Stanley Crouch — MacArthur “genius” award recipient, co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center, National Book Award nominee, and perennial bull in the china shop of black intelligentsia — has been writing about jazz and jazz artists for over thirty years. His reputation for controversy is exceeded only by a universal respect for his intellect and passion. As Gary Giddins notes: “Stanley may be the only jazz writer out there with the kind of rhinoceros hide necessary to provoke and outrage and then withstand the fulminations that come back.” […] Continue reading »
In the illustrious and richly documented history of American jazz, no figure has been more controversial than the jazz critic. Jazz critics can be revered or reviled often both but they should not be ignored. And while the tradition of jazz has been covered from seemingly every angle, until now, nobody has ever turned the pen back on itself to chronicle the many writers who have helped define how we listen to and how we understand jazz. In Blowin Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics, John Gennari provides a definitive history of jazz criticism from the 1920s to the present. […] Continue reading »
Billie Holiday singing at the New Orleans Swing Club. Dexter Gordon hanging out at Bop City. Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane all swinging through town for gigs. Sound like a nostalgic snapshot from the New York jazz scene, or perhaps New Orleans? Nope. This particular sentimental journey describes San Francisco’s Fillmore District in its heyday. […] Continue reading »
Following the path of its star musician John Coltrane, Impulse Records cut a creative swath through the 1960s and 1970s with the politically charged avant-garde jazz that defined the labels musical and spiritual identity. Ashley Kahn’s The House That Trane Built tells the story of the label, balancing tales of individual passion, artistic vision, and commercial motivation. […] Continue reading »
New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century was a complicated city, a rough and beautiful place bursting with energy and excitement. It was a city marked by racial tensions, where the volatile interactions between blacks and whites were further confounded by a substantial Creole population. Yet it was also a city of fervent religious beliefs, where salvation manifested itself in a number of ways. Perhaps abolve all else, New Orleans was a city of music: funeral bands marched through the streets; professional musicians played the popular tunes of the day in dance halls and cabarets; sanctified parishioners raised church roofs with their impassioned voices; and early blues musicians moaned their troubles on street corners and in honky-tonks, late into the night. […] Continue reading »
On New Year’s Eve 1972, following eighteen magnificent seasons in the major leagues, Roberto Clemente died a hero’s death, killed in a plane crash as he attempted to deliver food and medical supplies to Nicaragua after a devastating earthquake. Author David Maraniss now brings the great baseball player brilliantly back to life in
“I’m always wondering,” Louis Armstrong wrote in 1966, “if it would have been best in my life if I’d stayed like I was in New Orleans, having a ball.”
In 1922, Armstrong left his city of New Orleans by choice, boarding a Chicago-bound train in his long underwear, carrying a “little” suitcase with a “few” clothes in it, his cornet, and a trout sandwich packed by mother Mayann.
In late August of 2005, an unimaginable number of New Orleans residents in the path of an oncoming Hurricane Katrina were left with little choice but to flee the city. One can only assume that few had the luxury of leisurely packing a suitcase, let alone a trout sandwich
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Charlie Parker has been idolized by generations of jazz musicians and fans. Indeed, his spectacular musical abilities — his blinding speed and brilliant improvisational style — made Parker a legend even before his tragic death at age thirty-four.
In Chasin’ The Bird, Brian Priestley tells Parker’s life story, from his Kansas City childhood to his final harrowing days in New York. Priestley offers new insight into Parker’s career, beginning as a teenager single-mindedly devoted to mastering the saxophone, to his first trip to New York, where he washed dishes for $9.00 a week at Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, a favorite hangout of the great pianist Art Tatum, whose stunning speed and ingenuity were an influence on the young musician. […] Continue reading »
He was the biggest star in gospel music before he ever crossed over into pop. His first single under his own name, “You Send Me,” was an historic success, going to number one on the charts and selling two million copies. He wrote his own songs, hired his own musicians, and started […] Continue reading »
No musician evokes the time of the Big Band era more strikingly than Tommy Dorsey (1905 – 1956), whose towering trombone style and smash hits created legions of fans and influenced popular music for decades. Peter Levinson, the author of criticially acclaimed biographies of Harry James and Nelson Riddle, has now written the definitive account of this icon of jazz, drawing on exhaustive new research and scores of interviews with the musicians and others who knew him best. […] Continue reading »