Gary Giddins, his generation’s most eminent jazz writer and author of the award winning biography Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams: The Early Years, 1903 – 1940, talks with us about his brilliant second book on Crosby, Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940 – 1946. The interview is a fascinating read — a virtual history of Crosby’s life and his impact on America during its most consequential decade. Featuring photos, music and film clips, and information about Giddins’ experience studying Crosby for 25 years.
“Dear God! Must we not live? And when a whole city of white folk led and helped by banks, Chambers of Commerce, mortgage companies and ‘realtors’ are combing the earth for every bit of residential property for whites, where in the name of God are we to live and live decently if not by these same whites?”
– W. E. B. Dubois
Lack of affordable housing — and housing discrimination — is a worldwide problem…From Hamburg to Seattle, this is an issue that challenges even the best of communities. People who have lived in “inner-city” neighborhoods for generations are being displaced by young professionals, leaving them a long distance from where the good jobs are, with access to public transportation and essential services not always a practical option.
This is nothing new, of course. Economics and race have long been at the center of the quest for affordable housing and continues to play a major role in housing discrimination.
Several years ago I was fortunate to interview the author Kevin Boyle, winner of the National Book Award for his book Arc of Justice, which told the story of an African American doctor named Ossian Sweet who attempted to move his family into an all-white, 1925 Detroit neighborhood. The story is
An early interview I conducted as publisher of Jerry Jazz Musician was with Stephanie Stein Crease, whose 2002 biography of Gil Evans, Out of the Cool, was an illuminating history of a man the jazz writer Gary Giddins refers to as “one of the great figures in American music, a composer and orchestrator of breathtaking originality.”
In the interview, Crease talks of Evans’ life as having
In an interview originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician in 2014, Louis Armstrong biographer Thomas Brothers talks about his second volume devoted to the most eminent jazz musician’s life, Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism. […] Continue reading »
In an interview originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician in 2004, Madam C.J. Walker biographer A’Lelia Bundles talks about Ms. Walker, who established herself as a pioneer of the modern black hair-care and cosmetics industry, set standards in the African-American community for corporate and community giving, and helped create the role of the 20th Century, self-made American businesswoman.
In the midst of the Ken Burns’ film The Vietnam War (so far, sensational), I am reminded of my own experience with the war, which, as an 18-year- old in 1972, left me, fortunately, untouched physically but engaged in other ways. My big brother was in the very first draft lottery, and the image of our family sitting around our TV set, anxiously awaiting the results of the lottery and the impact it could have on my brother and so many of his friends, is burned in my memory. (Miraculously, he drew #355!)
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area meant I had a front row seat during Cal’s Free Speech Movement, San Francisco State (where my brother attended and provided our family with daily reports about the turmoil there), Haight-Ashbury, Berkeley’s People’s Park, and ongoing events associated with the civil rights movement. It was a powder keg time with Vietnam at the centerpiece, and we all grew up pretty quickly.
Music, of course, was a key component of the Vietnam generation, and San Francisco was loaded with
In honor of the great American journalist Nat Hentoff — who died yesterday at age 91 — I am publishing a 2005 interview I conducted with him as he turned 80.
If you do a blindfold test and play Monk, the listener is likely going to know it’s him after about two bars. Everything about the way he approaches the piano and music is so distinctive. People used to use words like idiosyncratic and eccentric, but there is, of course, more than that — there is a tremendous beauty in Monk’s music, and it is peculiar to him. Everything about his attack, the particular percussiveness of his style, his use of chords, his astonishing time, can only be described as “Monkian.” And in terms of his almost exclusive reliance on jazz, most great jazz pianists have some
“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes!” So ranted Thelonious Sphere Monk, who proved his point every time he sat down at the keyboard. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest composers. Yet throughout much of his life, his musical contribution took a backseat to tales of his reputed behavior. Writers tended to obsess over Monk’s hats or his proclivity to dance on stage. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. But these labels tell us little about the man or his
Longtime accomplished New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff has left the paper. He was a terrific writer who had the ability to pique my interest in an artist in short, reliable, and often brilliant reviews.
I had the privilege of meeting him a few times over the telephone and in person. He joined me in a 2003 conversation with Bruce Lundvall and Joshua Redman about the business of jazz music, talked with Paul Morris about his book Jazz: A Critic’s Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings, and in 2008, we talked about his book on John Coltrane, The Story of a Sound, which is published