Seeking book recommendations: Biographies of Jazz greats

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Hatfield92, Sep 3, 2019.

  1. Harry

    Harry Tele-Meister

    Jan 23, 2006
    Check out Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century by Nat Chinen. It's not a a bio. It's a collection of pieces on where jazz has been recently and where it might be going.
    Saxonbowman likes this.
  2. Saxonbowman

    Saxonbowman TDPRI Member

    Jul 11, 2019
    Excellent book! It introduced me to a whole lot of jazz musicians that I hadn't heard of.
    Harry likes this.
  3. Slip Kid

    Slip Kid Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Dec 21, 2011
    Another +1 in the Miles bio.

    I also found “One Long Tune: The Life and Music of Lenny Breau” by Ron Forbes-Roberts to be interesting.
  4. W.L.Weller

    W.L.Weller Tele-Holic

    May 20, 2014
    This book reads like a 250 page newspaper article. Which is not shocking because Sharony Andrews Green was working for the Detroit Free Press while she worked on this. But she was married to one of Grant's son's at the time and includes details that another biographer may not have been able to. Also, her book was published, which makes it infinitely superior to my unpublished one.

    The Lewis Porter biography of John Coltrane and the Robin D.G. Kelley biography of Thelonious Monk are excellent works of scholarship. Porter had the advantage of writing his book well after C.O. Simpkins and J.C. Thomas, as well as being a musician himself.

    Pullman's biography of Bud Powell, "Wail" is another good one, but may only be available as an e-book. I read it on a Kindle, which is definitely not my favorite way to read a book-length book (especially not one with footnotes) but it was worth it.

    I also like Stanley Dance's writing about Ellington.

    And no list of jazz biography should exclude AB Spellman's "4 Lives in the Bebop Business"
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
  5. Bellacaster

    Bellacaster Tele-Holic

    Sep 5, 2010
    Ypsilanti, MI
    I second the Miles autobiography and Straight Life, the Art Pepper autobiography. I read Straight Life earlier this summer and couldn't put it down. The first 50 pages are about jazz and the last 450 are about his struggles with drug addiction and incarceration. It's pretty harrowing stuff, but ultimately a rewarding experience.
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