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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.

7. Clark Terry with Gwen Terry: Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry (2011)

7. Clark Terry with Gwen Terry: <i>Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry</i> (2011)

Few jazz musicians were more beloved personally and professionally than Terry, who had a long career as a sideman with Duke Ellington, leader of his own groups, member of the Tonight Show band, educator and mentor to generations of young musicians, and an ambassador for the music. Terry does his best to put his long career in context and perspective in this book, which bristles with his trademark warmth, wit, and intelligence.

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