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JazzTimes 10: Great Jazz Memoirs

What some of the music's most important figures have written about themselves

The genre of memoirs by jazz musicians is a rich one, filled with tales of trials and tribulations as well as success stories. To make a memoir work, the author has to not only recall events and feelings from the past correctly, but also manage to project the right tone and voice, with genuine rather than false humility. On top of that, we readers would like to learn something about the author that we didn’t know before, which presents another challenge. Every memoir here except (spoiler alert!) Charles Mingus’ required an assist from a writer or editor, who deserves credit for helping to bring the project home.

3. Art and Laurie Pepper: Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper (1979)

3. Art and Laurie Pepper: <i>Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper</i> (1979)
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There's something to be said for a lurid tale, and Pepper’s graphic account of his struggles with drug addiction during the late '50s delivers in full. Reading about his not-at-all straight life, you can’t help but wonder how the saxophonist was able to play so well for as long as he did. Comedian, actor, and podcaster Marc Maron cites this book as a favorite read.

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