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Books

The latest words on jazz, evaluated by critics who understand the power of jazz writing.

Playing the Changes: from Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse by Craig Hansen Werner

Playing the Changes differs from the bulk of modernist texts by focusing attention on the ways in which modernism and postmodernism have shaped Afro-American culture. The first part of the book examines the work of Charles Chestnutt; the response of Afro-American writers to Faulkner; Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby; and Afro-American autobiography. The second part looks … Read More “Playing the Changes: from Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse by Craig Hansen Werner”

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Louis Armstrong on the Screen by Klaus Stratemann

Following his monumental Duke Ellington Day by Day and Film by Film, the late Klaus Stratemann has left us a similar invaluable volume about the other major jazz giant. There is rather less “day” and more “film” in it, because Hollywood was at least alive to Armstrong’s talent as both musician and comic actor, just … Read More “Louis Armstrong on the Screen by Klaus Stratemann”

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Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present by Sascha Feinstein

Feinstein, coeditor, with Yusef Komunyakaa, of two jazz poetry anthologies, The Jazz Poetry Anthology and The Second Set, clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to this genre. The current work is an attempt to provide a historical overview and critical analysis of jazz poetry, from its origins in the 1920s, when it … Read More “Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present by Sascha Feinstein”

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Fallen Heroes: A History Of New Orleans Brass Bands by Richard H. Knowles

The histories of both ragtime and the blues have already been documented in scores of studies, but still largely untold is the story of the most direct antecedent of orchestral jazz, the New Orleans brass bands. A major difference between these bands and those which flourished elsewhere in the years following 1880 is their immediate … Read More “Fallen Heroes: A History Of New Orleans Brass Bands by Richard H. Knowles”

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African American Music: A Chronology, 1619-1995 by Hansonia L. Caldwell

Dr. Caldwell necessarily regards her useful chronology as “a work in progress,” for the subject is ever expanding. There is substantial information here about jazz and jazz musicians, and it is enlightening to consider this side-by-side with data on other influential developments in African American music. Entries concerning, for example, jazz, gospel, soul, blues, opera, … Read More “African American Music: A Chronology, 1619-1995 by Hansonia L. Caldwell”

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A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey: Popular Music And Power In Haiti by Gage Averill

Averill, an academic and former Haitian music columnist for The Beat Magazine, has written a sociopolitical, chronological study, spanning the years 1915-1995, with key chapters on the regimes of Francois and Baby Doc Duvalier. A signal event in the evolution of Haitian music was the U.S. Occupation in 1915, which introduced American jazz to Haiti. … Read More “A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey: Popular Music And Power In Haiti by Gage Averill”

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They’re Playing Our Song: Conversations with America’s Classic Songwriters by Max Wilk

The breezy, amusing dialogues in this slim tome give insight into the character and personalities of 26 great writers of the American songbook. The machers of New York musical comedy and Hollywood film are puffed and polished: Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser; famous teams are met with separately: (Rodgers & Hart [& … Read More “They’re Playing Our Song: Conversations with America’s Classic Songwriters by Max Wilk”

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