Louis Armstrong biographer Terry Teachout

“I suppose you could say that the seeds of my next book, a full-length biography of Louis Armstrong, were planted three years ago, when I was writing an essay for the New York Times about Armstrong’s centenary in which I called him “jazz’’s most eminent Victorian,” Terry Teachout wrote in his August 17, 2004 Arts Journal blog.

Three years after the Times piece was published, he took a tour of the Louis Armstrong House in Queens and came away with the enthusiasm required of such an endeavor.

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June 27th, 2005

David Evanier, author of Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin

As a performer, Bobby Darin rivaled Frank Sinatra. Energizing the early rock-and-roll scene with his rollicking classic “Splish Splash,” Darin then became a top-draw nightclub act. Chronic illness dogged him from childhood, setting the tone of urgency that inspired a career full of dizzying twists and turns: from teen idol to Vegas song-and-dance man, and from hipster to folkie and back.

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June 20th, 2005

Nick Salvatore, author of Singing in a Strange Land: C.L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America

There are few American lives more powerful or more moving than that of C. L. Franklin. Born in rural Mississippi, he would go on to become the most famous African American preacher in America. His style of preaching revolutionized the art, and his call for his fellow African Americans to proclaim both their faith and their rights helped usher in the civil rights movement. Booming, soaring, flashy, and intense, C.L. was one of a kind. And yet Franklin was, like many great public figures, immensely complicated. A beacon of faith and light, he also knew the shadows. He knew the power of the Lord, yet he was no saint. In Singing in a Strange Land, Bancroft Prize-winning historian Nick Salvatore tells Franklin’s story for the first time.

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May 23rd, 2005

Michael Dregni, author of Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend

Django Reinhardt was arguably the greatest guitarist who ever lived, an important influence on Les Paul, Charlie Christian, B.B. King, Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, and many others. Handsome, charismatic, childlike, and unpredictable, Reinhardt was a character out of a picaresque novel. Born in a gypsy caravan at a crossroads in Belgium, he was almost killed in a freak fire that burned half of his body and left his left hand twisted into a claw. But with this maimed left hand flying over the frets and his right hand plucking at dizzying speed, Django became Europe’s most famous jazz musician, commanding exorbitant fees — and spending the money as fast as he made it.

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March 9th, 2005

Jeffrey Magee, author of Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz: The Uncrowned King of Swing

If Benny Goodman was the “King of Swing,” then Fletcher Henderson was the power behind the throne. Not only did Henderson arrange the music that powered Goodman’s meteoric rise, he also helped launch the careers of Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins, among others. In Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz: The Uncrowned King of Swing, Jeffrey Magee offers a fascinating account of this pivotal bandleader, throwing new light on the emergence of modern jazz and the world that created it.

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January 29th, 2005

Geoffrey Ward, author of Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion in history, the celebrated — and most reviled — African American of his age. Prizewinning biographer Geoffrey Ward tells Johnson’s story in Unforgivable Blackness, which reveals a far more complex and compelling life than the newspaper headlines he inspired could ever convey.

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November 15th, 2004

Gene Lees, author of Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer

“Moon River,” “Laura,” “Skylark,” “That Old Black Magic,” “One For My Baby,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “Satin Doll,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” — the honor roll of Johnny Mercer’s songs is endless. Both Oscar Hammerstein II and Alan Jay Lerner called him the greatest lyricist in the English language, and he was perhaps the best-loved and certainly the best-known songwriter of his generation. But Mercer was also a complicated and private man.

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October 6th, 2004

Joshua Berrett, author of Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz

Joshua Berrett’s Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz is a dual biography of two great innovators in the history of jazz. One was black, one was white — one is now legendary, the other nearly forgotten. Berrett offers a provocative revision of the history of early jazz by focusing on two of its most notable practioners — Whiteman, legendary in his day, and Armstrong, a legend ever since.

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October 4th, 2004

Nadine Cohodas, author of Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington

Nadine Cohodas’s Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington, is the landmark biography of the brief, intensely lived life and soulful music of the great Dinah Washington. A gospel star at fifteen, she was discovered by jazz great Lionel Hampton at eighteen, and for the rest of her life was on the road, playing clubs, or singing in the studio — making music one way or another. Dinah’s tart and heartfelt voice quickly became her trademark; she was a distinctive stylist, crossing over from the “race” music category to the pop and jazz charts.

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September 13th, 2004

A’Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker

Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 on a Delta, Louisiana plantation, Madam C.J. Walker — the daughter of former slaves — transformed herself from an uneducated farm laborer and laundress into of the twentieth century’s most successful, self-made female entrepreneur. Orphaned at age seven, she often said, “I got my start by giving myself a start.”

During the 1890s, Sarah began to suffer from a scalp ailment that caused her to lose most of her hair. She experimented with many homemade remedies and store-bought products, including those made by Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur.

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March 11th, 2004

John Chilton, author of Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant

Roy Eldridge’s style is universally recognized as the all-important link between the playing of Louis Armstrong and the achievements of modernist Dizzy Gillespie. Roy’s daring harmonic approach and his technically awesome improvisations provided guidance and inspiration for countless jazz musicians, but he was also a star performer in his own right, whose recordings as a bandleader, and with Gene Krupa and Artie Shaw, gained him a durable international reputation. The indignities he experienced and overcame during the 1940’s while working in otherwise all-white ensembles proved he was as bold a social pioneer as he was a performer.

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January 19th, 2004

John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin is one of the important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America’s consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement.

Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual.

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December 6th, 2003

In This Issue

This issue features an interview with Thomas Brothers, author of Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration…Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; two new podcasts from Bob Hecht; a new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently release jazz recordings, and lots more…

Poetry

"The Thing of it Is" -- a poem by Alan Yount

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous winners reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have unfolded since.

Poetry

Twelve poets contribute 15 poems to the February collection

Interviews

In Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration, Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers – author of two essential studies of Louis Armstrong – tells a fascinating account of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated groups. He joins us in an interview to discuss his book, described by the Wall Street Journal as “a historically masterly and musically literate unraveling of some of the most-admired credits in 20th-century popular music.”

The Joys of Jazz

In this podcast, Bob Hecht tells the story of the song now synonymous with Feb. 14

Poetry

Steve Dalachinsky's poem of John Coltrane is dedicated to Amiri Baraka

Black History Month Profile

The life of Rosa Parks is discussed with biographer Douglas Brinkley

On the Turntable

Recommended listening…20 recently released jazz tunes by, among others, Brad Mehldau, Matt Penman, Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner, Ben Wendel, Julian Lage, and Don Byron

Great Encounters #54

In this edition, Joe Hagan, author of STICKY FINGERS: .The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, writes about how co-founders Wenner and legendary San Francisco music critic Ralph Gleason came upon the name for their revolutionary publication, Rolling Stone magazine.

“What are 3 or 4 of your favorite recordings of the 1940s?”

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?"

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about the album art of the 1950's classical label Westminster Records

Coming Soon

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell is interviewed about the great American artist; Maxine Gordon discusses her biography of Dexter Gordon, her late husband... . . .

In the previous issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion among religious scholars Tracy Fessenden, Wallace Best and M. Cooper Harriss, who talk about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison; also a new collection of poetry; previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning stories; three podcasts from Bob Hecht; recommended jazz listening; and lots more

Contributing writers

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