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Growing Up With Jazz: Twenty-Four Musicians Talk About Their Lives And Careers by W. Royal Stokes

A veteran jazz writer and radio host, W. Royal Stokes delivers an examination of the lives of jazz artists, this time focusing on early musical roots, backgrounds and inspirations. As with his previous books, 2002’s Living the Jazz Life and 1993’s New Orleans history The Jazz Scene, Stokes cleverly strings together verbatim interviews from the subjects themselves to bring to vivid life how 24 artists were first introduced to their instrument, their various approaches to music and the numerous gigs and travels that polished each individual talent.

Vocalist Jane Monheit was singing before she could talk and briefly considered a career in musical theater; clarinetist Don Byron recalls that racism was probably behind his high school’s efforts to have him switch to saxophone; pianist Uri Caine relates hanging out as a teen in Philadelphia clubs watching “Philly” Joe Jones, Sun Ra and Hank Mobley; and veteran drummer Art Blakey, who couldn’t read music, started on piano as a teen but made it his mission to make himself identifiable on the drums.

Growing Up With Jazz offers a fascinating cross-section of both leaders and session pros of all ages, races and creeds.

Originally Published