John Gennari, author of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics

August 21st, 2006

In the illustrious and richly documented history of American jazz, no figure has been more controversial than the jazz critic. Jazz critics can be revered or reviled — often both — but they should not be ignored. And while the tradition of jazz has been covered from seemingly every angle, until now, nobody has ever turned the pen back on itself to chronicle the many writers who have helped define how we listen to and how we understand jazz.

   In Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics, John Gennari provides a definitive history of jazz criticism from the 1920s to the present. The music itself is prominent in his account, as are the musicians — from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Roscoe Mitchell, and beyond. But the work takes its shape from fascinating stories of the tradition’s key critic s— Leonard Feather, Martin Williams, Whitney Balliett, Dan Morgenstern, Gary Giddins, and Stanley Crouch, among many others. Gennari shows the many ways these critics have mediated the relationship between the musicians and the audience — not merely as writers, but in many cases as producers, broadcasters, concert organizers, and public intellectuals as well.

For Gennari, the jazz tradition is not so much a collection of recordings and performances as it is a rancorous debate — the dissonant noise clamoring in response to the sounds of jazz. Against the backdrop of racial strife, class and gender issues, war, and protest that has defined the past seventy-five years in America, Blowin’ Hot and Cool brings to the fore jazz’s most vital critics and the role they have played not only in defining the history of jazz but also in shaping jazz’s significance in American culture and life.#

In an August, 2006 interview with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita, Gennari discusses his book, described by Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn author David Hajdu as “groundbreaking and essential.”




“Jazz and its history are full of dislocations, heresy, iconoclasm, and stupendous feats of imagination. Jazz criticism should be no less gloriously messy.”

– John Gennari


JJM  The history of jazz criticism is a huge topic, and one we will only be able to scratch the surface of. You wrote, “It has taken me quite some time to untangle the dynamics of influence, affiliation, and antagonism between these writers…” How difficult was this assignment?

JB  It was a huge challenge. It originated in the early 1990’s as a doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania. I finished it in 1993, and then took the better part of the next decade to put it into book form. I decided to do the book because an essay I wrote in 1991 on jazz criticism got a huge amount of attention. It was published in Black American Literature Forum — a small journal now known as African American Review — as part of a special issue called something like “The Literature of Jazz.” One of the other essays was a brilliant piece on jazz historiography by Scott Deveaux that is probably the most important writing on academic jazz studies of the last 20 years. At the time, Scott was already a tenured professor, while I was a student struggling to get through graduate school. So it astonished me that I could be published alongside Scott, providing me with the legitimacy of a scholar. When I read that essay now, it seems lacking in so many respects, but the reason it got attention was not because it was a great essay, but because there hadn’t been any effort to systematically study the history of criticism — this was happening at a time when Jazz Studies was just making its way into the university curriculum. The success of the essay made the book that much more difficult to write because I was laboring under the expectations that I would really tell this story in a comprehensive kind of way.

Since then, this field of study has really grown up, and there’s so much excellent work out there — and not just from academics, but from critics as well. To take one example: when Gary Giddins publishes a collection of essays or biographies of Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, and Bing Crosby, these are major works of cultural criticism and American cultural history.  I knew this was a big topic, and all the research was taking me in different areas. All along, I had the sense that I would have to define the borders so I could create a narrative and tell a story. And, because the topic is so big, I know there are many stories I have not told, and hopefully those will be told by others who wish to dig deeper than I was able to.

JJM  You make the case that jazz critics are more crucial to its music than rock and roll critics were to rock music. Why?

JB  In part it has to do with the differences of the two music types. During the 1930’s swing era, jazz was popular music in a way that rock became the popular music of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and on down to this moment in time. The fact there had been jazz criticism in the 1930’s helped the rock critics of the 1960’s do their thing. By the 1960’s, the idea that there should be criticism of something other than classical music — or what could have been conventionally coded as “high art music” — had already been started by the jazz critics of the 1930’s. I don’t know how familiar the important rock critics of the 1960’s were with jazz, but I do know that Greil Marcus worked with Ralph Gleason, and that Robert Christgau is an omnivorous cultural historian who knows a lot about Martin Williams, and that he also worked beside Nat Hentoff at the Village Voice for many years.

