Book Excerpt — Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music, by Gerald Horne

December 21st, 2019




“What does it mean for descendants of enslaved people to create a music embraced by the world and still be treated as second-class citizens, exploited, dehumanized, and subject to premature death?  By following the money, the managers, the musicians, and the bodies, Gerald Horne gives us an enthralling view of jazz history from the underside.  An essential contribution to our understanding of how racial capitalism shaped American music.”

-Robin D.G. Kelley, author, Thelonious Monk:  The Life and Times of an American Original




…..Jazz music — complex, ground breaking and brilliant from its early 20th century beginnings — would eventually become America’s popular music.  That it did so in the face of the severe obstacles of blatant racism and sexism, organized crime and corrupt labor exploitation so prevalent in America at the time is at the heart of historian Gerald Horne’s new book,  Jazz and Justice:  Racism and the Political Economy of the Music.

…..In the Introduction to the book — published here in its entirety with the permission of the author and Monthly Review Press (publishers of Monthly Review, a self-described “Independent Socialist Magazine”) — Mr. Horne introduces many of these obstacles, more completely covered in the book’s entirety.

…..The purpose for sharing this excerpt is to inspire interest in Mr. Horne’s important book, a powerful document that reminds or awakens readers to the challenges jazz musicians of color and women faced throughout their careers.

…..Readers are reminded that the history and incidents Mr. Horne describes took place in a blatantly racist era.  Consequently, be warned that offensive language and terms used during that time appear frequently within this excerpt.

…..Due to the length of the excerpt and the many events described, footnotes published within this chapter have been included, and are found at the excerpt’s conclusion.


An interview with Mr. Horne will be published on Jerry Jazz Musician in February.







“[Gerald Horne is]…one of the great historians of our time”

-Cornel West




photo by Bouna Ndaiye/used by permission of Gerald Horne

Gerald Horne is John J. and Rebecca Moores Professor of African American History at the University of Houston.  He has published more than three dozen books, including The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism (Monthly Review Press)



Excerpted from Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music, by Gerald Horne.  Copyright © 2019 by Gerald Horne and published by Monthly Review Press.  All rights reserved.







…..Buck Clayton was ready to rumble.

…..It was about 1934 and this Negro trumpeter found himself in Shanghai, a city on the cusp of being bombarded by marauding Japanese troops. But that was not his concern. Instead, what he thought he had escaped when he began performing in China had followed him across the Pacific Ocean. “White guys [were] saying,” he wrote decades later, “there they are. Niggers, niggers, niggers!” These incendiary epithets lit the fuse and “soon fists were flying” and “when it was all over the Chinese onlookers treated us like we had done something that they had always wanted to do and followed us all the way home cheering us like a winning football team.”1

…..He may not have recognized it at the time of the fracas, but Clayton’s Asian encounter illustrated several themes that had ensnared Negro musicians, especially practitioners of the new art form called “jazz.” Often, they had to flee abroad, where they found more respect and an embrace of their talent. And often the sustenance found there allowed them to develop their art and sustain their loved ones. Overseas they were capable of fortifying the global trends that in the long run proved decisive in destroying slavery and eroding the Jim Crow that followed in its wake.2 The pianist Eubie Blake, born in 1883, referring to Canada and Europe, was moved to argue—extravagantly and emphatically, though understandably given the United States was his reference point—that “color don’t make any difference to them people and I can understand why a lot of Negroes stayed over there to live.”3 Back home they were forced to fight to repel racist marauders, some of whom had hired them to perform.

…..Furthermore, the presence of these exiled artists of African ancestry undergirded existent hostility to U.S. imperialism, shoring up the generally faltering position of African Americans back home. Thus, one study of the music in Paris concludes that jazz served to sustain “anti-Americanism” and this artistic bent also meant “solidarity with African Americans in opposition to white Americans.” A French book on the music had an “astonishing” 150 editions, indicating why, during the Cold War, says critic Andy Fry, Washington “represented a greater threat to Europe than Communism.”4 This point inferentially raises the related matter of the new music seen as an analogue to democracy in the interaction between and among musicians on the bandstand and the ineffable reality that the bulk of the artists were of African descent, leading Washington to sponsor concerts abroad of the music. Ironically, analogizing jazz to democracy, a frequent Cold War trope, belied the fact that the music was embraced by Italian fascists, among other anti-democratic miscreants.5

…..A glimpse of this phenomenon was exposed when the Negro composer and musician Benny Carter arrived in Copenhagen as Clayton was being pummeled in Shanghai. When he exited the train, he was recognized as a celebrity. “I was literally lifted onto the shoulders of people,” he said decades later, “and they carried me out of the station to a waiting automobile and I was taken to my hotel with this crowd behind. And I was really never so thrilled.” He was stunned to ascertain that Europe was less racist toward those like himself in comparison to his homeland; in Europe he found “acceptance of you just on the basis of you as a human being.”6

…..This is a book about the travails and triumphs of these talented musicians as they sought to make a living, at home and abroad, through dint of organizing—and fighting. I approach this subject with a certain humility, well aware, as someone once said, that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” that is, “using one artistic vocabulary to portray another” is inherently perilous.7 This task is made all the more complex when writing about this form of music, where the historical record is studded with various and often contrasting versions of the same episode. The co-author of the informative memoir of a well-known pianist asserted that “Dr. [Billy] Taylor has told more than [one] version of the same story. He noted the fallibility of memory and had a healthy sense of humor about the inconsistencies that can result.”8 The problem is that the historian thereby runs the risk of circulating misinformation, a prospect I will seek to evade in the pages that follow.


…..What is this music called jazz? Why does it carry this name and where did it develop?

…..“Jazz,” according to the late Euro-American pianist, Dave Brubeck, speaking in 1950, was “born in New Orleans about 1880” consisting of “an improvised musical expression based on European harmony and African rhythms.”9 (The critic Leonard Feather is among those who question the “Big Easy” birth, despite its seductively powerful appeal,10 while saxophonist Von Freeman said that “jazz is not that old,“ the bandleader Sun Ra “said it began billions of years ago.”)11 Brubeck could have added that this music presupposes mastery of musical instruments, particularly—though not exclusively—piano, strings (bass fiddle, guitar, etc.), horns (saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, trombone, etc.), and yes, percussion (especially drums). Brubeck was informed by critic Marshall Stearns, who said in 1954 that the new music is “improvised Afro-American music with strong European influences,” the instruments wielded not least.12 In accord with Brubeck was the late saxophonist Eddie Barefield, who in 1977 defined the music in which he excelled as “something with a beat” that involves “improvisation.”13 The musician Joe Rene said in 1960 that the art form in which he was distinguished was nothing but filling in a melody, a task he ascribed to the trumpet14 a musical instrument whose importance stretches back generations.15

…..The subversive impact of this new form has been said to “subvert racial segregation, musically enacting . . . [an] assault on white purity,” and the music was said to have “encouraged racial boundary crossings by creating racially mixed spaces and racially impure music, both of which altered the racial identities of musicians and listeners.”16

…..Alert readers may have noticed that I have introduced the term “jazz” with a bodyguard of quotation marks. This is meant to signify the contested employment of this term. Thus the master percussionist Max Roach did not embrace this word: “I prefer to say,” he announced in 1972, “that the music is the culture of African people who have been dispersed throughout North America.”17 Elaborating, Roach argued—in a nod to the difficult working conditions that accompanied a music associated with bordellos and Negroes—that the very term “jazz” meant “the worst kind of working conditions, the worst in cultural prejudice . . . small dingy places, the worst kind of salaries and conditions that one can imagine . . . the abuse and exploitation of black musicians.”18 Artie Shaw, the late reedman, said in 1992 that the “word ‘jazz’ is a ridiculous word.”19 Randy Weston, the celebrated pianist, also has disparaged the word “jazz.”20 Revealingly, because of the negative connotations of the term, the musical group now known as The Crusaders went to court to remove “Jazz” from their name and, said one source, became “far more successful financially.”21 On the other hand, saxophonist Dexter Gordon, according to his biographer, “understood the debate about the word ‘jazz’ but he stood proud of the word.”22

…..This music is said to have its roots in the Slave South—New Orleans more specifically. But even this, like the presence of Clayton in Shanghai, is contested. One analyst argues for a kind of “candelabra” theory of the origins of this music, arising simultaneously in various sites for similar reasons. Thus, like New Orleans, the San Francisco Bay Area had ties to a wider global community, meaning the influence of diverse musical trends and instruments, particularly opera and its Italian traditions, not to mention a bordello culture that provided opportunities to play. One of the many theories about the term “jazz” is that it originated in the early twentieth century among Negro musicians in the hilly fog-bound California metropolis.23 The drummer Zutty Singleton, born in 1898, has argued that, long before New Orleans, St. Louis had been a center of ragtime, one of the musical tributaries of “jazz,” and, as a result, musicians in the Missouri city were more technically adept and sophisticated than their Louisiana counterparts.24

