Short Fiction Contest-winning story #27: “The Open Marriage,” by Ben Murray

ten minutes into sound and I have begun to lean, to lean forward in these shared chairs towards glissando, towards pluck and sizzle and crash. Ellen is a grace note, a cello curve beside me in this dark, lovely, smitten club of jazz.
that I know it’s Ellen’s thigh and hip accompanying mine is a testament to the radii of our ring fingers, the shiny bands there that play so seriously at patience and time.

...

July 8th, 2011

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #26: “The Improvisational Distance,” by J. A. 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 eye-fucking the women at the hotel bar to practice. And Baldwin is just tired.

They wait for a lull, a break. Three minutes waiting outside the door, and it comes. They knock soft, one of those we didn’t want to have to bother you but didn’t see any other recourse knocks; a musician has a way of using sound, its timbre, its breadth, to say everything. Knocking is no different.

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March 4th, 2011

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #25: “Fahrenheit,” by Danny C. Knestaut

A trumpet squealed in the hospital halls. The note, like a brass rabbit, zipped past room 334. Moments later Mr. Fahrenheit watched two orderlies jog past the open door: not too fast, not real slow. It appeared to be the speed of indicated hurry. A few more notes from the trumpet whizzed down the hall before they too slowed to a jog, and then drew themselves out into expressions of gold, blue, green – then stopped before Mr. Fahrenheit could call the name of the song to mind. The next few notes he tapped out on the back of the hand he held in his own. His wife did not respond. Even he had begun to forget to expect a response. She inhaled. She exhaled. The eyes beneath her blue lids quivered and shimmered.

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November 1st, 2010

Short Fiction Contest-winner #24: “Alone: A Love Story,” by Abby Cummins

When I was ten, I was in a movie. It was a very famous movie. It ran in theaters for over a month, bringing in more and more revenue for the production company. When it finally came out on VHS (it was old enough that it was a tape, with reels inside it), the film grossed in the millions. The director was hailed as “visionary”, the actors as “superb”. The film itself became famous for having been one of the best horror movies of the year (1992). Critics said that it had “truly ushered in a new era of horror, one in which the innocent and benign murder recklessly”. The review that held these words was taped to my wall, for I’d been mentioned by name, praised, and it was a very well known newspaper, indeed. “Sharon Ellis, a real child actor who will no doubt amount to something great, gives a phenomenal debut performance. Her emotion and sensual expression are truly remarkable for such a young girl so new to the scene.” I used to read those words, over and over again, and imagine the critic who had written them watching me on the big screen before them.

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July 10th, 2010

Short Fiction Contest-winner #23: “Bumps Out Then Bumps Back,” by Trudy Carpenter

One black leather pump hides under the sofa; the other skidded behind the front door, keeled over in shock. Stockings lie limp on the carpet, slim legs broken, and shrunken feet awry at the heels, pale rungs shred up the thigh, as jagged and useless as fear. A gold chain lies coiled like a snake, broken beyond repair, not sparkling, just stunned.

In the bathroom, water gushes wild and wide from the metal spigot, creeps up the sides of steep white porcelain an inch at a time, swirls with thick steam and current from the source, a dank basement room, a mystery pumping system, a light hum in the pipes and a bill at the end of the month. She squeezes her lashes then twists the tap shut. Leg poised, she dips a foot

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March 10th, 2010

Short Fiction Contest-winner #22: “No Thanks,” by Karen Karlitz

Thanksgiving, 1968. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night, but I see that day as clearly as if I’m watching it on an old Magnavox. My mother Rose buzzes around our cramped two-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York, her hair in rollers, no makeup. She’s beautiful though, anyone would agree. It’s early in the day. She retrieves the tablecloth my grandmother embroidered when a teenager herself from the back of the hall closet, and sets the dining table in the foyer with her best dishes (black and white Noritake), silver plate from Fortunoff’s, and real cloth napkins in a tasty shade of pumpkin. She’s been up since five cooking; pies were baked the night before. But although her culinary plans are running smoothly, my mother’s mood is lethal.