These rock critics knew of the tradition of jazz criticism, but jazz is both a vernacular music and an art music, which has been unambiguously true since the late 1930’s. Bebop and modern jazz — and even the swing music that got into Carnegie Hall — moved jazz into a different cultural sphere than the dancehall, parade, commercial, and folk music of the earlier period. So jazz has long been affiliated with modernism, which was always rubbing up against what had already been canonized as fine art. The challenge for jazz critics was to deal with the music’s vernacular sourcing and popularization, as well as its being an important art music.

JJM  Another major difference is that rock and roll came of age at a time when we could make our own judgment about the music because it was at our fingertips, exposed on radio stations up and down the dial, and, later, on television as well. Jazz, on the other hand, came of age at a time when the music was not as readily available, so fans were more reliant on reporters and critics who could bring the music and culture to the reader.

JG  That’s right. But it’s certainly true that, even though jazz had that kind of moment from 1935 to 1943 when it was this kind of huge mass cultural success, it was nothing on the same scale of what happened to rock music during the sixties. Part of that is due to corporatization and part is because of what you mentioned about the saturation of information in the media — it became a huge multi-million dollar international conglomerate.

In some respects there is a continuity between what jazz and rock accomplished, particularly if you look at it on an international scale. Jazz traveled around the globe from the beginning. There is some interesting scholarly work going on now that suggests there was a real appetite for jazz in Japan dating back to the 1920’s — until now we have thought about interest in jazz in Japan beginning post-World War II.

JJM  There were several major points throughout the development of jazz music that critics argued over. Addressing three of these points, you wrote, (1) “From the 1930s to the 1950s, critics like Roger Pryor Dodge, Rudi Blesh, and William Russell argued that real jazz had died, and the only question was whether this had happened when Louis Armstrong went to New York and became a star soloist, when Duke Ellington abandoned ‘jungle music,’ or when the big bands attracted a mass audience of jitterbugging teenagers.” (2) “When Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and their bebop revolutionary co-conspirators revved up jazz’s rhythmic and harmonic intensity and demanded to be called artists, many critics pined for the more pleasurably melodic, more evenly cadenced jazz — and the more publicly cheerful musicians — of the past,” and (3) when certain critics “assailed John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy for playing what they called ‘anti-jazz.'” I thought these points could be the framework for a conversation about the critics who were at the center of these arguments.

JG The first argument centered around what happened to jazz when it left New Orleans and landed in Chicago. Rudi Blesh was the strongest example of critics who could be called “New Orleans absolutists” — writers who built an elaborate argument about jazz being a music that took root in New Orleans among black musicians, and then saw it dying already by 1927. Blesh thought Louis Armstrong’s recordings with Earl Hines, for example, introduced harmonic ideas that were alien to this kind of purely African-American, Afro-New Orleans form of jazz that had very specific instrumentation and very specific rhythmic figurations.

It is interesting how Chicago figures into this. What we now call “classic New Orleans jazz” was actually played and recorded in Chicago. Part of that has to do with the contingencies of the recording industry during that period — New Orleans just wasn’t the place where recordings were made — and Chicago soon developed its own style in the form of a small group, collective improvisational aesthetic that Blesh, Roger Pryor Dodge, and, to a certain extent, John Hammond rallied around. Hammond is obviously a very important figure in big band music who had a major influence on Benny Goodman and Count Basie, but his aesthetic for the big band is very much tied to the idea of small group collective improvisation.


