Interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins

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.

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October 25th, 2018

Housing affordability and discrimination — a continuing worldwide problem

“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

 

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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

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July 10th, 2018

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

A Black History Month Profile: Louis Armstrong

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.

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February 21st, 2018

A Black History Month Profile: Madam C.J. Walker

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.

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February 13th, 2018

Revisiting interviews with Vietnam War writers Karl Marlantes and David Maraniss

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

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September 26th, 2017

“Civil Liberties and Jazz — Past, Present and Future” — A 2005 Jerry Jazz Musician conversation with journalist Nat Hentoff

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.

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January 8th, 2017

Gary Giddins discusses Thelonious Monk

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

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October 17th, 2016

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

Celebrating African American History Month — Exclusive Jerry Jazz Musician interviews with and about prominent African Americans

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 “Celebrating African American History Month — Exclusive Jerry Jazz Musician interviews with and about prominent African Americans”

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February 2nd, 2015

In honor of jazz historian Dan Morgenstern — at age 85

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

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October 29th, 2014

In This Issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

Features

In this edition of Reminiscing in Tempo,, Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Piazza, Gary Giddins, Randy Brecker, Michael Cuscuna, Terry Teachout and many others answer the question, “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite recordings of the 1940’s?”

Interviews

Interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins, author of the new book "Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940 - 1946"

Poetry

Eight poets — John Stupp, Aurora Lewis, Michael L. Newell, Robert Nisbet, Alan Yount, Roger Singer, dan smith and Joan Donovan — write about the era of World War II

The Joys of Jazz

Award winning radio producer and host Bob Hecht shares his love of jazz through his podcasts on his site “The Joys of Jazz.” In this edition, he tells two stories; the history of the virtual anthem of World War II, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and the friendship and musical rapport of Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.

Short Fiction

Hannah Draper of Ottawa, Ontario is the winner of the 49th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award. Her story is titled "Will You Play For Me?"

Coming Soon

Three prominent scholars in a conversation about the lives of Billie Holiday, Ralph Ellison, and Langston Hughes (pictured)

Contributing writers

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