…..Given that both St. Louis and New Orleans hugged the Mississippi River, where riverboats overflowing with performing musicians plied the muddy waters, it is possible that this new music developed simultaneously in both cities. In that regard, it would be a mistake to ignore that other Mississippi port city—Memphis.25  “Outside of New York City and Detroit,” according to one analyst, this Tennessee town “probably has given the world more outstanding jazz artists than any other city.”26 The well-informed Dempsey Travis has argued passionately that “if jazz was not born in the nightclubs and speakeasies on the South Side of Chicago, then it was certainly incubated in them.”27

…..This music is also an offshoot of the music known as “the blues,” a product of those of African origin in Dixie, which expressed their hopes and pains: hence, one scholar has characterized the blues as a veritable epistemology.28 Given that “jazz is an offspring of the blues” and both Memphis and New Orleans are neighbors of the state of Mississippi, the crucible of the blues, there is reason to consider the Magnolia State as a “father of jazz.” This general region also propelled W. C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues,” to fame. Both facts serve to provide reason to take Memphis into account when assessing the roots of jazz. (Contributing to the varied roots of “Negro music” is Handy’s contention that the tango—of Afro-Argentine origin—strongly influenced his own interpretation of the blues.)29 Like New Orleans, Memphis too was a den of iniquity, as suggested by William Faulkner.30

…..Adding to a version of the “candelabra” theory of the origins of the music are the words of the legendary journalist J. A. Rogers, who argued that the roots of the music could be found “in the Indian war dance, the highland fling, the Irish jig, the Cossack dance, the Spanish fandango, the Brazilian maxixie, the dance of the whirling dervish, the hula hula of the South Seas”—and the “ragtime of the Negro.”31

…..Still, New Orleans’ claim as the seedbed of this music is bulwarked by the fact that the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865) and the onset of the War with Spain in 1898 with troops embarking and disembarking from the mouth of the Mississippi River, led to various musical instruments being snapped up by Africans, as military and naval bands dissolved. Moreover, by 1850 New Orleans was by some measures the bordello capital of the new Republic, leading to more cabarets, nightclubs—meaning more music—at a time when San Francisco was hardly an adolescent city.32 Reportedly, distressed soldiers dumped their instruments in pawn shops in New Orleans and Negroes then bought these battered tools of music cheaply.33

…..On the other hand, one analyst claimed that “Cuban natives”—and not the New Orleans keyboardist Jelly Roll Morton who claimed parentage—“started jazz in 1712.”34 Interestingly, when enslaved Africans in Barbados in 1675 were launching a revolt, the signal for launching was to be sent by trumpet.35 By 1688, authorities on this Caribbean island had declared illegal the “using or keeping of drums, horns or other loud instruments which may call together or give sign or notice to one another, for their wicked designs and purposes.”36

…..Whatever the case, it appears that the first authenticated appearance of the word “jazz” in print was, perhaps tellingly, in the San Francisco Call, on 6 March 1913.37 (Another analyst suggests the word “jass” first appeared in the Chicago Defender on 30 September 1916.) The clarinetist Emile Barnes, born in 1892, recalled such tunes as “Jazz Me Blues” and observed that the term used to describe this art form was associated with copulation (not seen as a plus) and thus was seen as negative, such as a woman saying “such and such . . . wanted to jazz me.”38 Others have linked the word “jazz” etymologically to various West African languages or to the French—“jaser”—or to Jezabelle or Jasmine perfume or even to baseball (references there can be found as early as 1912).39

…..In turn, the Negro composer Will Marion Cook is of the opinion that ragtime with its syncopated and “ragged” rhythm, which developed at the end of the nineteenth century, as U.S. imperialism began to extend its overseas reach, was shaped by the trips of Negro sojourners to ports in North Africa and western Asia dominated by the then Ottoman Empire.40

…..Of course, the various forms of music developed by enslaved Africans in North America and their descendants were rooted in the continent of their origin, Africa itself, particularly West Africa, stretching from what is now Dakar southward to Luanda. The now discredited notion that Africans were “natural musicians,” which facilitated the popularity of “Blind Tom, the Slave Pianist” and his rival “Blind Boone” of St. Louis,41 should also be considered in contemplating the rise of this new music.

…..New art forms are often pilloried, not least because they are misunderstood, but jazz carries the added burden of being billed as one of the few art forms developed in North America and done so primarily by African Americans, who had been pilloried because of their earlier slave status and adamant refusal to accept supinely a slaveholders’ republic.42 This contributed to an “anti-jazz” movement, preceded by “anti-ragtime” fervor. This hostility made it easier to rationalize the gross exploitation of these musicians, since, as it was said, they were seen as “mere” Negroes, playing “Negro music.”43 In 1927 Pope Pius XI spoke of the “discordant cacophony, arrhythmic howls and wild cries” of the new music. (It is likely he was not speaking ex cathedra.)44 Dialectically, however, the difficult conditions under which this innovative music was produced helped to create conditions for the improvisation that was part of its essence. In a 1999 interview, the famed trumpeter Clark Terry recalled that because of the “derogatory things that would happen to you, the negative things, the pitfalls . . . you’d go crazy” absent improvisation. So the musicians would play games and engage in pranks. “I’d practice left-handed,” he said. “I’d practice upside down” and “if there’s something that seems to be synonymous with jazz,” he continued, “it’s good comedy,” which also involved improvising. He experimented with different tonguing and buzzing with his horn, with this dedicated experimentation undergirding the high art thereby created.45 In similar fashion, the versatile instrumentalist Eric Dolphy started experimenting with the bass clarinet in order to distinguish himself from musicians he saw as less talented but receiving more opportunities than himself, so he wanted to do something different.46 “Do something different” is another definition of the music called jazz.

…..Generally concurring, in a 2007 interview, the critic Nat Hentoff argued that these musicians he lionized “took risks all the time. That’s what improvisation is all about. If they were black, they took risks whenever they traveled down South”47—or, as in the case of Buck Clayton, perambulated in Shanghai. This well prepared them for taking musical risks, enhancing their art.

…..Unfortunately, some of these musicians were taking risks without traveling southward. In 1981, the trombonist Vic Dickenson, born in Xenia, Ohio, in 1906, recalled that “across the street from our house was a [forest] and the Ku Klux Klan used to meet there. They’d stand in a circle in their robes in that wood and burn their crosses and that upset me all during my childhood.”48 The bassist Milt Hinton had a similar experience. Born in 1910 in the heart of darkness that was Vicksburg, Mississippi, his grandmother, he recalled, was a “slave” of “Jefferson Davis’s father,” speaking of the leader of the so-called Confederate States of America that rebelled in 1861 in order to perpetuate enslavement of Africans.49 It is difficult to imagine a more horrid racist pedigree, a point ratified in 1988 when Hinton recalled chillingly, “One of the clearest memories of my childhood in Vicksburg is the lynching I saw when I was seven or eight. . . . There was a bonfire and fifty or sixty men were drinking out of whiskey jugs, dancing, cursing and looking up towards a tree over their heads. And in this big tree I saw a figure shaped like a person hanging from a long wire cable attached to a branch . . . he was covered with blood.” Yet the murderers “kept shooting their guns up at the dangling body” as a “couple of men [were] dragging over a gasoline drum and putting it under the hanging body. Then someone else threw a torch at the can and the place lit up like it was daytime. . . . I’ll never forget that blaze,” he said morosely, “and watching that body shrivel up like a piece of bacon while the crowd cheered.”50 The question for our purposes is: to what extent did such experiences shape the passion and bathos of the music?

…..In sum, an unwelcome accompanist of this music as it was birthed was the kind of violence—and threats thereof—that Dickenson and Hinton witnessed in their youth. It was in 1900 in New Orleans that, in light of racial unrest, a local editor called boldly for the “FINAL SOLUTION” of the Negro Question, adding ominously, “Race war means extermination.”51 Assuredly, this outrage impelled exile abroad where this music could flourish, just as it impelled an adroit improvisation necessary for survival in such adverse conditions.

…..For the musician Billy Harper, born in 1943, this state of affairs was unsurprising. Speaking in 1971, he said, “‘Since most people [sic] have been taught to hate and fear the black man and in this country this music represents one of the strongest parts of his culture,’”52 it was hardly shocking that these Negro artists became frequent targets of delirious bile. Yet, as Ellis Marsalis, born in 1934, observed in 1971, the fact that these artists created a unique cultural form did not save them from bigotry, but it may have enhanced it. This pianist and patriarch of what has been seen as the First Family of the music, said then that “the only advantage the black musician has is that music being first a talent and then a craft, the establishment is forced to deal with him in a manner that they are not forced to deal with him when they are hiring garbage men,”53 which was simply infuriating to adversaries of the Negro.

