Cover image for Living the jazz life : conversations with forty musicians about their careers in jazz
Living the jazz life : conversations with forty musicians about their careers in jazz
Stokes, W. Royal.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
x, 278 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML394 .S86 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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No music is as individual as jazz. And no writer is as deft at bringing out what is individual in each artist as W. Royal Stokes. As a reviewer, feature writer, public radio host, and author of three books on the subject, Stokes has spent three decades covering the jazz scene. Now he draws onthat rich store of knowledge and friendship to introduce us to the jazz life. Stokes illuminates the lives of the artists and the sheer pleasure of the sounds they create. In some forty interviews with saxophonists, pianists, singers, composers, and string, brass, and rhythm players, he paints a vivid portrait of their lives and influences, including the role of theirfamilies and childhood environments. The musicians discuss how they became interested in jazz as youngsters and how they became part of the jazz scene. Nat Adderley recalls how he and his brother Cannonball grew up across from a Tabernacle Baptist Church and how as boys on Sunday they would listento the music from the church--tambourines and trombones and a blind man playing the piano. Stokes ranges across the globe, both physically and culturally, in his interviews, introducing us to vaudeville stars, blues musicians, and a dozen women instrumentalists--such as acclaimed violinist ReginaCarter--out of the many who now shine on a scene where they were once limited to vocals alone. From legendary veterans Jackie McLean and Louie Bellson to such rising stars as Diana Krall, Cyrus Chestnut, and Ingrid Jensen, Stokes gathers together the brightest lights in the jazz firmament, capturing not only the life of the musician, but how the musician gives life to jazz.

Author Notes

W. Royal Stokes has written about music for such publications as Down Beat, JazzTimes, and the Washington Post, and hosted the public radio shows "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say ..." and Since Minton's. He is the former editor of the quarterly Jazz Notes and the author of The Jazz Scene and Swing Era New York

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

It's celebration time. Miles Davis' 1959 Kind of Blue recording was a milestone in the development of contemporary jazz. (See also Ashley Kahn, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece [BKL Ag 00]. Small world.) It was the bridge over which jazz's young stars left the structured world of bebop jazz and popularized a freer, more spontaneous and emotive style of modal jazz. In the 41 years since its release, the record has gone on to become the largest-selling jazz album in history. It led Davis to even greater fame in his rapidly developing career, paved the way for his sidemen (John Coltrane, Julian Adderly, and Bill Evans) to launch their own brilliant careers, and made lifelong jazz fans out of millions of listeners. Nisenson's book is an unusual work, combining memoir, biography, history, and musicology in one relatively short volume. Drawing on anecdotes from his friendship with Davis and interviews with the surviving collaborators, including composer George Russell and producer Teo Macero, Nisenson's work is astute and entertaining. It reveals the artistic process that produced the remarkable, iconic work of art that is its subject, further enriching our appreciation of this wonderful recording. Are great jazz musicians made or born? It's hard to say, but Stokes, a longtime jazz writer based in Washington, D.C., looks closely at the question in his biographical interviews with established stars and rising young talents. The writing is purely biographical, and Stokes renounces at the beginning any claim to being a musical critic. The primary focus is on jazz musicians' early development, and Stokes has elicited some recurring themes. A musical family helps (he devotes an entire chapter to musicians who have come from such backgrounds). Prodigious talent is also a good indicator, as many of Stokes' artists had developed musical skills before adolescence. But most remarkable is an epiphany--hearing a legend in concert, listening to a remarkable recording, or the guidance of a brilliant teacher--that transformed their interest in classical, R&B, folk, rock, or whatever musical style into a lifetime pursuit of jazz. It's a worthwhile read for jazz fans hoping to emulate or simply adulate their musical heroes. --Ted Leventhal

Library Journal Review

Many books have been written about the "jazz life." Some have been autobiographical, others collective biographies. With these two entries, we have a little of both. Living the Jazz Life by Stokes, a seasoned jazz journalist and editor of Jazz Notes, is a compilation of interviews with 40 jazz artists who have been active over the last 50 years, including veterans (Bucky Pizzarelli) and rising stars (Diana Krall). Writing with the goal of calling attention to their formative years, Stokes succeeds because he allows his subjects to speak freely. Classic Jazz is Levin's memoir as a jazz aficionado and writer for such publications as Down Beat, Jazz Journal International, and American Rag, composed of both old and new articles. Levin makes no bones about believing strongly in the so-called "classic" period. The majority of musicians in his book stem stylistically from the turn of the 20th century to the early 1950s. Organized thematically, this work offers good essays on lesser-known artists like Ed "Montudie" Garland and Wesley "Sox" Wilson. Stokes's work is recommended for libraries with jazz collections as well as academic and large public libraries, while Levin's is recommended for large public and academic libraries.ÄRonald S. Russ, Arkansas State Univ., Beebe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
1. Musical Familiesp. 3
2. Saxophonistsp. 31
3. Pianistsp. 69
4. Singersp. 111
5. Composersp. 137
6. Stringsp. 153
7. Other Climesp. 179
8. Bluesp. 211
9. Comedy and Jazz: Two Sui Generisp. 239
Acknowledgmentsp. 255
Indexp. 257