Jazz To Read By


Author Richard Koloda spent two decades researching this addition to the legend of free-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler.

(Photo: Jawbone Press)

When considering what to buy those who are impossible to buy for (guilty, as charged), loved ones can’t go wrong with a great book. And while there are plenty of them out there, here are seven that your jolly-ole musical elf might just want to dig into!

Saxophone Collossus: The Life And Music Of Sonny Rollins
By Aidan Levy (Hachette Book Group)
In an incredibly deep, well-researched and thoughtfully written biography, author Aiden Levy dives into the world of Sonny Rollins, one of the greatest tenor saxophonists to ever walk the planet. Clocking in at 784 pages (including the index), Saxophone Colossus comes in as an exhaustive work, one that can be enjoyed, studied and absorbed thoroughly by Rollins-ologists for the ages. hachettebookgroup.com

Sun Ra: Art On Saturn
Edited by Irwin Chusid and Chris Reisman (Fantagraphics)
Authors Chusid and Reisman deliver the wide and wild world of cover art — in full color — from the great Afrofuturistic bandleader’s Saturn record label. It serves as what the authors describe as the first comprehensive collection of Ra’s cover art and includes printed album record covers and sleeves as well as hundreds of hand-designed, one-of-a-kind covers and sleeves created by Ra and members of his Arkestra. fantagraphics.com

Holy Ghost: The Life & Death Of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler
By Richard Koloda (Jawbone Press)
Author Richard Koloda spent two decades researching this addition to the legend of free-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler. The author painstakingly traces Ayler’s path from the Midwest to France, as well as his mysterious death at just 34 years old. The result here is a book that’s one part music bio, another part detective thriller trying to decipher how Ayler was found floating dead in New York’s East River on Nov. 25, 1970. jawbonepress.com

The Real Ambassadors: Dave and Iola Brubeck and Louis Armstrong Challenge Segregation
By Keith Hatschek (University Press of Mississippi)
Author Keith Hatschek documents a musical program of the same name created by Brubeck and his wife, Iola, featuring Louis Armstrong. It was envisioned as a three-act Broadway extravaganza with the world’s foremost musicians. The story plays out over difficult terrain. The civil rights movement was just kicking into high gear. The powers that be were not ready for it, or what the Brubecks and Satchmo wanted to lay down. upress.state.ms.us

Switched On: Bob Moog And The Synthesizer Revolution
By Albert Glinsky (Oxford University Press)
Author Albert Glinsky charts the very uncharted course that Bob Moog took in helping to create a musical revolution. Billed as the first complete biography of Moog, this 496-page hardcover traces the trials, tribulations, victories, losses and lunacy of Moog’s journey in with a foreword by Francis Ford Coppola. bobmoogfoundation.myshopify.com

Ain’t But A Few Of Us: Black Music Writers tell Their Story
Edited by Willard Jenkins (Duke University Press)
Historically, the craft of jazz criticism has been vastly the terrain of white men covering Black music. That may be slowly changing, but author Willard Jenkins has, for years, documented the voices of Black jazz critics, presenting the results in this well-conceived and timely package. He interviews some two dozen writers, delivering guidance to the next generation. dukeupress.edu

The Extraordinary Journey of Jason Miles: A Musical Biography
By Jason Miles (Book Writing Cube)

Jason Miles may not be a household name to many, but he is to the people who have worked with him. As a keyboardist, composer and producer, Miles has collaborated with everyone from Miles Davis, George Benson and David Sanborn to Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross and Whitney Houston, to name just a few. In this Musical Biography, Miles recounts his life and times, which is an outgrowth of a one-man show he performs. jasonmilesmusic.com

Check out all of DownBeat’s Holiday Gift Guide here!

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    Benjamin possessed a fluid, round sound on the alto saxophone, and he was often most recognizable by the layers of electronic effects that he put onto the instrument.

  • David_Sanborn_by_C_Andrew_Hovan.jpg

    Sanborn’s highly stylized playing and searing signature sound — frequently ornamented with thrill-inducing split-tones and bluesy bent notes — influenced generations of jazz and blues saxophonists.

  • Albert_Tootie_Heath_2014_copy.jpg

    ​Albert “Tootie” Heath (1935–2024) followed in the tradition of drummer Kenny Clarke, his idol.

  • 1_Henry_Threadgills_Zooid_by_Cora_Wagoner.jpg

    Henry Threadgill performs with Zooid at Big Ears in Knoxville, Tennessee.

  • MichaelCuscuna_Katz_2042_6a_1995_copy.jpg

    Cuscuna played a singular role in the world of jazz as a producer of new jazz, R&B and rock recordings; as co-founder of a leading reissue record label; as a historian, journalist and DJ; and as the man who singlehandedly kept the Blue Note label on life support.

On Sale Now
May 2024
Stefon Harris
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