James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker

That trumpeter Chet Baker was a sensitive musician whose sound is a cherished part of the jazz landscape is well known. That he led a hard life is also pretty well known, perhaps even to the most casual music fan. His 1988 death from a fall out an Amsterdam window only added to the sad mystery surrounding his persona.

What was not known by most of us is the haunting depth of Baker’s self-destructive life; that he was an arsonist, a thief, a second-story man, a drug addict, an abusive husband and lover, a philanderer, a liar…need we go on? We could, you know.

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June 12th, 2002

Hazel Rowley, author of Richard Wright: The Life and Times

The child of the fundamentalist South with an eighth-grade education, a self-taught intellectual in the working-class Communist Party of the 1930s, a black man married to a white woman, and an expatriate in France after World War II, Richard Wright was always an outsider. He went well beyond the limits of the times in which he lived, and sought to reconcile opposing cultures in his work.

“How the hell did you happen?” the Chicago sociologist Robert Park once asked Wright. In Richard Wright: His Life and Times, biographer Hazel Rowley shows how, chronicling with the dramatic drive of a novel Wright’s extraordinary journey from a sharecropper’s shack in Mississippi to international renown as a writer, fiercely independent thinker, and outspoken critic of racism.

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May 28th, 2002

Peter Levinson, author of September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle

Nelson Riddle will forever be linked with the music and recordings of such unforgettable vocalists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney, Linda Ronstadt, and dozens of others. Riddle not only helped to establish Nat “King” Cole’s career in the 1950s, but was also a major participant in reviving Sinatra’s career. He served as arranger of many classic Sinatra albums, including Only the Lonely and In the Wee Small Hours.

September in the Rain is the first biography of the most highly-respected arranger in the history of American popular music.

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April 19th, 2002

Douglas Daniels, author of Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young

ester Young was jazz music’s first hipster. He performed onstage in sunglasses and coined and popularized the enigmatic slang “that’s cool” and “you dig?” He was a snazzy dresser who always wore a suit and his trademark porkpie hat. He influenced everyone from B. B. King to Stan Getz to Allen Ginsberg. When he died, he was the subject of musical tributes by Charles Mingus (“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”) and Wayne Shorter (“Lester Left Town”), and incidents from his life were featured in the movie ‘Round Midnight.

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February 14th, 2002

Phil Pastras, author of Dead Man Blues: Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West

When Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton sat at the piano in the Library of Congress in May of 1938 to begin his monumental series of interviews with Alan Lomax, he spoke of his years on the West Coast with the nostalgia of a man recalling a golden age, a lost Eden. He had arrived in Los Angeles more than twenty years earlier, but he recounted his losses as vividly as though they had occurred just recently. The greatest loss was his separation from Anita Gonzales, by his own account “the only woman I ever loved,” to whom he left almost all of his royalties in his will.

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January 7th, 2002

Stephanie Stein Crease, author of Gil Evans: Out of the Cool

When Stephanie Stein Crease was a child, and her older brother started bringing home records by Gil Evans and Miles Davis, her world turned. Fascinated by the colorful orchestrations found on Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, recorded between 1957 and 1960, Crease began a life long affair with the music of Evans, a man noted critic Gary Giddins has called “one of the great figures in American music.” Gil Evans, Out of the Cool, is a culmination of her fascination of and appreciation for the work of Gil Evans.

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December 17th, 2001

Eric Nisenson, author of Open Sky: Sonny Rollins and His World of Improvisation

Author Eric Nisenson has devoted much of his adult life to reporting jazz. The genesis of his passion for jazz was his introduction to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue at an early age – a passion so strong it eventually led to a friendship with Miles. The subjects for his three biographies are no less than Miles, John Coltrane, and now, Sonny Rollins, all key musicians and all strong, unique personalities worthy of icon status in the world of music. Nisenson discusses his friendship with Miles and his new book, Open Sky : Sonny Rollins and His World of Improvisation

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November 29th, 2001

Gerald Early, author of Miles Davis and American Culture

Gerald Early is Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters at Washington University in St. Louis, and is one of America’s most respected essayists. His work on American and African American culture is collected in Tuxedo Junction, The Culture of Bruising (National Book Award), and One Nation Under a Groove, a book on Motown.

He has edited collections on African American rhetoric, black consciousness, sports, Muhammad Ali, and African American writing about St. Louis.

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October 10th, 2001

Jeroen de Valk, author of Chet Baker: His Life and Music

Chet Baker was a star at 23 years old, winner of the Critics as well as Readers Poll in Down Beat. But much of his later life was shadowed by his drug use and problems with the law.

Chet Baker: His Life and Music gives an account of the famous trumpeter – famous as much for his tragic life as his beautiful music. In our interview, conducted via e-mail, author Jeroen de Valk talks about Baker, the life he led, the people he touched, and the legacy he left.

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March 29th, 2001

Ean Wood, author of The Josephine Baker Story

The effervescent smile of Josephine Baker is easily recognizable. The mellifluous tone of her voice is legendary. Epitomizing the adage “all that glitters is not gold,” her life was plagued with broken marriages, discrimination, poverty, and eventually illness.

In his book, The Josephine Baker Story, author Ean Wood, who previously wrote of George Gershwin’s life, presents us with a portrait of a truly remarkable woman whose charm, vivacity and captivating personality live on long after her death.

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September 2nd, 2000

William Zinsser, author of Mitchell and Ruff: An American Profile in Jazz

Since 1955, Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff have been performing, teaching, and sharing jazz with the country and the world. William Zinsser, best-selling author of On Writing Well, follows the duo to China, to the American Midwest, to New York City, and to Venice (where Ruff travels back to the roots of Western music in order to explore jazz’s heritage).

Zinsser tells how these two men, raised in small towns in the South in the 1930s and 40s, struggled and persevered to become masters of their craft–and how they came to embrace the tradition of jazz as it is handed down from one generation to the next.

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August 30th, 2000

Diane Wood Middlebrook, author of Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton

Diane Wood Middlebrook, author of Suits Me The Double Life of Billy Tipton _____ Biographer Diane Wood Middlebrook’s Suits Me tells the story of a brilliant deceiver who lived and loved in two skins, one of each sex.  Jazz musician Billy Tipton grew up as Dorothy Tipton but lived as a man from the time … Continue reading “Diane Wood Middlebrook, author of Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton”

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August 29th, 2000

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

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