JJM Hammond’s opinion about the work of Duke Ellington is also a dividing point among critics…

JG   That’s right. The critics I have mentioned so far — Blesh, Dodge, Hammond — felt that Ellington was moving jazz in a different direction, although I would argue that Ellington was really working very much in the tradition of jazz, that he was just coming up with new concepts of blues and swing. Blesh believed that Ellington was imitating European Impressionist composers — music that he was certainly familiar with and which comes out in his concertos that spotlight the soloists and build orchestral texture behind them. He showed that he absorbed concepts of orchestral concert music, and arguments among critics were made around this. Critics like Leonard Feather, and later, Martin Williams, Nat Hentoff and others made the case that Ellington’s work had essentially further developed the original jazz idea. Blesh, on the other hand, made the argument that you simply can’t get a sixteen-piece aggregation of musicians to swing. Well, obviously Ellington, Goodman, Basie, Woody Herman, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under Wynton Marsalis, and even an avant-garde big band like William Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra these days can really swing. But I could sympathize with what Blesh was arguing because if you listen to some of the Basie band’s pieces of the late 1930’s against the music coming out of New Orleans ten years earlier, it was a difficult thing to get a larger group of musicians into a kind of rhythmic groove in the same way that it was possible for the best of the musicians in the small New Orleans groups to.

JJM Barry Ulanov was among the early critics who felt that experiment and change are in the essence of jazz…

JG  That’s right, as are Leonard Feather and Marshall Stearns, who becomes an important person in this story as well. These critics argued there was a through-line — a continuity — that connected King Oliver to Louis Armstrong and, ultimately, to bebop and small ensemble jazz. Ultimately, Rudi Blesh comes around to this view as well, and, quite interestingly, he eventually became very interested in the late 1950s jazz avant-garde. He actually felt musicians like Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, in their way, resurrected the early small group collective improvisational spirit.

In the 1940s, Feather and Ulanov were best known for their work as co-editors of Metronome, but they were also writing in other places as champions of bebop. Of course, this is actually more complicated than that because they had to weigh in on the question of big band swing well before Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie came along. Ulanov and Feather differed from someone like Hammond and lesser known critics like Eugene Williams and a young Ralph Gleason, who became known as “moldy figs” because they were somewhat suspicious about the ascent of big bands — although Gleason sort of broke from that group fairly early, having been particularly enamored with Jimmie Lunceford. Feather and Ulanov, on the other hand, felt that what Ellington was doing with the more complex orchestrated techniques was part of an organic development of the jazz tradition.

JJM You suggest in the book that there is a social dimension to this argument…

JG  Yes. Blesh’s work is extraordinary to read now because you can see how it connects with things that come much later. For example, I note that there are certain ideas about blues tonality and blues swing rhythm that appear in Blesh’s work that are quite similar to what one reads in Amiri Baraka’s Blues People, and, later, in Albert Murray’s Stomping the Blues — books that make the case for a kind of Afro-American aesthetic. Blesh is remarkably original for his time in advancing those ideas. But tied up with that was Blesh’s view about the Negro as a kind of primitive soul, which he wrote about in language that today sounds very backwards. He talks about the purity of this “primitive soul” that made somebody like Armstrong so great that he really didn’t think about what he was doing, that there was a kind of a subconsciousness about it. To people like Feather and Ulanov — liberals who were very much involved in NAACP-style racial uplift during the 1940’s — this kind of argument sounded very suspect, almost like a more sophisticated Jim Crow, where the culture celebrated the genius through this unsophisticated and unmannered “noble savage” persona rather than taking them seriously as artists who developed their own ideas and moved the art in their own direction based on many artistic and cultural influences they absorbed.

JJM  So this becomes an important part of the argument among critics as well…

JG  Yes, white liberals in particular connected the argument for a kind of aesthetic experimentalism in jazz with the intellectual creative agency of black musicians — and these critics were very tight with some of them on a personal level. For example, Ulanov traveled on the road with Ellington, and, before that, Feather served as Ellington’s publicist. I was able to speak with Ulanov about Ellington, and he talked about how awed he was by him as a thinker, and by his creative spark and range of artistic cultural reference — rooted in his own black experience, but very cosmopolitan as well.

What Ulanov was hearing from the traditionalist critics — those he referred to as “moldy figs” — sounded to him like a kind of condescension toward black musicians. This became a very interesting cultural debate that took place right around World War II, when black participation in the armed forces and labor politics led to the civil rights movement. Many of the cultural debates of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were not just about laws and legal structure of race in America, but also about black culture and black ascendancy in the jazz world of the 1930’s and 1940’s. It’s a very interesting debate, and many of the creative aesthetic choices that musicians were making were being responded to by critics in a way that had to do with the culture as well as the music.