…..Inexorably, this pattern of iniquity created an ecosystem that influenced those who might have thought they were on the side of the angels. According to the well-regarded historian and critic Lewis Porter, “The racism in our society makes it all too easy for white authors to take a condescending attitude to the jazz they write about.”54 In this vein, the historian and musician Ingrid Monson has referred contemptuously to “what I term the ‘white resentment narrative,’” for example, those who feel that melanin-deficient musicians and writers have not received their due, because of “Crow Jim”—i.e. a “Jim Crow” visited upon Euro-Americans, i.e. a kind of inverted oppression allegedly perpetrated by African Americans.55

…..Thus, because of the ingrained racism of the society in which the music was born, allied with the objective exploitation of musicians generating wealth, all this combined to create a culture inimical to the health and well-being of the artists. An early pioneer of the music was James Reese Europe, born in 1880, whom Eubie Blake, pianist extraordinaire, purportedly called the real “’King of Jazz’” and not the aptly named pretender, Paul Whiteman.56 Tragically, Europe was stabbed to death by a drummer during the First World War, this after being gassed and hospitalized on the battlefields of Europe.57 A few years later, horn player Leo “Snub” Mosley, born in 1905, was slated to perform in Texas. As he recalled, “They advertised us on the front page of the newspaper: ‘FAMOUS NIGGER BAND HERE TONIGHT,’” which was a prelude to another occasion when the notorious terrorists, the Ku Klux Klan, planned to tar and feather him and his bandmates, “just because we were playing for the white people.” This planned act of terror may have been inspired by white competitors, since “there was some white opposition too from the biggest white band around there, the Jimmy Joy band that played hotels in Dallas and the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City.”58

…..During the Second World War, the drummer Philly Joe Jones was hired as a trolley operator, one of eight Negro men given such a position in Philadelphia (one of the themes of this book is how so many of these musicians found it difficult to make a living pursuing their art and often had to find other means of support). Reporting for work the first day, he found that white strikers had shut down the entire intercity transport system in protest of this desegregated hiring. The racism was so intense that an armed military guard was placed on every streetcar so that Blacks would not attack white operators travelling through Black neighborhoods and vice versa. “I remember this hateful chapter of my teenage years,” said the musician, Benny Golson. “It was terrible.”59

…..Again, the question to consider is, inter alia, what was the impact of such horror on musicians? Did it give their artistry a certain fury and anger? Did it impel them to protest, for example, unionizing and protesting generally?

…..It was also during the war, whose bloodiness may have inspired the like-minded on both sides of the Atlantic, that the saxophonist Charlie Parker, born in 1920, and his fellow musician Oscar Pettiford, born in 1922, were attacked by a soldier in a New York City subway, with the latter stripped naked. Then in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Parker was bashed in the head with a bottle after he refused to play a requested tune from a white man in the audience. 60

…..Understandably, brutalization led to organization by the intended victims. The aforementioned James Reese Europe, helped to organize the “Clef Club” in Harlem about a century ago, a combination gathering space for musicians, labor exchange, performance space, and a way to circumvent malign influence on the music. In coming decades similarly oriented musicians formed the Jazz Composers’ Guild, Collective Black Artists, the Los Angeles–based Union of God’s Musicians and Artists’ Ascension, and Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.61

…..Nevertheless, one of the most influential reactions to the kind of normalized exploitation to which musicians were routinely subjected was spearheaded by the bassist and bandleader Charles Mingus,62 born in 1922: he sought to form a company to distribute his recorded compositions. But it was then that Morris Levy, who operated the iconic Manhattan club known as Birdland and who looked and talked like a Hollywood thug besides, warned the corpulent composer about gangsters, that is, those like himself: “These people, they’ll kill your wife, they’ll kill your mother, they’ll kill your babies.”63 Mingus’s partner, Max Roach, recalled later that “we would have to take pistols to Boston, to collect” since “they’d hold on to the records.” His interviewer, Amiri Baraka, responded that the stiff opposition to this initiative was because the powers that be “didn’t want that concept of musicians trying to run their own affairs”—and “the Black thing made it worse.”64 Thus, by 1955 the predictable had occurred: “There is a great deal of interest in Debut Records,” the joint Mingus-Roach enterprise, said the message from Rochester, New York. “The only catch is, of course, there is no place to buy them.”65

…..A pioneer in seeking to take control of the music was the saxophonist, flutist, and clarinetist Gigi Gryce. His attempt to establish a publishing company and record label was aided by a lawyer better known for assisting radical causes, William Kunstler. Bruce Wright, yet another activist Manhattan lawyer, also served him. His comrade, the similarly engaged bassist Reggie Workman, recollected that Gryce was “pressured by somebody in the publishing field.” That is, they “threatened him in some way that he became paranoid,” compelling Workman to “leave him. . . . He’d be so nervous . . . this twitching nervousness that got worse and worse.” Gryce was forced out of the business by powerful interests, “possibly with underworld connections,” according to one analyst. “He and his family were harassed, threatened and intimidated,” leaving Gryce “clearly terrified,” engendering the reaction that drove Workman from his side.66

…..Levy was not unique. Sam Giancana, a leading mobster, like many of his comrades, invested heavily in Las Vegas, which after 1945 became a major site for hiring musicians. His lover, Judith Exner, observed that he was poisoned with racism and fought the Black Power upsurge of the 1960s that sought to encroach on these gangsters’ sinecure in the entertainment industry; thus, he announced regularly that “he hated all niggers.”67

…..Hence, as a result of the pestilence to which they were subjected routinely, musicians were compelled to engage in various kinds of self-help as a simple matter of survival. Trumpeter Roy Eldridge, born in 1911, was among those who carried a gun—this was in the 1940s; his comrade Artie Shaw recalled that Eldridge “saw himself as traveling through a hostile land and he was right.”68 Clark Terry was of like mind. “All the cats from St. Louis,” he said, “carried a shank . . . a knife. So did I.” This was in the early 1950s. 69

…..In case a weapon was not nearby, some musicians also developed a taste for boxing. Percussionist Stan Levey, who played alongside luminaries like Charlie Parker, was a boxer of some skill. The point made in his biography is that “Fighting and drumming are both all about hitting and timing,” though this hardly explains the boxing skill of Wallace Roney, the Philadelphia-born trumpeter, born in 1960, nor does it shed light on Levey’s recollection of pianist Red Garland born in Dallas in 1923 sparring combatively with perhaps the greatest boxer of them all: “Sugar” Ray Robinson.70 The pugilistic acumen of trumpeter Miles Davis is well-known.71 Davis’s musical tribute to the late heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, has been emulated by the recent musical salute to Muhammad Ali by trombonist Craig Harris.72 The masculinist environment of the music business shaped this combative response, but, as well, musicians (especially drummers and trumpeters) often had quick hands and supple fingers, along with sharp reflexes, all of which made for often forceful encounters with foes.

…..There was also collective enterprise. Early on, Negro-owned recording companies included Sunshine Record Company formed by Johnny and Reb Spikes in 1921; Leroy Hurte’s Bronze Records in 1940; and Leon and Otis Rene’s Excelsior, then called Exclusive, in Los Angeles.73 In 1961, the musician Harold Battiste formed a record label, inspired by the Nation of Islam and their self-help philosophy. The fact that he received a mere $125 for playing saxophone on the blockbuster hit by Sonny and Cher “I’ve Got You Babe” impelled him further: “That’s all,” he said disgustedly.74

…..The writer Ishmael Reed has argued that the Nation of Islam was a “competitor” of the traditional Italian and Jewish-American branches of organized crime.75 It is well known that the First World War–era movement led by Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey served as predicate to the rise of the NOI in the 1930s, and that earlier Pan-African movement was not unknown to musicians. “Garveyites were prevalent,” says the saxophonist Sonny Rollins, born in 1930, when he was growing up in Harlem.76 Drummer Panama Francis, born in 1918 in Miami, said, “I played my first gig—it was on the Fourth of July at the UNIA Hall in 1931,” the initials signifying the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Garvey’s vehicle.77 Trombonist Roy Palmer in the early 1920s led a 35-piece band of the UNIA in Chicago.78 Paul Barbarin, the drummer born more than a century ago in New Orleans, said that the Onward Brass Band of which his uncle was a member were adorned with plumed hats akin to those worn by Garveyites.79

