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
Historian Douglas Brinkley discusses the life of Rosa Parks _____ For years, we have published exclusive interviews with prominent historians on a variety of figures and topics essential to American history that can also be put into the “American American History” category. Some examples: Musicians: Biographers discuss John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, […] Continue reading »
The critic Gary Giddins once told me that fellow jazz writer Dan Morgenstern has the “best ears in the business.” Morgenstern’s work as editor of Down Beat during the 1960’s and 70’s (when it was jazz music’s premier magazine) and as the director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers, according to writer Sheldon Mayer helped direct “a generation of jazz scholars and broadened the discussion and range of the discipline.”
In addition to his work at Down Beat and the Institute, I associate Morgenstern’s career with his defense of the latter-day Louis Armstrong, and for the many great liner notes he penned. In the introduction to my 2005 interview with Morgenstern (at the time of the release of his book Living With Music), I wrote: “Dan Morgenstern was the […] Continue reading »
For years, we have published exclusive interviews with prominent historians on a variety of figures and topics essential to American history that can also be put into the “American American History” category. Some examples:
Biographers discuss John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Thelonious Monk, W. C. Handy, Cab Calloway, Sam Cooke, Lena Horne, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Lester Young, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday, Sonny Rollins, and Josephine Baker
Historians — including National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners — talk about the lives of Rosa Parks, Ralph Ellison, Madame C.J. Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Reverend C.L. Franklin, Bayard Rustin, the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and the events of the Tulsa race riots of 1921, 1960’s Birmingham, Alabama
Including interviews about Satchel Paige, The Harlem Globetrotters, Joe Louis, Negro League Baseball, Jack Johnson, Curt Flood and Jacke Robinson
There are countless other interviews and subjects to be discovered…If you are looking to do research for papers or to simply enjoy a favorite topic of history, we invite you to click here to get to a comprehensive list of interviews. Alternatively, you can find these interviews by doing a basic search. […] Continue reading »