Interview with Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden

Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of .An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden,discusses the remarkable life of this important American artist in a Jerry Jazz Musician interview.

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March 9th, 2019

Revisiting Gil Evans

     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

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May 14th, 2018

Interview with Thelonious Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley

“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

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October 14th, 2016

Ben Ratliff on John Coltrane

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

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August 12th, 2016

Interview with Cary Ginell — author of Walk Tall: The Music and Life of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s stellar career began in the era of hard bop and ended (far too soon) during the time of jazz fusion. In between, he played on some of the most prominent recordings in the history of jazz — Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and his own Somethin’ Else among them — and ultimately became what the critic Gary Giddins described as “the patron saint of the soul-hymn movement,” a music that would reach a broad affluent audience while also keeping jazz relevant in the African-American neighborhoods.

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August 26th, 2014

Interview with Thomas Brothers — author of Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism

In Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism, Thomas Brothers picks up where he left off with the acclaimed Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans, following the story of the great jazz musician into his most creatively fertile years in the 1920s and early 1930s, when Armstrong created not one but two modern musical styles. Brothers wields his own tremendous skill in making the connections between history and music accessible to everyone as Armstrong shucks and jives across the page. Through Brothers’s expert ears and eyes we meet an Armstrong whose quickness and sureness, so evident in his performances, served him well in his encounters with racism while his music soared across the airwaves into homes all over America.

Brothers discusses his book with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita in an April, 2014 interview.

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June 15th, 2014

Interview with Stanley Crouch, author of Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker

Described by the New York Times as a “bebop Beowulf,” Stanley Crouch’s Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker is a love song to the life and times of Bird, one of jazz music’s most critically important figures. Mr. Crouch, himself an essential participant in both contemporary criticism and in the delivery of live performance (through his work with Jazz at Lincoln Center), discusses his long-anticipated biography with Jerry Jazz Musician in a recently conducted interview.

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January 22nd, 2014

Interview with Guthrie Ramsey, author of The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop

Bud Powell was not only one of the greatest bebop pianists of all time, he stands as one of the twentieth century’s most dynamic and fiercely adventurous musical minds. His expansive musicianship, riveting performances, and inventive compositions expanded the bebop idiom and pushed jazz musicians of all stripes to higher standards of performance. Yet Powell remains one of American music’s most misunderstood figures, and the story of his exceptional talent is often overshadowed by his history of alcohol abuse, mental instability, and brutalization at the hands of white authorities.

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October 22nd, 2013

John Goodman, author of Charles Mingus Speaks

As a writer for Playboy, John F. Goodman reviewed Mingus’s comeback concert in 1972 and went on to achieve an intimacy with the composer that brings a relaxed and candid tone to the ensuing interviews. Much of what Mingus shares shows him in a new light: his personality, his passions and sense of humor, and his thoughts on music. The conversations are wide-ranging, shedding fresh light on important milestones in Mingus’s life such as the publication of his memoir, Beneath the Underdog, the famous Tijuana episodes, his relationships, and the jazz business.

Goodman discusses his book in a July, 2013 interview with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita.

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September 6th, 2013

Ben Ratliff, author of Coltrane: The Story of a Sound

What was the essence of John Coltrane’s achievement that makes him so prized forty years after his death? What was it about his improvising, his bands, his compositions, his place within his era of jazz that left so many musicians and listeners so powerfully drawn to him? What would a John Coltrane look like now — or are we looking for the wrong signs?

The acclaimed jazz writer Ben Ratliff addresses these questions in Coltrane. First Ratliff tells the story of Coltrane’s development, from his first recordings as a no-name navy bandsman to his last recordings as a near-saint, paying special attention to the last ten years of his life, which contained a remarkable series of breakthroughs in a nearly religious search for deeper expression.

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June 9th, 2013

Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

“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 music.

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April 15th, 2013

Doug Ramsey, author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond

Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond is the story of a jazz artist who transcended genres to establish one of the most immediately recognizable sounds in all of music. Long before his success as the alto saxophonist with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, decades before he wrote “Take Five ,” Desmond determined that he would be himself, never a disciple or an imitator, whatever the cost.