JJM Many of these critics were at the center of the debate concerning bebop. Blesh and Ulanov were joined by a new generation of liberal critics who viewed bebop as a modernist, even political art…

JG  Yes, there was a divide among the critics, but I would argue that someone like Blesh, who was being called bad names by Feather, Ulanov and others on racial grounds, held a position that was actually more powerfully connected with the black freedom struggle than the liberals. While it is not quite so evident with Blesh as it is with the critic Charles Edward Smith, there is a very strong 1930’s Marxist strain within the traditionalist crowd.  Critics like Feather and Hammond and Ulanov argued over many things, but they were very much on the same page politically.  Hammond was certainly affiliated with the Communist Party cultural activities of the 1930s, but if you look closely you will find that he was actually very critical of the Communist Party line on jazz, and he quite deftly tried to take advantage of the popular front ideological moment to move jazz on to the center stage. He literally did that on his 1938 Spirituals to Swing concert.

Hammond was a racial liberal, and was a liberal on the question of international communism, which was generally true of the jazz critical establishment throughout this period — with the exception of someone like Ralph de Toledano, an important archconservative writer who had a way thinking about jazz in those terms as well. But other jazz critics of the era like Martin Williams and Nat Hentoff, who came together to found an important jazz journal of the late 1950’s called Jazz Review, were racial liberals (Williams, however, was a conservative on most political and social matters). Hentoff was a very important leftist — free speech and popular pluralist debate in the United States has always been an important consideration of his — and being in any way attached to the civil rights movement of the 1950’s made you a suspect liberal in the eyes of the conservative establishment.

JJM What were their opinions of bebop?

JG  When Williams and Hentoff came into jazz journalism, they were “moldy figs,” although they tried to conceal it later on. They were as suspicious of Charlie Parker when they first heard him as John Hammond and Rudy Blesh were. However, they very quickly moved to a different position, and elegantly and convincingly argued the idea of a jazz tradition that comes through the swing era and into bebop. When they first heard bebop, they didn’t think it was something that should be included in their definition of jazz, and in both Hentoff’s and Williams’ cases, they moved to a new position based both on musical and social grounds.

Williams grew up in a very conservative Virginia family, and his parents were horrified by his interest in jazz, and remained so even after he became the jazz historian at the Smithsonian. They saw his interest in black culture as a kind of treason against the family. Williams wrote about first hearing Bird, and how the assertive attitude of the beboppers was offensive to him as a southern white kid who was used to a different kind of black expressive style…

JJM  He was shocked by their attitude that came off the bandstand….

JG  Yes, he literally said that. The musicians’ confident attitude and assertiveness was not something he was accustomed to. If you look at his criticism published in Record Changer in the early 1950’s, he was definitely more drawn, at first, to the older music. He worked his way towards an appreciation of the new music during the 1950’s, and a lot of that appreciation came through Thelonious Monk, who he became smitten with. Monk is a good figure for making that transition because in many ways he was very traditional while also being so avant-garde. Coming to an understanding of this music through the traditional and avant-garde was one of the ways Williams was able to get a feeling for that aesthetic, and come to terms with bebop in a fuller way.

JJM  What about the debate that was centered around the music of the people like John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, and Ornette Coleman?

JG  Yes. The same sort of dialectic was at work in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, when someone like Leonard Feather, for instance, was initially somewhat disturbed by what he was hearing from these artists, and it took a little time for him to catch up with that. He later became something of a champion of those players. There is a sense among some of the critics — Williams in particular — that Feather was a “Johnny-come-lately” regarding his appreciation for the avant-garde style, and there was some resentment that just two years after he was writing that this music was threatening the foundation of jazz, he became the person getting the liner note commissions for some of the more “out” avant-garde recordings. At one point, Williams was actually trying to make the case that the same thing unfolded in Feather’s relationship with bebop during the 1940’s. Disentangling this kind of conflict was one of the challenges of writing this book.

