[JPL] Good Jazz Bios

Larry Appelbaum jumpmonk at hotmail.com
Mon Dec 10 23:26:05 EST 2007

Many good suggestions so far, but Sanna's original question was about recommended bios of Duke and Ella. For Duke I'd suggest Mark Tucker's book "Ellington: The Early Years" and, though it's not really a traditional bio, his wonderful "Duke Ellington Reader." Stanley Dance's book "The World According to Duke Ellington" is also worth reading, and John Edward Hasse's "The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington" makes good use of Hasse's access to the Ellington papers at the Smithsonian.  It's much harder to recommend any of the Ella bios. 

As for bios of other musicians not already mentioned, you might consider Mark Miller's brand new book "High Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm: The Life and Music of Valaida Snow." Daniel Mark Epstein is a fine poet and his "Nat King Cole" bio sets a high standard. Gary Giddins' Bing Crosby bio sets an even higher one. Whitney Balliett's book "Alec Wilder and His Friends" is a pleasure to read. A.B. Spellman's book "Four Lives in the Be-bop Business" (recently reprinted with a different title) is not your typical bio but it's insightful and holds up quite well. Graham Locke's "Forces In Motion" is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Anthony Braxton. Likewise John Szwed's Sun Ra bio "Space Is The Place." And Lewis Porter's "John Coltrane: His Life and Music" is both scholarly and readable. I haven't gotten to Ben Ratliff's new Coltrane book but that's next on my list. And thanks to Len Dobbin for reminding us about the Lennie Tristano book. Ms. Shim gave an impressive presentation on it at IAJE a couple years ago.

Larry Appelbaum

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