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November 10th, 2009

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #21: “Parker’s Mood,” by Leland Thoburn

In the fall of 1991 I believed I would be the next Charlie Parker. Few of the bands on campus had even heard of Bird, and the few that had did not want a flute player. This did not deter me. I was out on the commons at UCLA riffing on “Confirmation” when Nadine found me.

“That makes my nipples hard.” She smiled.

I lowered my flute and stared. She was wearing a man’s dress shirt, as if she’d spent the night away. The shirt did little to hide the truth of her statement. But that wasn’t what got my attention. It was her face. She had the knack of smiling with her whole face – eyes, cheeks, lips, nose. Everything got into the act.

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July 15th, 2009

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #20: “Maybe Marrying Margaret,” by Jocelyn Crawley

There’s this painting she keeps staring at.

She imbibes it, absorbs everything it has to offer. A lilting shade of lavender, it features fourteen flawless flowers arranged with a meandering dissonance that flies in the face of the frame’s four square corners. They make its math seem maddening, symmetry superfluous.

“I like it,” she says quietly, tucking long brown strands of slightly curly hair behind her ears. She turns towards me slowly then, notes the slight adversarial something in my eyes. Intimately familiar with my proclivity for irreverent mocking, she now offers a slight smirk that seems just one shade shy of sly. Aware of my antagonism,

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March 15th, 2009

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #19: “Offkey” by Kate Robinson

If Mom and Dad had heard about my friend Benny and all that jazz from me, they’d have handled it. But when my fifth grade teacher ratted on us, it became a big, fat deal. Mom had to meet me in the front office after school and we silently trudged back to my classroom, both taking refuge in our own mental world.

Mrs. Drake motioned us to identical chairs in front of her desk. “I don’t want to alarm you. This isn’t an emergency, Mrs. McKenzie.” She forced her goosy face into a sympathetic mask. “Cathy’s not a problem child by any means.”

Mom’s shoulders relaxed under her starched cotton housedress, but her hands clutched the white gloves and tooled leather pocketbook positioned mid-lap.

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November 7th, 2008

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #18: “The Notes,” by Brian Greene

The first of my notes read I’M IN A STATE OF DISBELIEF. I left this one on top of a counter at a place where many of the thousands of people who worked in the same building as I did went to get their coffees and pastries in the morning.

The second note went AN ANGEL GOT IN BED WITH ME LAST NIGHT — OR MAYBE IT WASN’T AN ANGEL. I taped this one to the inside of the door of one of the stalls in the public bathroom of the same building.

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July 10th, 2008

Short Fiction contest-winner #17: “Mountain,” by Mark Kerstetter

I can’t fight. I’m not made for it. When I’m backed into a corner I can run, and that’s what I’m good at. I can’t gather myself to put up an opposition. I begin to quake and crumble and the parts of myself split into ever-smaller parts that want to get away as fast as possible. I’m an explosion, a spectacle to momentarily confuse the enemy. Also a physical wreck. The only movement that suits me is flight. My parts will converge into a fluid line of energy, but only in movement. It’s the way I’m made. If I held my hand out, lengthened my fingers for you and attempted to keep as still as possible, you would marvel at the trembling. But then give me a guitar and this same hand will produce a line no less marvelous in fluid grace.

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March 5th, 2008

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #16: “Cipher,” by Colleen Anderson

It had been warm all day, the type of day where the heavy air presses into you and makes it hard to move. It didn’t help that her shift had been spent calling customers and listening to endless streams of why they couldn’t make their hydro payments. And they would yell, swear at her as if she had caused their loss of job, their alcoholism, their way of life. She absorbed it all, the words sinking through the membrane in her ear and resonating within the membrane of her mind long after the calls had stopped.

If there’d been a breeze, or a slight coolness to the air, then those words could have lifted from her. They heated her, churning and boiling within so that by the time she got the apartment door open her flesh looked glossy with the sweat.

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November 1st, 2007

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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