It is certainly true that a new wave of modernist experimentation emerged during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, and it is also a moment when a different kind of cultural style was being promulgated by both black and white jazz musicians. Coleman, Coltrane, Dolphy, and others were cutting a different kind of profile. Bird and Gillespie and Monk and the others of their era wanted to be seen as artists and not entertainers, that is true, but if you compare them to the stage presence of someone like Ornette Coleman, it becomes clear that the beboppers were still, to a certain extent, very much part of that older entertainment tradition.

JJM  Ralph Ellison didn’t see it that way…

JG  He sort of comes into the middle of this argument. Ellison — and later Albert Murray and Stanley Crouch — have never believed that jazz musicians should move too far away from the role of entertainer, even when, at times, Armstrong played into some of the oldest kind of minstrel stereotypes. Crouch has written quite interestingly about interpreting those performances as themselves being a kind of subversive tactic against Jim Crow, rather than a capitulation to it. That was certainly the view of Ellison, when he wrote during the 1950’s. He was not at all “with” the late-1950’s avant-garde. While he could warm up to Mingus and Monk in certain ways, he felt the intellectual pose of Ornette Coleman or the hipster pose of Miles Davis in his most extreme turn-your-back-on-the-audience form was a formula for playing into the white fantasy of the “African-Americans-as-outsiders,” whereas he and his disciples want to see jazz musicians as ultimate insiders — ultimate Americans, as opposed to critics of American values and style.

JJM  As you point out, Ellison saw the jazz musician “as a heroic figure whose art is forged in the crucible of local folk experience.”

JG  Right, and that quote would be consistent with something Amiri Baraka — a writer in great conflict with Ellison — would also say about jazz musicians, but it comes out in different tones. Baraka had a sense about authentic “blackness” being oppositional to white society, a pose that Ellison felt played into the hands of the white liberal, resulting in the worst kind of white liberal fantasies about black “hipness.”

JJM  Concerning Baraka’s book Blues People— originally published when his name was LeRoi Jones — Ellison wrote, “The tremendous burden of sociology which Jones would place upon this music is enough to give even the blues the blues.” He saw very little to agree with Baraka on, even though Baraka wrote that jazz “was a music capable of reflecting not only the Negro and a black America but a white America as well.”

JG  Ellison is very much a figure of the 1950’s, and it was part of the American intellectual landscape at that time to think about art as being distinct from politics, and to make the case for American traditions in art, in particular. This may have to do with the messiness of the politics of that period, but also with the ambition to view jazz as a high American art form. The challenge for jazz criticism was to deal with both the vernacular and the high art dimensions of it, and I think Ellison and his friend Albert Murray dealt with that issue quite elegantly by advancing the theory that all artists — including jazz musicians — are heroic figures who distill important essences of the entire human experience within local communities. They formulated the idea of how a local vernacular worked its way into the sound of jazz, and how local materials get refined into a kind of universal statement, which is an enormously powerful argument — not just about jazz, but about any kind of art. At the same time, they looked for particular artists who seemed to elevate a set of expressive resources into something very sophisticated. But I do think there is a political element and ideology to this, and that there is something of a willful disingenuousness to their argument. When Ellison says that the problem with Amiri Baraka is that he’s too concerned with sociology and politics, well, Ellison had his own sociology and politics — different than Baraka’s because Baraka is much more radical than Ellison.

JJMThe politics of jazz is still a large topic within the critical community. The critic who seems to be at the center of most of the controversy is Stanley Crouch, who, in addition to being an opinion-maker about jazz, is a founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center and has been closely connected to Wynton Marsalis throughout his career…

JG I recently got through reading Considering Genius, Crouch’s new collection of writings on jazz. I read many of the pieces before, and it was interesting to read them again. He can’t help but engage in a polemic of some sort, and, even though I often disagree with him, he’s unfailingly engaging and interesting. What comes through in this collection — once you put aside the polemic — is how much he knows, which is staggering. While the newer essays are not always great — they are often sprawling and may not even have a central point — what I really love is how he chronicles the life of a jazz musician from his perspective as someone so intimately connected with jazz. He loves jazz with a passion that is almost unfathomable, and this is what comes through for me.