…..The hegemonic influence of mobsters in the music business combined with weak unions to deflect class consciousness and accentuate the normative white supremacy. Inevitably, musicians, agents, club owners, and the like from this Euro-Americans community became involved with the new music that was developing. Nick LaRocca, a cornetist and trumpeter born in New Orleans in 1889 and of Italian ancestry, claims to have made the first recording in the jazz idiom in 1917 and, besides, has argued that the music is not indebted to African American culture. (Of course, Italians—especially Sicilians who were represented heavily in New Orleans—had close cultural ties to North Africa and did not leave this behind upon landing in Louisiana.) By 1936, discordantly he had begun to refer to the style of music known as “Dixieland” as “strictly a white man’s music.”80 He also takes partial credit for popularizing of the very term “jazz.”81

…..By 1937, LaRocca was cited for the proposition that “white man’s music started jazz,” emphasizing the “tremendous importance the white man played in originating swing.”82 By 1958, he was singing the same tune, downplaying Negro contributions to the music and claiming that “we’re . . . the pioneers.” He stoutly argued, “I’m [not] prejudiced against the Negro,” while adding, “I don’t believe in giving the Negro credit for something he didn’t do.” As his native New Orleans was being buffeted by hurricane force anti–Jim Crow winds, he castigated “mixing . . . if God meant him to be white, or meant any other people to be different, he would have made us all one color. . . . this is plain common sense.” For if “these niggers” or—correcting himself—“Negroes came to New York . . . they would have been thrown [out] on their ears, not shoved out the door, but thrown out bodily . . . that’s how ignorant the Negroes were. . . . The Negro has never invented anything new,” he claimed, particularly a form of music that has swept the planet. “Take [Louis] Armstrong away from ’em and they’ll go back to Africa,” he included in an incoherent flourish.83 That same year, 1958, his fellow Italian-American musician Johnny Lala, trumpeter and pianist who had played alongside Al Jolson—he of “blackface” infamy—adopted what might be considered the Dixie moderate viewpoint in conceding that, yes, the Negroes may have made the music but “whites improved on it—you understand.”84 By 1961, he was still banging on in the same vein, reportedly “angered” with the idea that the music whose creation he claimed had “Negro (even African) roots.”85

…..This racist discourse was shaped by the reality that it was difficult for some to accept that a fecund artistic form that has attracted global attention was birthed by those of African descent. LaRocca is worthy of attention not because his meritless claims are worthy of contemplation but simply because he reflects a deep strain in the music, present at the creation, that reasserted itself continuously in succeeding decades.


…..Since mobsters were often of Italian or Jewish extraction, this often contributed to ethnic or ethno-religious attacks upon them, not least by musicians. The pianist “Jelly Roll” Morton, who said that the new music was his invention, was acerbic in declaring that “there is a new system being used to put every one out of the music business but Jews. Since the Jews are in a dominating position at this time, they are in control of the union, radio stations, publishers, booking agents & etc. . . . The union officials that’s now in office was considered Communist before they entered office & believe me they have to put most everyone out of business but the Jews or Communists . . . using Fifth Column activities in this field.”86 Experience, as the saying goes, is a harsh teacher and such was the case for these musicians subjected to brutalizing exploitation in a context of weakened working-class organization. The raconteur Al Rose said of the Negro pianist and journalist Dan Burley that “when I first met him, [he] was as racist as a black can get [sic]. He endorsed the utopian ideals of Marcus Garvey. . . . And he was sure that whites were sadistic, untrustworthy, savage, greedy . . . and most of all, stupid.”Burley’s experience—he was born in 1907 in Kentucky—led him to these conclusions.87

…..Most of the figures in the pages that follow are men—especially men of African descent—and, to a degree, this is a reflection of the fact that the music they pioneered had roots in Africa. However, this geographical arc does not explain the gender imbalance. Black women faced severe obstacles in seeking to make their mark musically. Vi Redd, born in 1928, a gifted saxophonist and vocalist, moonlighted as a teacher. Yes, Philly Joe Jones was among the male artists who often had to work in other jobs to support their art, but Redd faced an added burden, being passed up for jobs because of bias against women, men walking off the bandstand as soon as she arrived—and worse. She was forced to endure a ceaseless flow of sexual banter uttered by bandmates and fans alike. The critic Whitney Balliet, who had the ability to make—and break—careers wrote infamously that “most women lack the physical equipment to say nothing of the poise for blowing trumpets and trombones, slapping bass fiddles or beating drums.” Still, the rise of the anti–Jim Crow movement that also served to propel feminism began to change this odious scene, though echoes of the past continued to persist.88

…..Inevitably, as organized crime figures ascended in the music that from its inception was shaped by a bordello culture, African American counterparts arose to challenge them. And the bordello culture was not conducive to gender parity among musicians. By the 1960s, according to one observer, John McClain “owned L.A.’s baddest jazz club, the It Club [and] was also one of the city’s biggest drug dealers. Some say he was ‘the Black Godfather.’” This notoriety meant that he spent years in jail, but not before mentoring Dick Griffey of Solar Records, who in turn helped the twenty-first-century mogul Marion “Suge” Knight assemble Death Row Records. Reportedly, Griffey was of the opinion that “everything Suge ever thought about doing I’ve done . . . ten times.”89

…..Los Angeles, within hailing distance of Nevada, which became a headquarters for organized crime, provided a model for McClain to emulate. In the early 1940s, the musician Buddy Collette was performing in a club in L.A. when in walked an angry Mickey Cohen, a known mobster. “When he saw that the band wasn’t playing yet,” Collette recalled, “he pulled a gun. ‘I’ll give you three minutes to get on the stand!’” Suddenly, “two or three of Mickey’s guys were hitting the waiters in the head with chairs. Mickey just locked the door and told the band to play while all the fighting was going on.”90

…..However, as the rise of McClain suggested, African American initiative in this business—beyond performing—accelerated in the 1960s and thereafter with the ascendancy of the anti-Jim Crow and concomitant Black Power movement. By 1967, a Jazz Musicians Association was formed and by late 1969 they had opened a record store in Manhattan, at Avenue A and 14th Street, with pianist Horace Silver, saxophonist Jackie McLean, and pianist turned television commentator Gil Noble in attendance.91 A few months later, musicians described as “expatriate jazzmen” had started a nightclub in the Canary Islands, yet another attempt to escape the murderous likes of those like Cohen.92 A few months after that, Black musicians in Los Angeles assailed movie studio policies and organized a picket line engineered by 100 members of the Black Musicians Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They demanded a 25 percent quota in hiring, which in itself was a rebuff of the merger between the previously racially divided local affiliates of the union, the American Federation of Musicians, which included 1,100 African Americans out of a membership of 14, 000.93 By October 1970, a group of more than sixty fiery musicians led by Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Lee Morgan interrupted a taping of the Merv Griffin Show on CBS in Manhattan, demanding more jazz and other black musical expressions. This took place at the studio on Sixth Avenue and 47th Street. The “Jazz and Peoples Movement,” as they were called, entered brusquely to accusatory shouts: “In Russia, they would have put you in jail five minutes ago.”94

…..Attempts by Black artists and Black people generally to assume more control of the art form they created were not greeted with equanimity. In recounting the history of the new music, the story is told—not altogether accurately—that after Storyville, the red-light district in New Orleans, was restricted severely, musicians headed northward to Kansas City, though the serpentine Mississippi River, the water highway, would have taken them much more easily to Memphis or St. Louis. In any case, there was an efflorescence of organized crime in Kansas City that was tied to a political machine that ultimately produced a U.S. senator and president: Harry S. Truman. Into this maelstrom stepped the Negro entrepreneur with roots in Texas—Felix Payne. He began as a barber, then moved into nightclubs, where he became a partner of “Piney” Brown, a blues belter (immortalized in song by singer Big Joe Turner). Apparently, Payne was tied to a faction of organized crime in his ventures and another faction took umbrage, which led to his being kidnapped and stripped naked in January 1929 and forced to walk in sub-freezing temperatures. Payne, an amateur tennis player and NAACP donor, was also a newspaper publisher and in his newspaper glowing tributes were printed about Johnny Lazia, a crime boss ultimately slain by mob competitors in 1934. Payne was also caught up in the epochal transition of Negro voters from the party of Abraham Lincoln—the Republicans—to the Democrats, whom they continue to support overwhelmingly. Payne, during this tumultuous time, highlighted the racial segregation that was a feature of Democratic Party conventions during this era.95

