More Important Than the Music

A History of Jazz Discography

More Important Than the Music

Today, jazz is considered high art, America’s national music, and the catalog of its recordings—its discography—is often taken for granted. But behind jazz discography is a fraught and highly colorful history of research, fanaticism, and the intense desire to know who played what, where, and when. This history gets its first full-length treatment in Bruce D. Epperson’s More Important Than the Music. Following the dedicated few who sought to keep jazz’s legacy organized, Epperson tells a fascinating story of archival pursuit in the face of negligence and deception, a tale that saw curses and threats regularly employed, with fisticuffs and lawsuits only slightly rarer. Epperson examines the documentation of recorded jazz from its casual origins as a novelty in the 1920s and ’30s, through the overwhelming deluge of 12-inch vinyl records in the middle of the twentieth century, to the use of computers by today’s discographers. Though he focuses much of his attention on comprehensive discographies, he also examines the development of a variety of related listings, such as buyer’s guides and library catalogs, and he closes with a look toward discography’s future. From the little black book to the full-featured online database, More Important Than the Music offers a history not just of jazz discography but of the profoundly human desire to preserve history itself.

Born to Play

The Ruby Braff Discography and Directory of Performances

Born to Play

Ruby Braff's uncompromising standards, musical taste, and creative imagination informed his consummate artistry in creating music beautifully played. He achieved swiftly what few musicians accomplish in a lifetime by developing a unique and immediately recognizable style. Although prepared in discographical style, capturing information about both commercial recordings and previously undocumented performances, Born to Play serves as a biography of the artist, detailing the path he paved as a performer and featuring personal recollections of his musical career with commentary from other figures.

California Soul

Music of African Americans in the West

California Soul

"Documented with great care and affection, this book is filled with revelations about the intermingling of peoples, styles of music, business interests, night-life pleasures, and the strange ways lived experience shaped black music as America's music in California." —Charles Keil, co-author of Music Grooves

Profiles in Jazz

From Sidney Bechet to John Coltrane

Profiles in Jazz

A highly personal collection of jazz portraits--centered around the towering figure of Duke Ellington--with the unabashedly didactic intent of publicizing, promoting, and encouraging listeners at all levels of sophistication to hear jazz anew. And it will. (c) by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR.

Fifties Jazz Talk

An Oral Retrospective

Fifties Jazz Talk

More than 25 muscians who first came to prominence during the 1950s are the subject of this collection of interviews. The author's purpose has been to help preserve the oral history of a great American artform, and this book reveals that jazz musicians who can 'tell a story' with their horn when improvising can be just as articulate in conversation.

Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism

Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism

Finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. "Profoundly evocative and altogether admirable…The writing and detail are so brilliant that I found the volume revelatory." —Tim Page, Washington Post Nearly 100 years after bursting onto Chicago’s music scene under the tutelage of Joe "King" Oliver, Louis Armstrong is recognized as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. A trumpet virtuoso, seductive crooner, and consummate entertainer, Armstrong laid the foundation for the future of jazz with his stylistic innovations, but his story would be incomplete without examining how he struggled in a society seething with brutally racist ideologies, laws, and practices. Thomas Brothers picks up where he left off with the acclaimed Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, following the story of the great jazz musician into his most creatively fertile years in the 1920s and early 1930s, when Armstrong created not one but two modern musical styles. Brothers wields his own tremendous skill in making the connections between history and music accessible to everyone as Armstrong shucks and jives across the page. Through Brothers's expert ears and eyes we meet an Armstrong whose quickness and sureness, so evident in his performances, served him well in his encounters with racism while his music soared across the airwaves into homes all over America. Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism blends cultural history, musical scholarship, and personal accounts from Armstrong's contemporaries to reveal his enduring contributions to jazz and popular music at a time when he and his bandmates couldn’t count on food or even a friendly face on their travels across the country. Thomas Brothers combines an intimate knowledge of Armstrong's life with the boldness to examine his place in such a racially charged landscape. In vivid prose and with vibrant photographs, Brothers illuminates the life and work of the man many consider to be the greatest American musician of the twentieth century.

Jammin' at the Margins

Jazz and the American Cinema

Jammin' at the Margins

American cinema has long been fascinated by jazz and jazz musicians. Yet most jazz films aren't really about jazz. Rather, as Krin Gabbard shows, they create images of racial and sexual identity, many of which have become inseparable from popular notions of the music itself. In Jammin' at the Margins, Gabbard scrutinizes these films, exploring the fundamental obsessions that American culture has brought to jazz in the cinema. Gabbard's close look at jazz film biographies, from The Jazz Singer to Bird, reveals Hollywood's reluctance to acknowledge black subjectivity. Black and even white jazz artists have become vehicles for familiar Hollywood conceptions of race, gender, and sexuality. Even Scorsese's New York, New York and Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues have failed to disentangle themselves from entrenched stereotypes and conventions. Gabbard also examines Hollywood's confrontation with jazz as an elite art form, and the role of the jazz trumpet as a crucial signifier of masculinity. Finally, he considers the acting careers of Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and Hoagy Carmichael; Duke Ellington's extraordinary work in films from 1929 until the late 1960s; and the forgotten career of Kay Kyser, star of nine Hollywood films and leader of a popular swing band. This insightful look at the marriage of jazz and film is a major contribution to film, jazz, and cultural studies.

The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

Volume 12: Music

The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

Southern music has flourished as a meeting ground for the traditions of West African and European peoples in the region, leading to the evolution of various traditional folk genres, bluegrass, country, jazz, gospel, rock, blues, and southern hip-hop. This much-anticipated volume in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture celebrates an essential element of southern life and makes available for the first time a stand-alone reference to the music and music makers of the American South. With nearly double the number of entries devoted to music in the original Encyclopedia, this volume includes 30 thematic essays, covering topics such as ragtime, zydeco, folk music festivals, minstrelsy, rockabilly, white and black gospel traditions, and southern rock. And it features 174 topical and biographical entries, focusing on artists and musical outlets. From Mahalia Jackson to R.E.M., from Doc Watson to OutKast, this volume considers a diverse array of topics, drawing on the best historical and contemporary scholarship on southern music. It is a book for all southerners and for all serious music lovers, wherever they live.

Thelonious Monk

The Life and Times of an American Original

Thelonious Monk

The first full biography of legendary jazz musician Thelonious Monk, written by a brilliant historian, with full access to the family's archives and with dozens of interviews. Thelonious Monk is the critically acclaimed, gripping saga of an artist’s struggle to “make it” without compromising his musical vision. It is a story that, like its subject, reflects the tidal ebbs and flows of American history in the twentieth century. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest com­posers. Elegantly written and rich with humor and pathos, Thelonious Monk is the definitive work on modern jazz’s most original composer.