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March 1st, 2013

Alyn Shipton, author of Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway

Clad in white tie and tails, dancing and scatting his way through the “Hi-de-ho” chorus of “Minnie the Moocher,” Cab Calloway exuded a sly charm and sophistication that endeared him to legions of fans.

In Hi-de-ho, author Alyn Shipton offers the first full-length biography of Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the highest-earning African American bandleaders. Shipton sheds new light on Calloway’s life and career, explaining how he traversed racial and social boundaries to become one of the country’s most beloved entertainers.

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April 6th, 2011

James Gavin, author of Stormy Weather: the Life of Lena Horne

Drawing on a wealth of unmined material and hundreds of interviews – one of them with Lena Horne herself – critically acclaimed author James Gavin gives us a “deftly researched” (The Boston Globe) and authoritative portrait of the American icon. Horne broke down racial barriers in the entertainment industry in the 1940s and ’50s even as she was limited mostly to guest singing appearances in splashy Hollywood musicals. Incorporating insights from the likes of Ruby Dee, Tony Bennett, Diahann Carroll, and Bobby Short, Stormy Weather reveals the many faces of this luminous, complex, strong-willed, passionate, even tragic woman – a stunning talent who inspired such giants as Barbra Streisand, Eartha Kitt, and Aretha Franklin.#

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September 18th, 2009

David Robertson, author of W.C. Handy: The Life and Times of the Man Who Made the Blues

Before there was Elvis, there was W.C. Handy, “the man who made the blues.” Here is the first major biography in decades of the man who gave us such iconic songs as “St. Louis Blues,” “The Memphis Blues,” and “Beale Street Blues,” and who was responsible, more than any other musician, for bringing the blues into the American mainstream.

David Robertson charts W.C. Handy’s rise from a rural Alabama childhood in the last decades of the nineteenth century to become one of the most celebrated songwriters of the twentieth century. The child of former slaves, Handy was first inspired by spirituals and folk songs, and his passion for music pushed him to leave home as a teenager, despite opposition from his preacher father.

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September 4th, 2009

Larry Tye, author of Satchel Paige: The Life and Times of an American Legend

Leroy “Satchel” Paige was the most sensational pitcher ever to throw a baseball. During his years in the Negro Leagues he fine-tuned a pitch so scorching that catchers tried to soften the sting by cushioning their gloves with beefsteaks. His career stats — 2,000 wins, 250 shutouts, three victories on the same day — are so eye-popping they seem like misprints. But bigotry kept big league teams from signing him until he was forty-two, at which point he helped propel the Cleveland Indians to the World Series. Over a career that spanned four decades, Satchel pitched more baseballs, for more fans, in more ballparks, for more teams, than any player in history.

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August 29th, 2009

Brad Snyder, author of A Well Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports

Upon being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, Curt Flood, an All-Star center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, wanted nothing more than to stay with St. Louis. But his only options were to report to Philadelphia or retire. Instead, Flood sued Major League Baseball for his freedom, hoping to invalidate the reserve clause in his contract, which bound a player to his team for life.

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February 25th, 2008

Dunstan Prial, author of The Producer: John Hammond and the Soul of American Music

John Hammond is one of the most charismatic figures in American music, a man who put on record much of the music we cherish today. A pioneering producer and talent spotter, Hammond discovered and championed some of the most gifted musicians of early jazz — Billie Holliday, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman — and staged the legendary “From Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall in 1939, which established jazz as America’s indigenous music. Then as jazz gave way to pop and rock Hammond repeated the trick, discovering Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan in his life’s extraordinary second act.

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November 20th, 2006

Rick Coleman, author of Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll

While many think of Elvis Presley as rock ’n’ roll’s driving force, the truth is that Fats Domino, whose records have sold more than 100 million copies, was the first to put it on the map with such hits as “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill.”

