Books and Writings

Review—Playing Ad Lib: Improvisatory Music in Australia 1836-1970


In Playing Ad Lib, musicologist John Whiteoak explores improvisation in music that was never recorded. His evidence consists of print sources and anecdotes from throughout Australia. These include incomplete scores, published execution "methods" (e.g., for playing ragtime), snippets of advertisements, and published stories.

Review—Appel, Ellington, and the Modernist Canon


Appel's book views mid-20th century jazz through a modernist lens and finds it a worthy part of that "great tradition" in the arts. Lewis believes that this approach, while valid in its intent, overlooks the unique features of jazz that make it most compelling as art. He argues that European modernists and African-American jazz musicians had different understandings of apparently similar themes, such as a primitive African "utopia", or of techniques such as collage.

“’How You Sound??’: Amiri Baraka Writes Free Jazz.”

Harris' essay examines the ways authors Amiri Baraka and Ishmael Reed translated elements of jazz-particularly free jazz-into literary expression. Baraka believed that free jazz captured what was most valuable in the black tradition and updated it to respond to contemporary phenomena. Harris makes reference to the authors' written work and to Baraka's actual spoken performances.


To view the complete resource, download it as a PDF.

White Anglo-Saxon Pythagorean (Roswell Rudd)


Rudd's facility on the trombone and range of timbral effects placed him among the vanguard of the free jazz movement in the 1960s. It was rare at that time to find a trombonist who, according to Davis, could compete with "saxophonists who were bidding their horns to speak in tongues." Rudd nevertheless later experienced the economic consequences of staying dedicated to his art: Davis finds him playing in a Catskills resort in the early 1990s.


When Malindy Sings: A Meditation on Black Women's Vocality

In view of the frequent "spectacle" of a black woman singer performing at politically charged public gatherings in this country, Griffin asks how the black woman's voice can be called on to heal a national crisis-or in some instances to provoke one. Her article delves into the language American writers, both black and white, have used to construct "narratives of nation" around black women's voices, and it identifies an alternative "myth of origin" for a black nation.

The Literary Ellington

A prevalent view in writings about African-American culture holds that music has been superior to other art forms, and that to attain similar achievements black literature, dance, and theatre should model themselves on black music. Edwards' aim is to counter these assumptions with reference to the literary influences and aspirations of none other than Duke Ellington. 

To view the complete resource, download it as a PDF.

Stitt's Time (from The Velvet Lounge)


Gerald Majer, a native of Chicago's racially segregated South Side, has written a book about its musical life. The Velvet Lounge combines his personal experiences with the story, or stories, of his community, merging his account of the music and with the difficult conditions that shaped it. The result is an innovative combination of history, subjective experience of that history, and reflection on its meaning--that is, of fact, literature, and criticism.

Seeing Jazz: Introduction


Seeing Jazz refers to both visualizations of jazz and to understanding it: to get hip and then hipper, to say “yes, I see.” Modernist painters, sculptors, photographers, poets, novelists, and essayists have plied their own materials to evoke their experience of jazz in visual or verbal terms. This book illustrates how the music has made its cross-disciplinary mark.

Paris Blues: Ellington, Armstrong, and Saying it with Music


The movie "Paris Blues" and album "The Great Summit" are the only collaborations between Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Gabbard offers a critical appraisal and behind the scenes glimpse of both works. By studying the film's discarded footage, Gabbard reveals decisions by its producers to expunge images of racial and sexual self-expression and tolerance, along with their sonic equivalents.


To view the complete resource, download it as a PDF.

Out There (Charles Gayle)


Charles Gayle was uncompromising even by the standards of free jazz, and his career has been virtually invisible. Davis recounts a brief interview with the elusive saxophonist and reviews his three comeback CDs and a rare appearance at New York's Knitting Factory. Davis' portrait of Gayle illustrates how he became a legend in the mid-1960s, when Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp were making their mark, and why he still amazes.



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