Short Fiction Contest-winning story #54 — “A Failed Artist’s Paradise” by Nathaniel Neil Whelan

He’s here again, his mossy hair visible at the back of the crowd. I’ve seen him a few times before and it’s always the same: he leans against a pillar, arms crossed, a hungry look in his eyes. There’s a bit of rebel in him. I don’t know if it’s the cigarette or the rimless sunglasses perched on the edge of his nose, but he doesn’t fit in with the polished and the proper.

...

July 13th, 2020

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

You walk on the rose-colored strip of concrete that starts on the sidewalk, goes under the big black awning with the street light shining on it, and stops at the two heavy wood doors inviting in all of Central Ave. You pause long enough for Walt, the bouncer you should never irritate to the degree of getting his exclusive attention, to nod you inside even though he knows you.

...

March 15th, 2020

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #52 — “Random Blonde,” by Zandra Renwick

I’ve been bitter a long time. It’s like sucking a wedge of lemon on and on and on, pulp disintegrating, everything dissolving until the flavor turns mellow and mild, almost sweet. I’ve been bitter so long it’s hard to know anymore how anything should feel, or which part of me navigating the world each day is tainted with bitterness and which part is how I always was, even before Ty Greggor smashed through my life.

...

November 13th, 2019

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #51 — “Crossing the Ribbon,” by Linnea Kellar

Do you ever have a time in your life when you feel like you’re about to step off a cliff?

 I don’t normally have those moments. If I could organize my entire life playing by the rules, I think I could mosey along and get through living just fine. I am the student my teachers wish me to be. I am the daughter my parents desire. I am the perfect best friend to the girls in my class. According to choirmaster, I am one of the best sopranos in the church choir.

...

July 9th, 2019

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #50 — “And so we left for Paris,” by Sophie Jonas-Hill

And so we left for Paris, you in the green jacket I’d made you with the picture collar and turned back cuffs, and I in my blue pinstripe, which made me look like a handsome young man.
“You look like a boy,” you said, laughing as we stumbled to our carriage on the train.
“I suppose it would be easier if I were.”
“Not at all, darling,” you said, and pulled the window shade down so you could kiss me. “Anyway, who wants it to be easy?”

...

March 11th, 2019

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #49 — “Will You Play For Me?” by Hannah Draper

     The first time I saw her, she was puffing softly on a cigarette in the girls’ bathroom. She looked all too much the devil incarnate, with tattered jeans and a band shirt that left no doubt at all that their songs would consist of guitar smashing and angsty screaming. She had dyed her hair this brilliant shade of blue that was almost black it was so dark. Upon her exhale, a long strand of smoke twirled from her ruby stained lips and curled around a nose ring that

...

November 7th, 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

...

July 13th, 2018

Short Fiction Contest-winning story 47: “The Happy Thing of Bayou de Manque” by Erin Larson

     “Repeat after me: I will not hunt alligators while Désirée runs deliveries.”

     Léon blinks at me, rich hickory eyes peering up from a face darker than any glancing touch of the sun could produce. He wriggles in a barely-perceptible fashion, bare heels grinding ringlets into the muddy deck, a creature of obstinacy and faux innocence whose smile mystically exiles all suspicion from my mind.

     “’course, Dezzy,” he says. “There aren’t any alligators around right now, you know—they ain’t come out ‘til nighttime.”

      “They don’t come out ‘til nighttime,” I correct him, swiping a hand over the top of his

...

March 15th, 2018

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #46 — “Cotton Candy on Alto Sax,” by Julie Parks

At first, I simply sit on the front steps of my building, letting the summer sun bake my knees while I’m planning my getaway, trying to decide which subway to take to get to Caroline’s place faster. I know nobody will miss me. Nobody will even notice. Not like the first time I ran away.

The first time I ran away – OK, maybe I didn’t exactly run away, as the only thing I did was leave my house in the morning to go down to New Utrecht Avenue to sit in a subway station. But I didn’t come back. I wasn’t going to. I sat there all day, until it got late and dark, and eventually even darker and so late that it was time for my mom to come home. And when she did and saw that I’m gone, she called the cops and they found me instantly. Picture a pink haired girl sitting on a bench in an all Hasidic neighborhood. Not a rocket science to spot my cotton candy stack of hair even in the middle of a dark subway station. So I was brought home that same night, safe and sound, and feeling like an

...

November 5th, 2017

Short Fiction Contest winning story #45 — “Last Stop with Louis Armstrong,” by Laura Hawbaker

            Wade missed the sweat. The sticky air that hugged you like a fat friend. The languid, dirty stench of swampy gutters. Of Bourbon street piss and puke. Of Dat Dogs at three in the morning, and the street mutts that cawed at the Mississippi. The rats and cockroaches scuttling around your shoes. The humidity. The heat.           

