Cover image for American music is
American music is
Hentoff, Nat.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xix, 318 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML198 .H46 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Writing in a passionate and streetwise style all his own, Nat Hentoff transports us into the diverse worlds of musicians that hold one thing in common: America. In over sixty pieces Hentoff has assembled a mosaic that creates a vivid picture of the music scene as it leaps into the twenty-first century. From sweeping surveys of the roots of American music to vivid assessments of individual performers (including John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Joe Williams, Doc Pomus, Duke Ellington, Willie Nelson, and many more) Hentoff demonstrates once again why he is lauded as "a critic par excellence" ( Publishers Weekly ). American Music Is compiles the best of his essays into a potent reader, collecting his most illuminating writing on a broad range of topics. For those who love jazz, blues, country, gospel, or folk, American Music Is provides eloquent and powerful insights. For those who love all of them, it is required reading.

Author Notes

Nathan Irving Hentoff was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 10, 1925. He graduated from Northeastern University in 1946. After several years with a Boston radio station, he moved to New York in 1953 and covered jazz for Down Beat until 1957. In 1958, he was a founding editor of The Jazz Review that lasted until 1961. He wrote for The New Yorker from 1960 to 1986, for The Washington Post from 1984 to 2000, and for The Village Voice from 1958 to 2009. During his freelance career, his work appeared in Esquire, Harper's, Commonweal, The Reporter, Playboy, The New York Herald Tribune, Jewish World Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Times. In 1995, he received the National Press Foundation's award for lifetime achievement in contributions to journalism.

He wrote more than 35 books during his lifetime. His nonfiction works included The Jazz Life, Peace Agitator: The Story of A. J. Muste, The New Equality, Living the Bill of Rights, and Free Speech for Me - but Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other. He wrote several memoirs including Boston Boy and Speaking Freely. In 1955, he co-edited with Nat Shapiro Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz as Told by the Men Who Made It. His young adult novels included Jazz Country, This School Is Driving Me Crazy, Does This School Have Capital Punishment?, and The Day They Came to Arrest the Book. He died on January 7, 2017 at the age of 91.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Jazz critics of two generations weigh in with a career retrospective from the younger one, a collection of recent pieces by the older. Davis says the 25 years he has been writing about jazz have been a period of artistic and popular decline that he blames on "the entrenched tastes of the jazz faithful"--a statement the first part of which will draw the ire of young avant-garde enthusiasts while the second rouses the wrath of the elders whose patronage keeps mainstream jazz alive. Davis obviously isn't afraid to make waves but deserves to be read because, like the late Martin Williams, he writes about music for nonmusicians without substituting purple prose for audibly verifiable description and because, like venerable New Yorker 0 jazz writer Whitney Balliett, he communicates musicians' personalities pungently and believably. In this collection, he does both for the music and the persons of figures ranging from old Sonny Rollins to young Don Byron, from young traditionalist Wynton Marsalis to old avant-gardist Charles Gayle. His critical acumen shines brightly, too, in the three pieces on musical theater and the commentaries on movies and comedians that conclude the book. Before becoming everybody's favorite civil libertarian, Hentoff was a jazz critic, whose Jazz Life0 (1961) introduced the music to many baby boomers. Lately proclaimed the first nonmusician jazz master by the National Endowment for the Arts, he now writes on jazz not for erstwhile haunts Down Beat0 and the Village Voice 0 but, judging from the provenances of most of his new book's contents, for the Wall Street Journal.0 In line with the Journal's 0 status as a newspaper, these pieces are news-story short and, in line with the Journal0 's market orientation, contain consumer guidance to recordings, books, and music organizations. Most focus on particular musicians, though some are topic driven, such as "Testosterone Is Not a Musical Instrument," on the continuing resistance to women in jazz except as singers and pianists. Unfaithful followers of Hentoff on music may be surprised, but very pleasantly, by the pieces on his other "American Music" passion, hard country--by the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Delbert McClinton. --Ray Olson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Few of today?s music critics can recall chatting with jazz legends like Louis, Billie or Duke in their dressing rooms, and the rarity of hearing about those experiences may be the single greatest pleasure of reading a Hentoff column. The ?jazz master? has been reviewing the American music scene for half a century and brings that wealth of experience to the 60 recent columns gathered here. Although he devotes the lion?s share of pages to his first love, jazz, he also covers the pioneers of blues, country and folk, delving into the experiences and rhythms of Willie Nelson, Charlie Parker and Bob Dylan, among many others. Aside from a pithy autobiographical introduction to the ensemble, the author does not situate the columns?there are no publication dates or names. Despite this lack of context, fans will savor Hentoff?s robust prose and his original window onto the world of American music. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.