…..As the example of Payne suggested, Negroes involved in the business of music felt the need to have powerful patrons, a variation (if not inversion) of the theme of “self-help.” The vibraphonist Lionel Hampton had an uncle in Chicago who worked for the gangster Al Capone, which helped to propel both his initial popularity and his ultimate success as a bandleader.96 He became a prominent supporter of U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush97 and, perhaps not accidentally, an abysmal exploiter of the musicians in his band.98 “I admired Lionel,” said the trumpeter Joe Wilder, who was employed in his band, “but I didn’t like the conditions that he created for the band. The band was treated like we were [in] shackles,” that is, “virtually in slavery.” Predictably, “you were always being reminded that if you complained about something. . . . We travel maybe two or three hundred miles and get to the town where we were going to play and instead of just checking into the hotel, he’d call a rehearsal” though “we’re tired as we can be . . . at the end of the job, he might play another 40 minutes or so overtime, for which none of us are going to be compensated. If you said anything about it, he was quick to remind you that ‘where else can you play?’ Don’t forget. There’s no place else for black musicians to play. ‘If you don’t like it here, I’ve got 500 other [musicians] who are waiting in line to play in this band.’ So you had that sort of a sword hanging over your head all the time.” Hampton studiously sought to “avoid paying the men what the job was worth . . . I very often made a statement that if slavery were coming back, I’m sure he’d be one of the first idiots to vote for it.” Wilder was with the band for six months, up to entering the Marines in 1943, which may have seemed like a respite in comparison.99

…..Naturally, crass labor exploitation led to the creation of unions of musicians to bargain collectively for improved wages and working conditions. Virtually from the inception of the new music, artists sought to organize unions, though Jim Crow often foiled their best efforts. Johnny De Droit, bandleader, born in 1892 in New Orleans, was a staunch union man since with their adequate protection “[you] know how long you’re going to play and how much you’re going to get. Before the union was organized,” he said, musicians “had to wait thirty to sixty days before they got their money.” His father organized the union as a result. Absence of a strong union led artists into problematic situations, such as recording under various names to escape adhesion contracts with record companies. 100 During the First World War era, the union sought to shape the sound of the new music by mandating that one of every five instruments had to be a string instrument, since it was thought that those who played same were thought to be not getting enough work.101

…..Union organizing was taking place in the era of Jim Crow, which meant unions organized on racial lines. It was in late 1943 that Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People contacted James Petrillo, the leader of the American Federation of Musicians. There were 673 locals or branches, he said, in the United States and Hawaii, and thirty-one in Canada (also part of the 673 total). Of these, thirty-two were designated as “so-called ‘colored’” and of the remaining 641, eight had subsidiary locals thereby admitting Negroes to a limited second-class membership. At that juncture, only two branches—those in New York City and Detroit—admitted Negroes to full membership. This inequity, White lamented, delivered “great economic loss” to African Americans and, perhaps not coincidentally, “caused competition between colored musicians and white musicians tending to lower scales for both.”102 The authorities went to great lengths to enforce Jim Crow rigidity. In 1944 in Gadsden, Alabama, unionized musicians in the band of Fletcher Henderson—a prominent African American musician—refused to allow three musicians defined as “white” to play alongside him unless they blackened their faces with burnt cork.103

…..But then as the anti–Jim Crow movement took flight, an impetus was created to merge these separate bodies of segregated unions of musicians. However, this often meant Black musicians relinquishing their treasuries and headquarters and being swallowed whole by often insensitive larger unions composed of Euro-Americans, often meaning a net loss for African Americans and souring many on the very notion of “racial integration.” This, in turn, benefited the Nation of Islam, which, in any case, was often a lonely voice opposed to what became a disastrous experiment in desegregation.104

…..The debilitating of the organized left did not leave musicians unaffected. The trumpeter Bunk Johnson, born in New Orleans in 1879, migrated to San Francisco, where he found that the “white” union barred him and other Negro musicians from playing at numerous sites. But then Harry Bridges, left-wing leader of a stevedores’ union, who was accused of being a Communist and was threatened more than once with deportation to his native Australia, offered Johnson assistance and told the union that if they did not change course he would seek to organize a competing union. Admittedly, however, Bridges’s démarche was unusual.105

…..The weakening of unions and the stubborn persistence of white supremacy was a theme, at any rate, of the historical trajectory of the music. Reinforcing these pestilent trends was the profit that inhered—for some—in this process. By 1973, the producer and impresario John Hammond was seeking to convince CBS Records, an industry giant, to reissue a two-record album of the music of Teddy Wilson. This progressive pianist, once known as the “Marxist Mozart,” because of his political predilections, made these recordings in the 1930s and, said Hammond, “was paid a hopelessly inadequate flat fee for recording without artist royalties. . . . We have, of course, made a fortune on many of the Teddy Wilson reissues featuring Billie Holiday without paying Wilson anything whatsoever.”106

…..Thus, those who hired these musicians often did quite well for themselves, and this list includes Ahmet Ertegun, the man of Turkish origin, who became captivated with the music of Duke Ellington at London’s Palladium in the early 1930s and went on to found Atlantic Records, recording such stalwarts as Dizzy Gillespie, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Charles Mingus, and John Coltrane. By 1989, he was on a first-name basis with the uber-banker David Rockefeller, whom he entertained at his lovely estate in Bodrum, Turkey, along the picturesque Aegean Sea. Numerous U.S. politicos also partook of his gracious hospitality there.107

…..It has been said of chess grandmasters that to reach that exalted status presupposes ineptitude in everything else, not least because of the time commitment required to excel. Assuredly, to gain mastery on their instruments required a like manner of time by musicians, which left little time for labor organizing or even attending to the “business” of “show business.” According to trombonist J. J. Johnson, the saxophonist John Coltrane was a “practice-aholic,” a man utterly devoted to mastering his horn. And this descriptor could be applied to those not as famous as the Philadelphian.108 His fellow saxophonist, Charlie “Bird” Parker, was said to practice almost fifteen hours daily.109 The bassist Ron Carter admitted to practicing eight hours a day.110


…..The Second World War, as we shall see, brought enormous changes to the enormous music industry, not least the shellac restrictions that limited production of recorded music on discs. This placed a premium on the value of live performances, but in 1943 Walter White of the NAACP complained to Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York City about the revocation of the license of the Savoy, a club where innovative music was being concocted by (mostly) African American artists. This was “unwise,” said White as he scoffed at the purported justification for the revocation: U.S. soldiers were contracting sexually transmitted diseases there. This could have happened at the Waldorf, he countered, referring to a posh Midtown hotel. He objected to the companion idea that “white people cannot patronize the Savoy,” which was actually a brazen attempt to enforce racist segregation since the authorities also objected to the notion that “colored and white people dance together” at the Savoy: this objection hindered dancing and contributed to the companion idea that the music played should be for listening.111 On the other hand, White, a cultural commissar of sorts, earlier had welcomed the “inducement to Negroes to study music as art rather than as entertainment which can be commercialized,” endorsing the turn toward jazz as a concert art rather than music for dancing.112

…..Still, Charles Buchanan of the Savoy was in high dudgeon about the prospect of shuttering what he termed the “world’s finest ballroom” situated at 140th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem.113  Complicating matters was a “confidential” report from the FBI warning that the U.S. Communist Party, in the process of electing the African American leader Ben Davis to the New York City Council, was “very much concerned about the closing of the Savoy” and were “taking up the cudgels.”114


…..Despite the frequent and repetitive announcements of the demise of the music we call jazz, it has persisted. In 1980 the musician and entrepreneur Dr. Billy Taylor ascertained that a “well-produced hard bop record or a reissue by a respected artist earns back production costs with U.S. sales of 5,000 to 10, 000 within one year.” Considering that the vocalist and guitarist George Benson was then selling “over a million units” gave a hint of the profits to be made when it was thought the music was withering. Grover Washington, Jr., the saxophonist, routinely sold a half million units, while the group Weather Report fluctuated between these two figures. Dexter Gordon, McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw, and Bobby Hutcherson were then reaching 50,000 to 100,000 units. A few decades earlier Theolonius Monk, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane were capable of selling 100,000 records in the United States alone. Though his music was often scorned, Atlantic Records was pleased with the sales of Ornette Coleman, as was Blue Note subsequently. Their music was derided at times as well, though Anthony Braxton and Cecil Taylor sold albums marketed by Arista that approached 20,000 in sales in the United States alone. It was not unknown for Keith Jarrett to sell 400, 000 records, with each unit selling for $16. Success in the area of 40,000 to 60,000 had been attained by Gary Burton and Jack De Johnnette. Fantasy Records survived for years on the music of Dave Brubeck, then backed Credence Clearwater Revival, a kind of rock group, which registered millions in record sales, then financed the blockbuster movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which grossed more than $100 million. Fantasy was financed by a group of investors who realized a hundredfold return on their investment. Thus Fantasy was able, at least for a good while, to circumvent the single greatest problem of an independent label: getting paid by distributors.115

…..Clive Davis of Columbia Records well knew the dynamics of the industry in which he played a major role. “Profits more than doubled in 1968, doubled again the following year and rose dramatically again in 1970,” he chortled. Simultaneously “black radio was also becoming increasingly militant; black Program Directors were refusing to see white promotion men,” forcing the hiring of more African Americans. One of his stars, trumpeter Miles Davis, released an album, Bitches Brew, that sold 400, 000 units.116

