While Ralph Ellison will forever be best remembered as author of the classic American novel of identity, Invisible Man, he also contributed significant essays on jazz that stand as compelling testaments to his era. His work included an homage to Duke Ellington, stinging critiques of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, and recognition of the changing-of-the-guard taking place at Harlem’s Minton’s in the 1940’s. He wrote on musical topics from flamenco to Charlie Christian, and from Jimmy Rushing to Mahalia Jackson. […] Continue reading »
In Stardust Melodies: A Biography of Twelve of America’s Most Popular Songs, author Will Friedwald takes these legendary songs apart and puts them together again, with unprecedented detail and understanding. Each song’s history is explored — the circumstances under which it was written and first performed — and then its musical and lyric content. […] Continue reading »
Lee Tanner began using a camera as a teenager in New York City. An avid jazz fan from the age of eight and inspired by the jazz photography of Gjon Mili, Bill Claxton, Herb Snitzer, and Herman Leonard, he turned to documenting the jazz scene with a love for the music comparable only to his creative drive for visual expression. Photography, however, was only an avocation. […] Continue reading »
For Birmingham, Alabama native Diane McWhorter, growing up in the city Edward R. Murrow described as the “Johannesburg of America” was “pleasant, because we were the privileged people.” While privilege has its rewards, even as a young girl McWhorter sensed the segregated society that supported this privilege was anything but normal.
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In Tonight at Noon, Sue Graham Mingus gives us an elegant and unsparingly honest memoir of a romance between American opposites: she, a product of privilege, a former midwestern WASP debutante and Smith College graduate who worked as a journalist in Europe and in New York; he (Charles Mingus), an authentic jazz titan, a brilliant, eccentric, difficult artist, a scion of Watts, Los Angeles, who would become one of America’s foremost composers.* […] Continue reading »