JJM  Throughout the history of jazz criticism, much of the conflict among the writers seems rooted in jealousy…

JG  The two critics who stick out as extremely controversial are John Hammond and Stanley Crouch. They are controversial, in part, due to the power they had to actually effect what was getting programmed and played on the scene in New York, and also because these are very impassioned men with strong opinions. Both are charismatic, and Crouch has become what Hammond was — a symbol of the jazz world beyond the jazz world. People might not know anything at all about jazz, but they have likely heard something about Wynton Marsalis, and they’ve probably heard that Stanley Crouch has something to do with what’s going on at Lincoln Center. The same was true during Hammond’s time. Most people weren’t at all interested in the hairsplitting that went on in the jazz press, but they knew about Hammond because of the profiles published in The New Yorker and Harper’s — he was “Number One Swing Man.” Well, Crouch has been swing-man number one in terms of being a non-musician public figure (or at least a non-practicing musician — Crouch is a drummer), a gatekeeper-critic, and missionary proselytizer who has been a lightning rod for the very complicated situation regarding Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center you mentioned earlier. Crouch also has a writing voice, which is not something Hammond possessed — he was not very important as a writer. There are any number of ways one can critique Stanley’s prose, but he’s got an unmistakable signature style, and there are only a few writers you can say that about.

The idea of professional jealousy that you brought up is not a new story in jazz, it has been like that since the 1940’s, and I can’t decide whether it’s gotten worse. There is always a question of authority in arts criticism, and I think this question of authority is particularly poignant in jazz. In one of his essays, Crouch quotes a musician — I believe it was Steve Kuhn — who essentially said that if you aren’t on the bandstand then you can’t hear the music, that there is something about the exchange of information between musicians on the bandstand that doesn’t really translate to the audience. Since one of the jobs of a critic is to mediate between the bandstand and the audience, and because musicians’ interactions on the bandstand are so personal and “inside,” they can feel resentment toward anyone trying to speak for them outside of that insider’s realm.

Another role for the jazz critic is to spread the news of this great American art form that has not received the acknowledgement it should and may otherwise slip into obscurity. I believe the musician understands that role. So, while they want to hold on to their insider, almost hermitically-sealed realm of creativity, they realize that if they are ever going to be known or understood, they need critics to spread their message. That is a formula for tension and resentment among critics who see someone like Crouch writing as if he is more of an authority because of his connection with Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center. He certainly comes off as someone who’s “on the bandstand,” and I think that, as much as anything else, is what other critics resent.

JJM  Your book inspired me to reread some of his work, as well as that of other critics you profile…

JG  The reason I committed myself to this book is because I believe all of these writers have undertaken an incredibly difficult task. To write about music at all is very tough, and writing about jazz is especially challenging. These writers fascinate me, and I hope my book inspires people to learn more about a Gary Giddins or a Stanley Crouch or a Dan Morgenstern, who have devoted their lives to a cultural history of jazz, which is also a history of America. More people need to reckon with that.




“Sotano Van Gogh,” by Jazzamoart

“Jazz criticism… is bigger than the jazz critic; it is nothing less than the rowdy conversation that gives jazz its incisive edge in shaping the contours of America and New World modernity. Jazz criticism is the noise — the auditory dissonance — that gives the music cultural meaning. May the noise forever clamor, and may we listen and learn.”

– John Gennari





Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics


John Gennari


About John Gennari

JJM Who was your childhood hero?

JG  I was a big sports fan when I was a kid, and I was fanatical about the Red Sox when Carl Yastrzemski played for them. I had never seen anyone look so majestic at the plate or on the field. What probably drew me to him was that he was flawed and underrated compared to other players of his generation. What I remember more than anything was how hard the Red Sox fans were on him. They would boo him pretty aggressively, but he responded to that with a lot of poise and dignity.