…..This bright picture notwithstanding, by 1990 executive Ahmet Ertegun said that “most current jazz recordings, which are made for the contemporary market, sell under 10,000 copies.”117 By 1991, Ertegun was distraught, lamenting that “due to the recession there is a general job freeze in the music industry and it’s even difficult for people who have had years of experience.” 118

…..The contrast between the upbeat words of Davis and the lament of Ertegun continues, as the music continues to sway. There is little doubt that as this century proceeds, digitalization will challenge the ability of musicians to make a decent living,119 though Deutsche Bank is among those predicting a continued expansion of streaming revenue, i.e. music distributed online.120 The global recorded music market has decreased significantly in recent years, reflecting the change from an analog to a digital market.121 Still, it would be a mistake to locate this crisis exclusively within the bounds of either the music industry generally or the subset that is “jazz” more particularly. The culture industry generally—including movies, museums, theater—all face unique challenges today.122

…..This ineffable point should remind us all that there are terribly destructive forces—racism, organized criminality, brutal labor exploitation, battery, debauchery, gambling—from which grew an intensely beautiful art form, today denoted as “jazz.” It is the classic instance of the lovely lotus arising from the malevolent mud. A good deal of this book concerns the mud, but in order to digest this malodorous substance as I was writing these pages, I often found myself listening to the pulchritudinous tunes of the musicians who continue to prevail against difficult odds. I recommend that readers emulate this writer. 123




Used by permission of the author and publisher.  Excerpted from Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music, by Gerald Horne.  Copyright © 2019 by Gerald Horne and published by Monthly Review Press.  All rights reserved.








