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An annual roundup -- please add what's missing!

Jazz-related books of 2016

Jan 2nd, 2017 | By

W. Royal Stokes, JJA Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism honoree (among other distinctions)

W. Royal Stokes has posted his annual roundup of music-and-culture-related books he received from publishers in 2016. He has annotated each of  150 titles with notes from their press releases and his own mini-reviews. His comments on books dealing specifically with jazz are excerpted below.

If you’d like to add a book to Stokes’ list, please send a paragraph similarly formatted, to be posted in this space, to: President@JazzJournalists.org.

  • Danny Barker’s A Life in Jazz (The Historic New Orleans Collection), Alyn Shipton, editor, with a new introduction by Gwen Thompkins, an “illustrated edition . . . brings Barker’s autobiography back into print, accompanied by more than 100 images”
  • Chris Becker’s Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz (Beckeresque Press) “…one of the most important jazz books of the past year or so…I was especially gratified upon reading the conversation author Becker had with trumpet player and bandleader Ellen Seeling, who minces no words in recounting her own experience in the patriarchal world of jazz the past four decades.”
  • Josef Woodard and Charlie Haden, Conversations with Charlie Haden (Silman-James Press), the noted late bassist’s life and politics and music and aesthetics in a series of candid interviews conducted over two decades.
  • Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight (Santa Monica Press), by Frank R. Hayde with Foreword by Charlie Watts, “new, never-before-published information about . . .Parker, Gillespie, and Davis . . . a fast-paced, colorful encapsulation . . . essential reading for anyone seeking an up-close-and-personal look at jazz in the latter half of the twentieth century.”
  • Letters to Yeyito: Lessons from a Life in Music (Restless Books), by Paquito D’Rivera and Rosario Moreno, anecdotes, expert advice and characteristic exuberance from the Cuban-born reedist forging an international life.
  • Paul Youngquist, A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism “How Sun Ra’s poetically logical illogic and musically purposeful nothingness offered, and offers, a pathway for escaping the often-degrading experience of being African American in America.” — Barry Kernfield
  • Jazz: The Iconic Images of Ted Williams (ACC Editions). Photographer Ted Williams, who died in 2009, was active on the jazz scene from the late 1940s until the late ’70s, capturing Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and many others.
  • Jim Marshall’s Jazz Festival (Reel Art Press), (Amelia Davis and Tony Nourmand, Editors, Nat Hentoff, Introduction, Bill Clinton, Foreword, Graham Marsh, , Designer), Features photos the shot at six Monterey (1960-66) and one Newport (1963) jazz festivals.
  • Invitation To Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography Of Les McCann 1960-1980 (Fantagraphics), by Les McCann, curated by Pat Thomas and Alan Abrahams, with Foreword by A. Scott Galloway; A beautifully designed and masterfully produced book revealing the great pianist as an art photographer.
  • Christopher Hillman’s Crescent City Reeds (http://www.chbooks.info)—companion volume to his 2015 Crescent City Cornet)—is a study of New Orleans clarinet and saxophone players active in the city and beyond with particular reference to the development of the movement from its beginnings in the Creole musical institutions, through its impact upon classic jazz and the white “Dixieland” style and rhythm-and-blues to its resurgence in the post-war revival of interest in New Orleans jazz. Foreword by Tony Standish.
  • Thomas Jacobsen, The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today: A Guide to the Musicians, Live Jazz Venues, and More (Blue Bird Publishing). Jacobsen’s “outlook and taste are definitely catholic and his coverage comprehensive. Clearly, he is one of the leading authorities on New Orleans jazz in its myriad forms.”
  • Michael Jarrett, Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall (University of North Carolina Press), interviews with over fifty producers, musicians, engineers, and label executives.
  • Ben Ratliff, Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) What a problem: Abundance!
  • Murray Talks Music: Albert Murray on Jazz and Blues (University Of Minnesota Press) by Albert Murray, Paul Devlin, Editor, Greg Thomas, (Afterword), Gary Giddins (Foreword), Murray’s finest interviews and essays on music—some never before published—plus rare liner notes and prefaces.
  • Music in the Air: The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason (Yale University Press), edited by Gleason’s son Toby Gleason, Foreword by Ted Gioia.“Drawing from . .   Gleason’s books, essays, interviews, and LP record album liner notes” spanning four decades spent covering jazz and pop.
  • Jazz on My Mind: Liner Notes, Anecdotes and Conversations from the 1940s to the 2000s (McFarland & Company), co-authored by Herb Wong and Paul Simeon Fingerote, vivid anecdotes and insightful, accessible analysis of the late Dr. Herb Wong, a lifelong enthusiast and acclaimed educator who came to work with and know the musical heroes he depicts here.
  • Rhythm in the Rain: Jazz in the Pacific Northwest (Ooligan Press) by Lynn Darroch, Foreword by George Colligan, the musical history of a region that, “while not widely recognized as a jazz mecca, has seen its relevance within the local community,” bringing recognition to a great many deserving and world-class musicians who otherwise would remain in obscurity.”
  • Listening to Jazz (Oxford University Press) by Benjamin Bierman, “a reference tool, a guide, and a browsing joy.”
  • Ted Gioia’s How to Listen to Jazz (Basic Books) “not only goes a long way toward living up to its title’s claim but is an excellent guide to the outlines of jazz history.”
  • Kwame Alexander’s Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band (Sleeping Bear Press), illustrated by Tim Bowers “. . .aimed at ages six to nine, is a delight and jazz-inclined parents will enjoy introducing it to their offspring.

ADDENDUM (by JJANews Editor, unless otherwise credited):


Dan Morgenstern in the stacks at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers

John Corbett, A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation (University of Chicago Press), a concise, witty and clear how-to for music that may seem abstract, unstructured or just odd.

Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe, Really the Blues, introduction by Ben Ratliff (New York Review Books Classics), a bad-boy jazz autobiography by the clarinetist and muggles dealer who chose to live black and was Louis Armstrong’s pal.

Charles B. Hersch, Jews and Jazz (Transnational Studies in Jazz, Routledge), insightful analysis of cross-cultural attractions and challenges facing musicians marginalized in America.

Thomas H. Greenland, Jazzing – New York City’s Unseen Scene (University of Illinois Press), looking at the the entire community engaged with the music, framing jazz as “a wholistic activity”.

Benny Golson and Jim Merod, Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson (Temple University Press), personally related, mostly discreet yet at moments harrowing, a look back on decades of performance and recording by the erudite, ultra-professional composer and saxophonist.


About W. Royal Stokes

W. Royal Stokes is the author of Growing Up With Jazz, Swing Era New York and other books on jazz. He is currently writing a memoir.

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