ vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts.” Three days later, acknowledging the phenomenon that hit our shores, George Dixon of the Washington Post wrote, “Just thinking about the Beatles seems to induce mental disturbance. They have a commonplace, rather dull act that hardly seems to merit mentioning, yet people hereabouts have mentioned scarcely anything else for a couple of days.”

Months later, William F. Buckley, the era’s chief conservative voice and founder of the National Review got into the act, writing

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February 11th, 2014

On the Passing of Jazz Photographer Lee Tanner

There is no disputing the fact that the power of jazz lies within the music itself. Giants of the art like Armstrong, Duke, Basie, Dizzy, Bird, Monk, Miles and Coltrane ushered us into this music with a display of genius so great that an entire lifetime isn’t ample space to fully absorb all their passion.

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September 16th, 2013

A Letter from the Publisher/Introducing Jazz Fiction writer Arya Jenkins

For 11 years, Jerry Jazz Musician has sponsored 33 Short Fiction Contests resulting in 30 different contest winners. During that time, I estimate that I have read and considered over 3,000 short stories.

The stories vary in content and quality, of course, and it has been my goal to publish the best story regardless of its theme. This has at times led to confusion by some writers over the years who believe that, since Jerry Jazz Musician’s focus is on jazz history – and in particular within the confines and culture of mid-20th Century America – the winning story should always be about jazz or a character within that setting.

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September 12th, 2013

In this Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Book Excerpt

The introduction to John Burnside's The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century – excerpted here in its entirety with the gracious consent of Princeton University Press – is the author's fascinating observation concerning the idea of how poets respond to what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called “the noise of time,” weaving it into a kind of music.

Short Fiction

photo Creative Commons CC0
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #53 — “Market & Fifth, San Francisco, 1986,” by Paul Perilli

Poetry

photo by Eric Frommer (transformed from color)/CC BY-SA 2.0
Two poems of reflection and remembrance, by Michael L. Newell and Russell DuPont

Art

"Speaking in Tongues" by Charles Ingham
Charles Ingham’s “Jazz Narratives” connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history This edition’s narratives are “Released from Camarillo State Hospital, Charlie Parker Plays Jack’s Basket Room,”“Diz Railing at the Cosmos,” and “Speaking in Tongues”

Book Excerpt

A ten page excerpt from The Letters of Cole Porter by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh that features correspondence in the time frame of June to August, 1953, including those Porter had with George Byron (the man who married Jerome Kern’s widow), fellow writer Abe Burrows, Noel Coward, his secretary Madeline P. Smith, close friend Sam Stark, and his lawyer John Wharton.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Jazz History Quiz #134

Photo by Brian McMillen/Brian McMillen Photography
Influenced by Charlie Parker and Phil Woods (pictured), before forming his own group this alto player got his start in Buddy Rich’s Big Band, and shortly thereafter played with Lionel Hampton. While leading his own band, he was famous for playing bebop covers of songs such as “The I Love Lucy Theme,” “Come Fly With Me,” and “Hooray for Hollywood,” and often performed with singer Eddie Jefferson. Who is he?

Book Excerpt

This story, excerpted from Irving Berlin: New York Genius by James Kaplan, describes how Berlin came to write his first major hit song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and speaks to its historic musical and cultural significance.

Pressed for All Time

In this edition, producer Tom Dowd talks with Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums author Michael Jarrett about the genesis of Herbie Mann’s 1969 recording, Memphis Underground, and the executives and musicians involved

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Photography

photo of Stephane Grappelli by Veryl Oakland
Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of violinists Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, Zbigniew Seifert, and Leroy Jenkins

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music, author Gerald Horne writes about the severe cultural and economic obstacles jazz musicians have encountered since the music's inception

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Every Soul is a Circus," by Dig Wayne

In the Previous Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

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