            He missed all of it.

            New York was cold. Not just the weather, but the people, too. Hardened pedestrians crushed the MTA platforms like stone statues, eyes glazed onto their phones or the wall or the floor. No smiles. No inward space given away to strangers. They hugged into their

...

July 18th, 2017

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #44 — “Da Capo al Fine” by J. Lee Strickland

     I wake up when the door opens. Instant-awake, alert. I’m staring at the ceiling, at the ornate medallion in its center. Late-night city glow from the windows casts awkward shadows on the plaster. The light clicks on, and I hear a gasp. I feel a sympathetic shot of adrenaline hit my chest. I look toward the door, and there’s a woman there, a stranger. A beauty, too, dressed in a black pants-suit, purse slung over a shoulder, the jacket cut and fitted to her slim waist matador-style. Beneath the jacket, she’s wearing a white blouse with an enormous collar that flares out over her shoulders and breast, like gull wings. Her hair is loose, brown, shoulder-length, streaked with bits of blonde, her face around her dark eyes a mix of fear and puzzlement.

     “Who are you?” she says, her hand still on the light switch. “What are you doing here?” Her voice quivers.

     I look around. The ceiling looks like my

...

March 4th, 2017

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #43 — “Pandora’s Sax” by Robert Glover

In the back of a closet, on top of a shelf, under two empty shoeboxes, and behind a small, carry-on bag lurked a humped, black, plastic case. Years of knocking about in the backs of vans and offstage in smoky clubs had etched lines into its surface. Every song had scuffed another memory: Dewey Redman’s “Imagination” or Clifford Brown’s “Night in Tunisia”. An accidental kick from a ska fan had left a dent even after the shell had popped back into place. For twenty years, it had remained closed, a relic of temptation, while inside a saxophone slumbered, waiting for its silent call to beckon again. It was patient. It had time.

Nathan Gold heard the call. It was a Saturday morning in mid-spring as he returned from racing his mountain bike along the Long Beach boardwalk. Pumping the pedals, he glided up the

...

November 1st, 2016

Short Fiction Contest winning story #42 — “Playing for Tips,” by Kevin Bennett

It was a persistent and gentle nudge—always was. He knew who was prodding him and what she would say without turning, so he continued to run his fingers up and down the keys—there was a major seventh followed by a fifth interval; repeat several times, arpeggiate, transpose—

“Sir? I’m sorry sir—”

The nudging again. He spoke as if distracted—which he was: “Yes?”

“Some of the people are trying to work,” she said.

“Have them come and talk to me,” he replied, and continued to play.

The barista was put-off for a moment, but she jostled him again. “If you could just play a little quieter—”

The words were like daggers. They weren’t new, they weren’t original, and they brought hate like bile to his mind and body; coursing in and throughout him like a thousand

...

July 9th, 2016

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #41 — “You Blows What You Is,” by Ruth Knafo Setton

The port of Casablanca was crammed with Vichy officers, soldiers, cops, thieves and criminals. Each night I slept behind sand dunes, and each morning, washed in the freezing sea and shook myself dry in the winter wind. My shirt and trousers were stiff with salt and stuck to my chest, arms and legs. I figured it would be easy to steal a sweater or coat, grab it off a café chair while its owner ate and drank. But each time I stuck my head inside a restaurant and started weaving between tables, the owner threatened to call the cops.

No cops, no officers, no father whipping me, never again. I’d lie low, steal what I needed, and owe no one a damned thing.

Ten days after I arrived in Casablanca, a shipload of

...

March 2nd, 2016

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #40 — “The Blues Museum,” 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

...

November 16th, 2015

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #38 — “Till’s Piano Lesson,” by Don Dewey

New Short Fiction Award

Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.


Don Dewey of Jamaica, New York is the winner of the 38th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on March 5, 2015.


Till’s Piano Lesson

by

Don Dewey


_______________________________

“You’re early, Till. I told you never come early.”

“Sorry. I guess my watch is off.”

“Buy a new one.”

Klein refit the crutches under his armpits and swung his crabbed legs back toward the studio, leaving Till to enter the living room for himself. Till didn’t like living rooms. He thought them banal in their predictable assembly of tables, chairs, lamps, and rugs. What he wanted to see someday was a living room with people who dropped dead as soon as they put a foot outside it. Living rooms should have been what they claimed to be.

Klein’s pupil in the studio seemed to be trying to erase his presence through sheer aggression. Had Mozart started that way? Till didn’t think so.

...

March 5th, 2015

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #37: “Homage,” by Kenneth Levine

New Short Fiction Award

Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.


Kenneth Levine of Wethersfield, Connecticut is the winner of the thirty-seventh Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on November 5, 2014.