In Blue Monday, acclaimed R&B scholar Rick Coleman draws on a multitude of new interviews with Fats Domino and many other early musical legends to create a definitive biography of not just an extraordinary man but also a unique time and place: New Orleans at the birth of rock ’n’ roll.

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October 20th, 2006

Thomas Brothers, author of Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans

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.

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June 12th, 2006

David Maraniss, author of Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero

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 Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero.

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April 4th, 2006

Brian Priestley, author of Chasin’ The Bird : The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker

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.

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February 6th, 2006

Peter Guralnick, author of Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke

      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 “Peter Guralnick, author of Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke

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December 12th, 2005

Peter Levinson, author of Tommy Dorsey: Livin’ in a Great Big Way

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.

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November 5th, 2005

Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters

Before Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Julius Erving, or Michael Jordan — before Magic Johnson and Showtime — the Harlem Globetrotters revolutionized basketball and spread the game around the world. In Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, author Ben Green tells the story of this extraordinary franchise and iconic American institution.

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September 26th, 2005

Louis Armstrong biographer Terry Teachout

“I suppose you could say that the seeds of my next book, a full-length biography of Louis Armstrong, were planted three years ago, when I was writing an essay for the New York Times about Armstrong’s centenary in which I called him “jazz’’s most eminent Victorian,” Terry Teachout wrote in his August 17, 2004 Arts Journal blog.

Three years after the Times piece was published, he took a tour of the Louis Armstrong House in Queens and came away with the enthusiasm required of such an endeavor.

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June 27th, 2005

David Evanier, author of Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin

As a performer, Bobby Darin rivaled Frank Sinatra. Energizing the early rock-and-roll scene with his rollicking classic “Splish Splash,” Darin then became a top-draw nightclub act. Chronic illness dogged him from childhood, setting the tone of urgency that inspired a career full of dizzying twists and turns: from teen idol to Vegas song-and-dance man, and from hipster to folkie and back.

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June 20th, 2005

Nick Salvatore, author of Singing in a Strange Land: C.L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America

There are few American lives more powerful or more moving than that of C. L. Franklin. Born in rural Mississippi, he would go on to become the most famous African American preacher in America. His style of preaching revolutionized the art, and his call for his fellow African Americans to proclaim both their faith and their rights helped usher in the civil rights movement. Booming, soaring, flashy, and intense, C.L. was one of a kind. And yet Franklin was, like many great public figures, immensely complicated. A beacon of faith and light, he also knew the shadows. He knew the power of the Lord, yet he was no saint. In Singing in a Strange Land, Bancroft Prize-winning historian Nick Salvatore tells Franklin’s story for the first time.

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May 23rd, 2005

Michael Dregni, author of Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend

Django Reinhardt was arguably the greatest guitarist who ever lived, an important influence on Les Paul, Charlie Christian, B.B. King, Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, and many others. Handsome, charismatic, childlike, and unpredictable, Reinhardt was a character out of a picaresque novel. Born in a gypsy caravan at a crossroads in Belgium, he was almost killed in a freak fire that burned half of his body and left his left hand twisted into a claw. But with this maimed left hand flying over the frets and his right hand plucking at dizzying speed, Django became Europe’s most famous jazz musician, commanding exorbitant fees — and spending the money as fast as he made it.

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March 9th, 2005

Jeffrey Magee, author of Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz: The Uncrowned King of Swing

If Benny Goodman was the “King of Swing,” then Fletcher Henderson was the power behind the throne. Not only did Henderson arrange the music that powered Goodman’s meteoric rise, he also helped launch the careers of Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins, among others. In Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz: The Uncrowned King of Swing, Jeffrey Magee offers a fascinating account of this pivotal bandleader, throwing new light on the emergence of modern jazz and the world that created it.

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January 29th, 2005

Geoffrey Ward, author of Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion in history, the celebrated — and most reviled — African American of his age. Prizewinning biographer Geoffrey Ward tells Johnson’s story in Unforgivable Blackness, which reveals a far more complex and compelling life than the newspaper headlines he inspired could ever convey.

