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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.

1. Dizzy Gillespie with Al Fraser: To Be or Not to Bop (1979)

1. Dizzy Gillespie with Al Fraser: <i>To Be or Not to Bop</i> (1979)
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Usually the story of someone who achieved great success from a young age and has been seemingly on top of the world for the duration can be a tough sell, and a tiresome read. However, Hancock is candid about his struggles with personal issues, including substance abuse, and also offers thoughtful insight into his creative process.

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