Homage

by

Kenneth Levine


_______________________________

I deplaned in Amsterdam to confront my father. In 1990, the year I was born, after the likes of Stan Getz and Freddie Hubbard dubbed him “the reincarnation of Chet Baker,” he quit his part-time job repairing cars in Gilbert, Iowa to go on a worldwide tour from which he never returned.

From the airport I boarded a train to Centraal Station, across from which the Prins Hendrik hotel is situated at the Northern end of Zeedijk Straat, and by early evening I had navigated through the designated lanes over which walkers, bicyclists, and motorists coursed to stand before a bronze tablet on the hotel’s brick front that featured a haggard Chet Baker playing the trumpet over an inscription that read: “Trumpet player and singer Chet Baker died here on May 13th, 1988. He will live on in his music for anyone

...

November 5th, 2014

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #36 — “Fever” by Yvonne McBride

Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.

Yvonne McBride of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the winner of the thirty-sixth Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on July 12, 2014.




Fever


by

Yvonne McBride

_______________________________




Royal had studied her from the bandstand each and every night since their first gig. Such a little thing she was. Nicely curved, tightly packaged — but such a small little thing he had a notion she would break if even his fingertips glazed her. And he had tried. To touch her. Had been trying to get close to her for the past two and all night long.

...

July 12th, 2014

In This Issue

Painting of Clifford Brown by Warren Goodson
The 43 poets who contribute to the Summer Collection of jazz poetry communicate their heartfelt passion for the artistry and inspiration found in jazz music, and help readers, in the words of Art Blakey, “wash away the dust of everyday life” – a special gift to share during this restless summer of discontent…and hope.

Interview

photo courtesy John Bolger Collection
Philip Clark, author of Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, discusses the enigmatic and extraordinary pianist, composer, and band leader, whose most notable achievements came during a time of major societal and cultural change, and often in the face of critics who at times found his music too technical and bombastic.

Publisher’s Notes

Grant Park, Portland, Sep 16, 2020
On a challenging summer in Portland, the passing of Stanley Crouch, and upcoming opportunities for writers

Great Encounters

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. In this edition, Will Friedwald, author of Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole, writes about the 1940 Lionel Hampton/King Cole Trio RCA Victor recording sessions.

Interview

photo of James Baldwin by Allan Warren
In our interview with Nicholas Buccola, author of The Fire is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America, the author tells the story of the historic 1965 Cambridge Union debate between Baldwin, the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, and Buckley, a staunch opponent of the movement and founder in 1955 of the leading conservative publication, National Review. The evening’s debate topic? “The American dream is at the expense of the American Negro.”

Poetry

Mood Indigo by Matthew Hinds
An invitation was extended recently for poets to submit work that reflects this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season. 14 poets contribute to the first volume of collected poetry.

Poetry

photo by Russell duPont
The second volume of poetry reflecting this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season features the work of 23 poets

Short Fiction

photo FDR Presidential Library & Museum
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #54 — “A Failed Artist’s Paradise” by Nathaniel Neil Whelan

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Interview

Ornette Coleman 1966/photo courtesy Mosaic Images
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Ornette Coleman: The Territory And The Adventure author Maria Golia discusses her compelling and rewarding book about the artist whose philosophy and the astounding, adventurous music he created served to continually challenge the skeptical status quo, and made him a guiding light of the artistic avant-garde throughout a career spanning seven decades.

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin are featured

Poetry

Frits De Jong / CC0
“Nocturne in a Whirling Fan” — a poem by Joel Glickman

Humor

painting of Louis Armstrong by Vakseen
In Dig Wayne's "Iconolast," Louis Armstrong is responsible for saving the lives of every man, woman and child on the ball bearing line at the Radio Flyer wagon factory...

Poetry

photo by John Vachon/Library of Congress
“Climate Change” — Ten poems in sequence by John Stupp

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

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.

Art

Art 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 "Nat King Cole: The Shadow of the Word," "Slain in Cold Blood" and "Local 767: The Black Musicians’ Union"

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.”

Jazz History Quiz #140

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Although he had success as a bandleader in the 1930’s, he is best known for being manager of Harlem’s Minton’s Playhouse (where Thelonious Monk was the pianist) during the birth of bebop. Who was he?

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.

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Pressed for All Time

A&M Records/photo by Carol Friedman
In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

Interview

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

Spring Poetry Collection

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

“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

In the Previous 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.

In an Earlier 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…

Coming Soon

photo of Erroll Garner by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
The historian and most eminent jazz writer of his generation Dan Morgenstern joins pianist Christian Sands -- the Creative Ambassador of the Erroll Garner Jazz Project -- in a conversation about Garner's historic legacy. Also…an autumn collection of poetry; Will Friedwald, author of Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole is interviewed about the legendary pianist and vocalist; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction, poetry, and lots more in the works...

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