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Ralph Ellison, Jazz Fan

Ralph Ellison’s most famous sentence has to be the one that closes Invisible Man: “Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?” But those who know Ellison’s oeuvre more than casually know that he spent much of his time speaking, writing, and arguing about all frequencies that made up his beloved jazz. Joe Maita, founder of the Web site Jerry Jazz Musician ( has conducted a series of interviews with various eminences on Ralph Ellison’s life and his interactions with the jazz world, and they’ve found that his presence on the scene was anything but invisible.

So far, Maita has interviewed Columbia University professor Robert O’Meally, cultural historian (and Ellison friend) Albert Murray, critic Stanley Crouch, and Ellison literary executor John Callahan. The O’Meally and Murray interviews are on the site now, while the Crouch and Callahan interviews will be published in December. Maita plans to add more interviews as soon as he can. The interviews on the site are punctuated with illustrations and related links, and make for enriching reading indeed.

Jerry Jazz Musician is currently the National Public Radio web page’s Web Site of the Month, and it has twice been named Associate Site of the Month by It provides loads of original content and unique purchasing opportunities for the dedicated jazz fan, and it’s well worth a look.

Photograph courtesy of the National Archives. (61-8989, 306-PS-A). Photographer unknown.

Originally Published