*Starred Review* The scope of Alan Lomax’s protean and profoundly influential life’s work grants him the designations folklorist, musicologist, oral historian, photographer, filmmaker, recording and concert producer, anthropologist, archivist, activist, and author. But even this litany barely covers Lomax’s pioneering documentation of music born of pain and injustice, his crossing racial lines in the segregated South to collect African American songs, and his bringing folk music into the mainstream. Szwed, a biographer of Miles Davis and professor of music and jazz studies at Columbia University, gamely charts Lomax’s itinerant, messianic, world-changing endeavors, beginning with his start as his folk-music-collecting father’s assistant and on to his myriad inventive and demanding ethnomusicology projects, his barely surviving on grants and Library of Congress stipends, his run-ins with the FBI and embroilment in controversies, and his continual self-reinvention. Here are the full stories of Lomax’s pivotal relationships with Zora Neale Hurston, Lead Belly, Jelly Roll Morton, Pete Seeger, and Margaret Mead. Factually tireless and fluently analytical, Szwed gamely corrals a great river of events, efforts, and discoveries into a straight-ahead portrait of an intrepid, culture-defining artist and humanist. Driven by a voracious hunger for life and unshakable faith in art, Lomax forever sought the “flame of beauty.” --Donna Seaman
About the Author
John Szwed is the author of So What: The Life of Miles Davis and Space Is the Place: The Life and Times of Sun Ra, among other works. He is a professor of music and jazz studies at Columbia University. He lives in New York City.