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November 15th, 2004

Gene Lees, author of Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer

“Moon River,” “Laura,” “Skylark,” “That Old Black Magic,” “One For My Baby,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “Satin Doll,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” — the honor roll of Johnny Mercer’s songs is endless. Both Oscar Hammerstein II and Alan Jay Lerner called him the greatest lyricist in the English language, and he was perhaps the best-loved and certainly the best-known songwriter of his generation. But Mercer was also a complicated and private man.

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October 6th, 2004

Joshua Berrett, author of Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz

Joshua Berrett’s Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz is a dual biography of two great innovators in the history of jazz. One was black, one was white — one is now legendary, the other nearly forgotten. Berrett offers a provocative revision of the history of early jazz by focusing on two of its most notable practioners — Whiteman, legendary in his day, and Armstrong, a legend ever since.

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October 4th, 2004

Nadine Cohodas, author of Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington

Nadine Cohodas’s Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington, is the landmark biography of the brief, intensely lived life and soulful music of the great Dinah Washington. A gospel star at fifteen, she was discovered by jazz great Lionel Hampton at eighteen, and for the rest of her life was on the road, playing clubs, or singing in the studio — making music one way or another. Dinah’s tart and heartfelt voice quickly became her trademark; she was a distinctive stylist, crossing over from the “race” music category to the pop and jazz charts.

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September 13th, 2004

A’Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker

Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 on a Delta, Louisiana plantation, Madam C.J. Walker — the daughter of former slaves — transformed herself from an uneducated farm laborer and laundress into of the twentieth century’s most successful, self-made female entrepreneur. Orphaned at age seven, she often said, “I got my start by giving myself a start.”

During the 1890s, Sarah began to suffer from a scalp ailment that caused her to lose most of her hair. She experimented with many homemade remedies and store-bought products, including those made by Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur.

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March 11th, 2004

John Chilton, author of Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant

Roy Eldridge’s style is universally recognized as the all-important link between the playing of Louis Armstrong and the achievements of modernist Dizzy Gillespie. Roy’s daring harmonic approach and his technically awesome improvisations provided guidance and inspiration for countless jazz musicians, but he was also a star performer in his own right, whose recordings as a bandleader, and with Gene Krupa and Artie Shaw, gained him a durable international reputation. The indignities he experienced and overcame during the 1940’s while working in otherwise all-white ensembles proved he was as bold a social pioneer as he was a performer.

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January 19th, 2004

John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin is one of the important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America’s consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement.

Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual.

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December 6th, 2003

Barry Lee Pearson, author of Robert Johson: Lost and Found

With just forty-one recordings to his credit, Robert Johnson (1911-38) is a giant in the history of blues music. Johnson’s vast influence on twentieth-century American music, combined with his mysterious death at the age of twenty-seven, has allowed speculation and myths to obscure the facts of his life. The most famous of these legends depicts a young Johnson meeting the Devil at a dusty Mississippi crossroads at midnight and selling his soul in exchange for prodigious guitar skills.

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November 12th, 2003

Chris Albertson, author of Bessie

Considered by many to be the greatest blues singer of all time, Bessie Smith was also a successful vaudeville entertainer who became the highest paid African-American performer of the roaring twenties.

First published in 1971, author Chris Albertson ‘s Bessie was described at the time by critic Leonard Feather as “the most devastating, provocative, and enlightening work of its kind ever contributed to the annals of jazz literature.” New Yorker critic Whitney Balliett called it “the first estimable full-length biography not only of Bessie Smith, but of any black musician.”

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September 22nd, 2003

Newport Jazz founder George Wein, author of Myself Among Others: My Life in Music

No one has had a better seat in the house than George Wein. The legendary impresario has known some of the most celebrated figures of jazz — from Duke Ellington to Count Basie, and from Thelonious Monk to Miles Davis. As a founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and countless other festivals around the world, Wein has brought a broad spectrum of musical artists to millions, forever changing the country’s cultural landscape.

