All throughout April Duke University Press is celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month. Created by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2002, Jazz Appreciation Month “is intended to stimulate the current jazz scene and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz—to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and more.” We couldn’t agree more, especially the reading part!
Our copywriter Chris Robinson picks a few of our notable titles that any jazz fan will love to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month with.
Pianist Randy Weston’s autobiography African Rhythms—new in paperback—encompasses his childhood, his introduction to jazz, and his storied career. Having performed around the world, released dozens of albums, and played with the likes of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington, Weston is one of jazz’s central figures of the last fifty years.
Another autobiography to check out is pianist Horace Tapscott’s Songs of the Unsung. Although Tapscott is not as well-known as many of his contemporaries, he was crucial in developing the jazz scene in Los Angeles, having taught hundreds of young L.A. musicians and dedicating himself to raising his community up through the arts.
Steve Lacy: Conversations is a collection of thirty-four interviews with the innovative saxophonist and composer published between 1959 and 2004. Conducted by writers, critics, musicians, visual artists, a philosopher, and an architect, the interviews indicate the evolution of Lacy’s extraordinary career and thought.
And finally, Sherrie Tucker’s Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s tells the story of the numerous, yet often forgotten, “all-girl” swing bands. Filled with firsthand accounts of more than one hundred women who performed in these bands, Swing Shift describes who these talented women were, why they played music, their struggles, and why they disappeared from our national memory. Don’t miss Tucker’s new book Dance Floor Democracy, either. Read an interview with her here.
Chris Robinson is a freelance music writer, saxophonist, and holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Kansas. He has written for several publications, including Downbeat, Cuepoint, and Jazz Perspectives.