John Gennari is Associate Professor of English at the University of Vermont, where he also directs the ALANA U.S. Ethnic Studies Program.





Praise for Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics


“This is the secret history of jazz—groundbreaking and essential.”

– David Hajdu, author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn, and Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina




“This book belongs on the shelf of any serious fan of jazz.”

Ted Gioia, author of The History of Jazz





“I can’t think of a book on jazz that is more ambitious, more beautifully written, or more heartfelt.”

Scott Deveaux, author of The Birth of Bebop



John Gennari products at


Interview took place on August 21, 2006


If you enjoyed this interview, you may want to read our interview with jazz historian Dan Morgenstern, our conversation on jazz criticism with jazz critic Gary Giddins, and Blues For Clement Greenberg, a roundtable discussion on jazz criticism featuring Stanley Crouch.





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“Wolfman and The Righteous Brothers” – a poem by John Briscoe

Jazz History Quiz #167

GuardianH, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Before becoming one of television’s biggest stars, he was a competent ragtime and jazz piano player greatly influenced by Scott Joplin (pictured), and employed a band of New Orleans musicians similar to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band to play during his vaudeville revue. Who was he?

Short Fiction

photo via PIXNIO/CC0
“The Sound Barrier” – a short story by Bex Hansen

Short Fiction

back cover of Diana Krall's album "The Girl in the Other Room" [Verve]
“Improvised: A life in 7ths, 9ths and Suspended 4ths” – a short story by Vikki C.


photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Long regarded as jazz music’s most eminent baritone saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan was a central figure in “cool” jazz whose contributions to it also included his important work as a composer and arranger. Noted jazz scholar Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950s Quartets, and Jerry Jazz Musician contributing writer Bob Hecht discuss Mulligan’s unique contributions to modern jazz.


photo by Giovanni Piesco
Giovanni Piesco’s photographs of Tristan Honsinger


Maurice Mickle considers jazz venues, in two poems

In Memoriam

David Becker, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
“Tony Bennett, In Memoriam” – a poem by Erren Kelly


IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ella Fitzgerald, in poems by Claire Andreani and Michael L. Newell

Book Excerpt

“Chick” Webb was one of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the “Savoy King,” who reigned at Harlem’s world-famous Savoy Ballroom. Stephanie Stein Crease is the first to fully tell Webb’s story in her biography, Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America…The book’s entire introduction is excerpted here.


Hans Christian Hagedorn, professor for German and Comparative Literature at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Ciudad Real (Spain) reveals the remarkable presence of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote in the history of jazz.

Short Fiction

Dmitry Rozhkov, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
“A Skull on the Moscow Leningrad Sleeper” – a short story by Robert Kibble...A story revolving around a jazz record which means so much to a couple that they risk being discovered while attempting to escape the Soviet Union

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music, by Henry Threadgill and Brent Hayes Edwards

Short Fiction

photo via
“Streamline Moderne” – a short story by Amadea Tanner

Publisher’s Notes

“C’est Si Bon” – at trip's end, a D-Day experience, and an abundance of gratitude


photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
A Charlie Parker Poetry Collection...Nine poets, nine poems on the leading figure in the development of bebop…

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


Photo of Stanley Crouch by Michael Jackson
Interview with Glenn Mott, editor of Victory is Assured: The Uncollected Writings of Stanley Crouch (photo of Stanley Crouch by Michael Jackson)


photo of Sonny Rollins by Brian McMillen
Interview with Aidan Levy, author of Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins...The author discusses his book about the iconic tenor saxophonist who is one of the greatest jazz improvisers of all time – a lasting link to the golden age of jazz


Designed for Dancing: How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance: “Outtakes” — Vol. 2...In this edition, the authors Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder share examples of Cha Cha Cha record album covers that didn't make the final cut in their book

Pressed for All Time

“Pressed For All Time,” Vol. 17 — producer Joel Dorn on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 1967 album, The Inflated Tear


© Veryl Oakland
John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana are featured in this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book, Jazz in Available Light

Coming Soon

An interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song; A new collection of jazz poetry; 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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