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June 18th, 2003

Vincent Cannato, author of The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York

When liberal Republican John Lindsay was elected mayor of New York in 1965, political observers described him as a White Knight, the best hope for a stagnant and troubled city. A reformer with movie-star looks, Lindsay brought glamour and hope to City Hall. At the height of his appeal, leading politicians from both parties, including Nelson Rockefeller and Robert Kennedy, feared Lindsay’s growing popularity. Some even pegged him for the White House.

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May 10th, 2003

Jerry Zolten, author of Great God A’Mighty – The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music

From the Jim Crow world of 1920s Greenville, South Carolina, to Greenwich Village’s Café Society in the ’40s, to their 1974 Grammy-winning collaboration on “Loves Me Like a Rock,” the Dixie Hummingbirds have been one of gospel’s most durable and inspiring groups.

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March 10th, 2003

Douglas Brinkley, author of Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress in 1955 Alabama, had no idea she was changing history when, work-weary, she refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus. Now she is immortalized for the defiance that sent her to jail and triggered a bus boycott that catapulted Martin Luther King, Jr., into the national spotlight. Who was she, before and after her historic act?* Douglas Brinkley, a familiar and respected television commentator on a wide range of historical, documentary, and news programs

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February 18th, 2003

John Szwed, author of So What: The Life of Miles Davis

More than half a century after his bebop debut, and more than eleven years after his death, Miles Davis lives on. His music is used to pitch jeans, shape films, and personify an era. To this day, he is revered as the archetype of cool.

While several books have been written about Davis, including his own autobiography, due to his passion for reinvention and his extreme reticence the real story of Miles Davis has been obscured by the legend and widely misunderstood.

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January 27th, 2003

Scott Simon, author of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball

The integration of baseball in 1947 had undeniable significance for the civil rights movement and American history. Thanks to Jackie Robinson, a barrier that had once been believed to be permanent was shattered — paving the way for scores of African Americans who wanted nothing more than to be granted the same rights as any other human being.*

In an interview with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita, NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon, author of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, discusses how Robinson’s heroism — and that of Dodger general manager Branch Rickey — got America to face the question of racial equality.

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December 18th, 2002

Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters

Alice Walker’s 1975 Ms. magazine article “Looking for Zora” and Robert Hemenway’s 1977 biography reintroduced Zora Neale Hurston to the American landscape and ushered in a renaissance for a writer who was a bestselling author at her peak in the 1930’s, but died penniless and in obscurity some three decades later.

Since that rediscovery of novelist, anthropologist, playwright, folklorist, essayist and poet Hurston, her books — from the classic love story Their Eyes Were Watching God to her controversial autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road — have sold millions of copies. Hurston is now taught in American, African American, and Women’s Studies courses in high schools and universities from coast to coast.

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December 10th, 2002

David Skover, author of The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon

Lenny Bruce’s words had the power to provoke laughter and debate — as well as shock and outrage. It was the force of his voice that would place him on the wrong side of the law in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

Lenny committed his life to telling the truth. But the truth he told infuriated those in power, and authorities in the largest, most progressive cities in the country worked effortlessy to put him in jail. To them, Lenny’s words were filthy and depraved. But to his friends — the hip, the discontented, the fringe — his words were not only sharp and hilarious, they were a light in the dark to the repressed society of the early 1960’s.

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October 4th, 2002

Richard Sudhalter, author of Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy Carmichael remains, for millions, the enduring voice of heartland America, a beloved counterpoint to the urban sensibility of Cole Porter and George Gershwin. The author William Zinsser said of Carmichael ,”Play me a Hoagy Carmichael song and I hear the banging of a screen door and the whine of an outboard motor on a lake — sounds of summer in a small-town America that is long gone but still longed for.”