  1. Buck Clayton, Buck Clayton’s Jazz World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 71.
  2. On the global trends that served to destroy slavery see, for example, Gerald Horne, Confronting Black Jacobins: The United States, the Haitian Revolution, and the Origins of the Dominican Republic (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2015); Gerald Horne, Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation (New York: New York University Press, 2013). On the global trends that served to erode Jim Crow, see, for example, Gerald Horne, Powell v. Alabama: The Scottsboro Boys and American Justice (New York: Watts, 1997); and Gerald Horne, Black Revolutionary: William Patterson and the Globalization of the African American Freedom Struggle (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013).
  3. Al Rose, Eubie Blake (New York: Schirmer, 1979), 64.
  4. Andy Fry, Paris Blues: African American Music and French Popular Music, 1920–1960 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 56–57, 93.
  5. Anna Hartwell Celenza, Jazz Italian Style: From its Origins in New Orleans to Fascist Italy and Sinatra (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 179.
  6. Benny Carter, oral history, October 13–14, 1976, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, Newark.
  7. Vanessa Gezari, “The View from Hollywood,” interview with Mark Boal, Columbia Journalism Review 55, no. 2 (2016): 42–57, 45. See also John Powell, Why You Love Music (Boston: Little, Brown, 2016).
  8. Billy Taylor and Teresa L. Reed, The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), iv. See also Maxine Gordon, Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018), 169: “In jazz history, lots of stories that become accepted as facts are memories that change over the years. . . .” Unfortunately, this tendency articulated by Ms. Gordon is not unique to histories of this musical form. See, for example, G. Michael Fenner, The Hearsay Rule (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2013).
  9. Note, Downbeat 17, no. 2 (1950):13 [aa],Reel 4, Columbia University, New York City.
  10. Leonard Feather, “The Logistics of Jazz,” n.d., Box 12, Leonard Feather Papers, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID. See also Marshal Royal and Claire Gordon, Jazz Survivor (London: Cassell, 1996): Royal’s memoir argues that the music flourished in Los Angeles, as it gained altitude in New Orleans.
  11. Von Freeman, oral history, May 23–24, 2000, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
  12. New York Herald Tribune, May 9, 1954, Dave Brubeck Papers, University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA.
  13. Eddie Barefield, oral history, February 26 1977, Missouri Historical Society, University of Missouri, Kansas City. See also Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2019: The late pianist Donald Shirley—subject of a recent award winning film—asserted that there was no improvisation in the music since musicians agreed beforehand on the harmonies. Cf. Stephen Rush, Free Jazz, Harmolodics and Ornette Coleman (New York: Routledge, 2017).
  14. Joe Rene, oral history, September 8, 1960, Tulane University.
  15. Miranda Kaufmann, Black Tudors: The Untold Story (New York: Oneworld, 2017), 10, 11: “Trumpets have been used to mark power, status, military might and even divine power in civilizations across the world. The walls of Jericho tumbled down at the sound of trumpets. The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is also known as the Feast of the Trumpets, because the Torah stipulates the day should be marked with trumpet fanfares . . . in some northern Nigeria kingdoms, the capture of the royal trumpeters effectively signaled a coup d’état . . . African musicians had been playing for European monarchs and nobility since at least the twelfth century, in a tradition that owed much to medieval Islamic courts from Spain to Syria. In 1194 turbaned black trumpeters accompanied the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI on his triumphal entry into Palermo in Sicily. . . . James IV of Scotland employed a Moorish drummer in the early years of the sixteenth century.” See also Eric Porter, What Is This Thing Called Jazz? African American Musicians as Artists, Critics, and Activists (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). I have sought to avoid mimicking the provocative and enlightening theses that are so well represented in this book.
  16. Charles Hersch, Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 5. James Lincoln Collier avers that “the world of jazz began to integrate racially in 1908,” well before the debut of Negro baseball star in 1947, Jackie Robinson, often given credit for being the premier pioneer in desegregation. It was then that “the white violinist Emile Flindt joined the black pianist Fate Marable on a riverboat . . . by 1936 Benny Goodman was offering a racially mixed group to white audiences. . . .” Times Literary Supplement [London], November 23, 2018.
  17. Pat Griffith, “The Education of Max Roach,” Downbeat 39, no. 5 (1972): 16–17. See also Kenneth Robert Janken, Rayford Logan and the Dilemma of the African American Intellectual (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 16: The pianist and bandleader, Duke Ellington, referred to his music not as “jazz” but as “Negro Music.”
  18. Philip V. Bohlman and Goffredo Plastino, eds., Jazz Worlds/World Jazz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), xiii.
  19. Artie Shaw, oral history, October 7–8, 1992, National Museum of American History.
  20. Interview with Randy Weston, Be-Bop and Beyond 2, no. 2 (1984): 16–22, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles. .
  21. Len Lyons, “Milt Jackson: Dollars and Sense,” Downbeat 42, no. 9 (1975): 14–15, 14.
  22. Maxine Gordon, Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018), 64.
  23. Tom Stoddard, Jazz on the Barbary Coast (Berkeley: Heyday, 1998), 187. On the global implications of the “candelabra,” see, for example, S. Frederick Starr, Red and Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union (New York: Limelight, 2004); Mike Zwerin, Swing Under the Nazis: Jazz as a Metaphor of Freedom (New York: Cooper Square, 2000); Michael Kater, Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Jeffrey H. Jackson, Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); George McKay, Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); Matthew F. Jordan, Le Jazz: Jazz and French Cultural Identity (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2010); Jeremy Lane, Jazz and Machine-Age Imperialism: Music, “Race,” and Intellectuals in France, 1918–1945 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014); Everett Taylor Atkins, Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001); Andrew Jones, Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001); Gwen Ansell, Soweto Blues: Jazz, Popular Music and Politics in South Africa (New York: Continuum, 2004); Steven Feld, Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012); Robin D. G. Kelley, Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012); Jason Borge, Tropical Riffs: Latin America and the Politics of Jazz (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018). The preceding notwithstanding, the book in hand focuses heavily on African American artists and their struggles.
  24. Martin Williams, “Zutty,” Downbeat 30, no. 21 (1963): 18–19, 18. Cf. Marshal Royal and Claire Gordon, Jazz Survivor (London: Cassell, 1996), 67: “It’s hard for any man in his right mind to put his finger on when jazz began. To start with, nobody knows exactly what jazz is . . . knows what the word jazz stands for, nor who the person was who named that type of music.”
  25. See Philippe Carles and Jean-Louis Comolli, Free Jazz/Black Power, (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2015) Songwriter and entrepreneur W. C. Handy, reportedly heard in Memphis as early as 1905 the kind of music that New Orleans was to claim as its own. The authors point out that the blues, work songs, spirituals, and other precursors of the new music were not the peculiar province of southern Louisiana.
  26. Vertical file on Memphis music, January 24, 1985, Memphis Public Library.
  27. Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1985.
  28. Clyde Woods, Development Arrested: The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta (New York: Verso, 1998). See also Adam Gussow, Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2017).
  29. Press Scimitar, March 28, 1958.
  30. Wayne Dowdy, Hidden History of Memphis (Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010), 13. In addition to Faulkner, the author points to the film of King Vidor, Hallelujah, made in Memphis, as an example of this Faulknerian trend.
  31. Kathy J. Ogren, “Performance Crossroads: The Significance of the Jazz Controversy for Twenties America” (PhD diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1985), 163.
  32. Jack V. Buerkle and Danny Barker, Bourbon Street Black: The New Orleans Black Jazzman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 14, 18.
  33. Stephen Longstreet, Sportin’ House New Orleans and the Jazz Story: A History of the New Orleans Sinners and the Birth of Jazz (Los Angeles: Sherburne, 1965), 165.
  34. George Malcolm Smith, “Cuban Natives . . .” Downbeat, 6(Number 3, March 1939): (8. 1939), Columbia University, New York City.
  35. Jerome Handler, “The Barbados Slave Conspiracies of 1675 and 1692,” Journal of Barbados Museum and Historical Society, 36, no. 4 (1982): 312–33, 314.
  36. Statute, August 8, 1688, in Richard Hall, ed., Acts Passed in the Island of Barbados from 1643 to 1762 (London, 1764), Barbados National Archives.
  37. Toby Gleason, ed., Music in the Air: The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 3. The musician Nick LaRocca said that the first time the word “jazz” was used was at a club in the early First World War era, when a woman shouted the term out as musicians played, declaring “jazz it up boys, give us some more jazz.” This term was then added to his band’s name: See Tempo, October 1936, John Steiner Collection, University of Chicago. The musician known as Chink Martin said that the term “jazz” had negative connotations, use of which could ignite an assault. Chink Martin, oral history, October 19, 1966, Tulane University.
  38. Emile Barnes, oral history, January 3, 1962, Tulane University.
  39. Celenza, Jazz Italian Style, 28.
  40. Marva Griffin Carter, Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 27.
  41. Diedre O’Connell, The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist: America’s Lost Musical Genius (New York: Overlook, 2009), 66.
  42. See, for example, Gerald Horne, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (New York: New York University Press, 2014); and The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018).
  43. Neil Leonard, Jazz and the White Americans: The Acceptance of a New Art Form (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 26.See also Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2019: The late Negro composer, William Grant Still, declared that the blues, from which the new music sprang, “are the secular music of the American Negro and are more purely Negroid than many spirituals. They show no European influence at all,” thus intensifying hostility among some.
  44. Celenza, Jazz Italian Style, 91.
  45. Clark Terry, oral history, June 15 and 22, 1999, National Museum of American History.
  46. Ibid. Dolphy, unfortunately, is an exemplar of the music for more reasons than one. Pianist Herbie Hancock is among those who were taken aback by the murky circumstances surrounding his tragic 1964 death in Germany. He collapsed at a performance, but when he was taken to hospital, the medical staff apparently assumed he was on drugs and “left him to detox. Eric didn’t do drugs—he was diabetic” and, consequently, he died when insulin was not administered: Herbie Hancock, Possibilities (New York: Viking, 2014), 49. The tragic consequence of being misunderstood is also a trademark of the music.
  47. Nat Hentoff, oral history, February 17–18, 2007, National Museum of American History.
  48. Whitney Balliett, “Three Tones,” The New Yorker, September 7, 1981, 39.
  49. Milt Hinton, oral history, Institute of Jazz Studies.
  50. Milton Hinton and David Borger, Bass Line: The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988), 7.
  51. William Ivy Hair, Carnival of Fury: Robert Charles and the New Orleans Race Riot of 1900 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976), 91.
  52. Elliot Meadow, “Make Room for Billy Harper,” Downbeat 38, no. 13 (1971): 16–17, 17.
  53. Interview with Ellis Marsalis, Vieux Carré Courier, June 18, 1971, Vertical File: “Racism and Jazz,” Tulane University-New Orleans.
  54. Lewis Porter, “Some Problems in Jazz Research,” Black Music Research Journal 8, no. 2 (1988): 195–206, 199.
  55. Ingrid Monson, Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) 18.
  56. Jackie McLean, oral history, July 20–21, 2001, National Museum of American History.
  57. Clipping, May 17, 1919, Box 2; and Chronology of Europe’s life, Box 1, James Reese Europe Papers, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. See also Reid Badger, A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). The ironically surnamed Europe was emblematic of the music for other reasons. He helped to invent the dance known as the “foxtrot,” organized Negro musicians into a union, and led the first African American symphony orchestra to appear at Carnegie Hall. His music was on the grand scale, boasting scores of musicians on brass and orchestral strings, voices, percussion, and a banjo choir. He played ragtime and vaudeville hits, popular marches, all while recording frequently: Financial Times [London], October 27-28, 2018.
  58. Stanley Dance, The World of Count Basie (New York: Scribner’s, 1980), 328. See also Amber R. Clifford, Queering Kansas City: Gender, Performance and the History of a Scene (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2018).
  59. Benny Golson and Jim Merod, Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2016), 183.
  60. Brian Priestley, Chasin’ the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 41, 42.
  61. George Lewis, A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), x.
  62. Charles Mingus, Beneath the Underdog: His World as Composed by Mingus (New York: Bantam, 1972).
  63. Gene Santoro, Myself When I Am Real: Life and Music of Charles Mingus (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 95, 193.
  64. Max Roach, interview, November 22, 1995, Box 51, Max Roach Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  65. John W. Sewell to Sue Mingus, February 20, 1955, Box 57, Charles Mingus Papers, Library of Congress.
  66. Noal Cohen and Michael Fitzgerald, Rat Race Blues: The Musical Life of Gigi Gryce (Berkeley: Berkeley Hill, 2002), 310, 311. See also Gay City News [New York City], August 2, 2018: Clubs in Manhattan generally—the epicenter for performance of the music—were controlled generally by organized crime figures, including the now famous Stonewall Inn, viewed widely as the site for an eruption of a new stage in the gay rights movement in 1969. Competitors of these notorious figures were at times murdered, and police officials often were bribed by mobsters. See also Martin Duberman, Stonewall (New York: Plume, 1994).
  67. Douglas Thompson, The Dark Heart of Hollywood: Glamour, Guns and Gambling—Inside the Mafia’s Global Empire (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2013), 165.
  68. John Chilton, Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant (New York: Continuum), 147.
  69. Clark Terry, Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 140.
  70. Frank R. Hayde, Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight, the Authorized Biography (Solana Beach, CA: Santa Monica Press, 2016), 35, 213, 97.
  71. Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, Miles, the Autobiography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011).
  72. New York Amsterdam News, January 3, 2019.
  73. Steven L. Isoardi, The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 25.
  74. Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2015.
  75. Ishmael Reed, “The NOI, the Mob and Sonny Liston,” Black Renaissance 15 (2015): 12–17, 13. On the conflict between the Nation of Islam and the traditional mob, see, for example, Arnett D. Waters, Black Mafia (New York: Vantage, 1973).
  76. Sonny Rollins, oral history, February 28, 2011. National Museum of American History.
  77. Panama Francis, oral history, September 13, 1978, Institute of Jazz Studies.
  78. Ted Vincent, “The Community That Gave Jazz to Chicago,” Black Music Research Journal 12, no. 1 (1992): 43–55, 47.
  79. Paul Barbarin, oral history, January 7, 1959, Tulane University.
  80. Celenza, Jazz Italian Style, 3, 12, 109. Also see Taylor with Reed, The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor, 22: “In the 1920s white artists took most of the credit for jazz. . . . On May 1, 1912 James Reese Europe gave the first-ever jazz concert at Carnegie Hall. Though rarely cited in history books.”
  81. Nick LaRocca, Tempo, October 1936, John Steiner Collection, University of Chicago. Bassist Eddie Dawson, born in 1884, said the term “jazz” was first used in bands when he was playing around Basin and Iberville in New Orleans: Eddie Dawson, oral history, August 11, 1959, Tulane University.
  82. Comment, Downbeat 4 (Number 3, March 1937): 1,4,1 (1937).
  83. Nick LaRocca, oral history, May 21, 1958, Tulane University.
  84. Johnny Lala, oral history, September 24, 1958, Tulane University.
  85. Melody Maker, March 4, 1961,
  86. Jelly Roll Morton to “Mr. Carew,” in William Russell, compiler, “Oh, Mister Jelly”: A Jelly Roll Morton Scrapbook (Copenhagen: Jazz Media, 1999), 247–48. See also Michael Gerber, Jazz Jews (Nottingham: Five Leaves, 2009).
  87. Al Rose, I Remember Jazz: Six Decades Among the Great Jazzmen (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987), 48. See also Ellie Horne to William Russell, January 10, 1944, Folder 6; and April 16, 1944, Folder 10, William Russell Papers, Williams Research Center, New Orleans.
  88. Excerpt from memoir by Vi Redd, Box 12, Leonard Feather Papers, University of Idaho-Moscow. See also Nichole T. Rustin and Sherrie Tucker, eds., Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008). On Balliett, see his undated comment in Box 147, John Steiner Collection, University of Chicago. For more on the struggle against sexism in the music, see New York Times, April 30, 2018.
  89. Touré, Never Drank the Kool-Aid: Essays (New York: Picador, 2006), 59.
  90. Buddy Collette and Steven Isoardi, Jazz Generations: A Life in American Music and Society (New York: Continuum, 2000), 52.
  91. Note, Downbeat 37, no. 2 (1970): 8.
  92. Note, Downbeat 37, no. 9 (1970): 11.
  93. Note, Downbeat 37, no. 14 (1970): 11.
  94. Note, Downbeat 37, no. 21 (1970): 12.
  95. Kansas City Star, February 20, 1990 and, Kansas City Call, January 26, 1962.
  96. New York Post, November, 1989.
  97. Hampton raising funds for the GOP presidential ticket: Jet, November 12, 1984,
  98. Daniel Silverman of National Labor Relations Board to Lionel Hampton Orchestra, August 4, 1989, Box 1, Lionel Hampton Papers: Hampton is charged with “unfair labor practices.” See also Marshal Royal, Jazz Survivor, 71: Hampton “learned early on that it was good politics to name tunes after disk jockeys. The first was ‘Jack the Bell Boy’ named for a well known late night disc jockey in Los Angeles.”
  99. Joe Wilder, oral history, August 25–26, 1992, National Museum of American History. Hampton may not have been unique in his aversion to labor organizing. See Marshal Royal, Jazz Survivor, 105: Trumpeter Reunald Jones accompanied bandleader Count Basie and was “very adept at keeping up with the union rules, the way that musicians should be treated, their pay, when extra pay was due and so on . . . he’d go down to the Union, Local 802” frequently, which “grated on Basie’s feelings” and, thus, the portly pianist “let him go. . . .”
  100. Johnny De Droit, oral history, December 4, 1969, Tulane University.
  101. Johnny De Droit, oral history, March 16, 1973, Tulane University.
  102. Walter White to James Petrillo, November 2, 1943, Box IIA347, NAACP Papers, Library of Congress.
  103. Clipping, 1944, Box 8, Leonard Feather Papers.
  104. Legal Brief by William Gould and Melvin Wulf, circa 1974, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Box 4, African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh, Oral History Project, University of Pittsburgh: Speaking for the “Black Musicians of Pittsburgh” organized in the wake of the merger of the previously separate unions, the lawyers pointed to the “statistical exclusion of blacks from Executive Board positions” in the merged union, Local 60-471 of the American Federation of Musicians, AFL–CIO. I believe, generally speaking, that the push toward desegregation was justifiable historically; however, the manner in which it was executed, often involving, as in the music business, independent Negro entities being masticated and swallowed by competitor union locals often dominated by Euro-American leaders who were not progressive, was catastrophic on a number of levels. Cf. Gerald Horne, The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett’s Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2017).
  105. Report, January 7, 1991, Folder 54, William Russell Papers, Williams Research Center-Historic New Orleans Collection. On Bridges, see Gerald Horne, Fighting in Paradise: Labor Unions, Racism and Communists in the Making of Modern Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011).
  106. John Hammond to Larry Harris, September 18, 1973, Box 37, John Hammond Papers, Yale University. According to writer A.B. Spellman, the celebrated musician Ornette Coleman—as of 1966—had made ten albums and “has never received a royalty check large enough to pay his phone bill. In fact, one company informed him in 1965 that he owed them money . . . one record of Ornette’s was reissued three times and had a gross sale of 25,000 copies,” representing a “clear case of fraud. . . .” See A.B. Spellman, Four Lives in the Bebop Business (New York: Pantheon, 1966), 111.
  107. David Rockefeller to “Dear Mica and Ahmet,” July 5, 1989, Box C1, Ahmet Ertegun Papers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives, Cleveland. Atlantic Records was once known as “The House that Ruth [Brown] Built,” in recognition of the profiteering at the expense of the talented vocalist, who had to hire the skillful attorney, Howell Begle, to litigate on her behalf in an attempt to secure adequate compensation: Washington Post, January 4, 2019, and New York Times, January 11, 2019.
  108. J. J. Johnson, oral history, February 26–27, 1994, National Museum of American History: The trombonist recalled a time when the saxophonist was playing in New York City with Miles Davis, “an hour and ten or fifteen minute set. Then they would be offstage for about forty-five minutes. As soon as they came offstage for their break, Coltrane would go into the basement area and practice until time to go back onto their bandstand, which meant he was literally playing all night long without a break.”
  109. Martin Torgoff, Bop Apocalypse: Jazz, Race, the Beats and Drugs (New York: Da Capo, 2016), 90.
  110. Ron Carter, oral history, May 16, 2011, National Museum of American History.
  111. Walter White to Fiorello La Guardia, March 23, 1943, Box IIA347, NAACP Papers.
  112. Walter White to Clarence Cameron White, December 18, 1939, Box IIA619, NAACP Papers.
  113. Memorandum from Charles Buchanan, March 29, 1943, Box IIA347, NAACP Papers.
  114. George Mulholland of the New York Police Department referencing FBI Report, May 1, 1943, Box IIA347, NAACP Papers. On Davis, see Gerald Horne, Black Liberation/Red Scare: Ben Davis and the Communist Party (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1994).
  115. Proposal for JAM: Jazz America Marketing, 1980, Box 163, Billy Taylor Papers, Library of Congress. In the same box, see also an undated “Confidential Memorandum” that says one recording session can produce multiple albums and a “break-even point” for a jazz album is between 4,000 and 8,000 units. Then there is the global market, deemed “extremely important”; thus, if 8,000 units are sold in the United States, this usually meant sales up to 5,000 in Japan, 2,000 in France, 2,000 in Italy, 3,000 in Germany.
  116. Clive Davis, Inside the Record Business (New York: Morrow, 1975), 133, 145.
  117. Ahmet Ertegun to Barbara Ross, April 24, 1990, Box C1, Ahmet Ertegun Papers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland..
  118. Ahmet Ertegun to Stell Pathouli, July 12, 1991, Ahmet Ertegun Papers.
  119. Karla Borja and Suzzanne Dieringer, “Streaming or Stealing? The Complementary Features Between Music Streaming and Music Piracy,” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services 32 (2016): 86–95.
  120. Business Week, February 11, 2019.
  121. Peter Tschmuck, The Economics of Music (Newcastle upon Tyne: Agenda, 2017), 98.
  122. Tanner Mirrlees, Hearts and Mines: The U.S. Empire’s Culture Industry (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2016).
  123. For further context that serves to illuminate this book see, for example, George Fredrickson, Racism: A Short History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); Victor Perlo, Economics of Racism U.S.A.: Roots of Black Inequality (New York: International, 1975); John Eaton, Political Economy: A Marxist Textbook (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1949).