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July 23rd, 2002

Keith Shadwick, author of Bill Evans: Everything Happens to Me

Bill Evans (1929 – 1980) played a major role in the history of modern jazz. The New Jersey-born pianist’s groundbreaking ideas were so widely absorbed by his peers and subsequently by every new generation of musicians that he can be classed among the most influential figures in post-war jazz, ranking alongside Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

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June 24th, 2002

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

Cherie Nutting, author of Yesterday’s Perfume: An Intimate Portrait of Paul Bowles

Fifteen years ago, Cherie Nutting returned to Morocco. She had first visited it as a child with her mother, and the images of mystery and the desert had stayed with her, fueled over the years by accounts of expatriate life and by the literature created there. In Tangier again, she met the most famous of the expatriates and author of the classic The Sheltering Sky. Cherie became a friend of Paul Bowles and part of his circle. Over the years, the friendship deepened and widened.

Yesterday’s Perfume is a memoir of that friendship and of Cherie’s love of Morocco. Cherie discusses her friendship with this extraordinary artist in an interview with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita.

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August 23rd, 2000

Nick Catalano, author of Clifford Brown : The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter

Few enthusiasts and scholars would argue the place trumpeter Clifford Brown holds in jazz history. His work, sadly cut short by his death in 1956, is dramatic, creative, revered. Until now, there has not been a body of work on his life to better acquaint us with his play, his life in and out of jazz, and his enthusiasm for life. Author Nick Catalano, whose love for Brownie had its beginnings at age 14 when he briefly shared a bandstand with him, has given us Clifford Brown : The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, a critically-acclaimed, newly released biography

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August 22nd, 2000

John Kruth, author of Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Bright Moments, the first biography of the legendary jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, establishes once and for all the brilliant multi-instrumentalist’s place in the pantheon of jazz giants alongside Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Culled from three years of in-depth interviews and research, Bright Moments chronicles the tumultuous life of the neglected genius through enlightening observations and hilarious anecdotes by Kirk’s friends and family, as well as by famous contemporaries such as Quincy Jones, Allen Ginsberg, Yusef Lateef, Eric Burdon, Ken Kesey and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson.

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May 29th, 2000

John Fraim, author of Spirit Catcher: The Life and Art of John Coltrane

Author John Fraim is a very interesting man. Taking on a subject like John Coltrane is not a left-brain experience. He knew wisdom and historical perspective were required before writing about a complex, musical prophet, and wrote this biography the way Coltrane lived his life…In his award-winning book, Spirit Catcher, The Life and Art of John Coltrane, he presents Coltrane’s life as spiritual quest, and in it creates a piece of art not often found in biographical form.

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October 29th, 1999

In This Issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 22 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Chris Potter, Sons of Kemet, Stephan Crump, Brittany Anjou, Julian Lage, Joey DeFrancesco and Antonio Sanchez

Poetry

Seventeen poets contribute 21 poems in this month’s edition…

The Joys of Jazz

In new podcasts, Bob Hecht tells three stories; one about Miles Davis’ use of space in his music, one on the mutual admiration society of Sinatra, Lady Day, and Lester Young, and the other about the train in jazz and blues music.

“What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”

Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art

Art

“Thinking about Ida B. Wells” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #126

In 1964, along with the orchestra of arranger Lalo Schifrin (pictured), this flutist/alto sax player recorded one of the first “Jazz Masses,” and soon after studied transcendental meditation in India. He would eventually become well known as a composer of music for meditation. Who is he?

Great Encounters

Dexter Gordon tells the story of joining Louis Armstrong’s band in 1944, and how they enjoyed their intermission time.

Art

In this edition of Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light,” photographs of Red Garland, Dizzy Gillespie and Rahsaan Roland Kirk are featured.

Short Fiction

"Strings of Solace," a short story by Kimberly Parish Davis

Interviews

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Short Fiction

"And so we went to Paris," a short story by Sophie Jonas-Hill

Coming Soon

National Book Award winning author for non-fiction Jeffrey Stewart is interviewed about his book The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

In the previous issue

The question “What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?” was posed via email to a small number of prominent and diverse people, and the responses of Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who participated...Also, the publication of the winning story in our 50th Short Fiction contest; an interview with Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell; a collection of jazz poetry; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; the March edition of "On the Turntable," and lots more...Click here to be taken to the issue.

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