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In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo by Bekzat Tasmagambetov/via Pexels
"The Lady Sings" - by Michael Keshigian

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem


Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.


The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the 60’s Girl Groups...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Book Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Jon Tobias’ MONARCH: Stories, and a reflection on our friendship


photo of Archie Shepp by Giovanni Piesco
The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Archie of the legendary saxophonist (and his rhythm section for the evening), taken at Amsterdam's Bimhuis on May 13, 2001.


The cover to Joni Mitchell's 1976 album Hejira [Asylum]; photo by Norman Seeff
“Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada” – a poem (for Joni Mitchell) by Juan Mobili

Click here to read more poetry published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Calling All Poets!

News about a Jerry Jazz Musician printed jazz poetry anthology, and information about submitting your poetry for consideration

Short Fiction
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician


photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”


Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.


Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – (Vol. 1)...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them.  In this initial edition featuring his story essays/reviews, Rife writes about three novels that explore challenges of the mother/daughter relationship.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

In Memoriam

Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Remembering Joe Pass: Versatile Jazz Guitar Virtuoso” – by Kenneth Parsons...On the 30th anniversary of the guitarist Joe Pass’ death, Kenneth Parsons reminds readers of his brilliant career

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

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painting by Vaino Kunnas
Jazz…in eight poems...A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

Jazz History Quiz #172

photo of Teddy Wilson by William Gottlieb
Teddy Wilson once said this about a fellow jazz pianist:

“That man had the most phenomenal musical gifts I’ve ever heard. He was miraculous. It’s like someone hitting a home run every time he picks up a bat. We became such fast friends that I was allowed to interrupt him anytime he was playing at the house parties in Toledo we used to make every night. When I asked him, he would stop and replay a passage very slowly, showing me the fingering on some of those runs of his. You just couldn’t figure them out by ear at the tempo he played them.”

Who is the pianist he is describing?


photo via
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

A new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

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