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Studs Terkel is the author of twelve books of oral history, including, most recently, And They All Sang (The New Press). Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters, he was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. He lives in Chicago.
This book is well written (meaning: quite readable), but too simple for any serious jazz buff; it can be a nice intro for a younger reader who likes music and wants to find out about the canon of classical jazz.
The tales of King Oliver, Armstrong, Ellington, Gillespie, Goodman, Woody Herman, Holiday, Coltrane and others will probably entertain those who don't know much about the lives and music of the protagonists, the rest should skip this book.
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Recently I have been on a tear reviewing the works of the recently departed Studs Terkel. As is the case, usually, when I get "hot" on an author I grab everything I can get my hands on and read it in no particular order. That is the case here. Terkel, widely known and deservedly so, as the author of oral histories concerning the pressing social issues of class, race and gender of working people (in the main)in America was also in his earlier career a popular Chicago disc jockey concentrating on jazz (and a little blues and folk as they intersected jazz). I had not previously known of that part of Studs' life and only became aware of it through reading his last work, a memoir of sorts but really a series of connected vignettes, "Touch and Go" (well worth reading by the way as background to his interest in the jazz figures highlighted here). Previously my knowledge of jazz was formed by the likes of Nat Hentoff and John Hammond. Apparently I have to revise this list to include Studs.
Why? As a member of the Generation of '68 my tastes were formed by blues, folk and early rock and roll and only incidentally by jazz. However, once one delves into the roots of all of these forms one can only understand the attractions when one sees the influences all those forms had on each other. Without going into a dissertation on the subject (useless in any case) jazz is a core beat that expressed one form of music that had its roots in the South, among blacks and was a reflection of the rural life that was being left behind as America became more industrialized. Jazz is the music of the city, as blues is (before World War II at least) the music of the southern countryside. But enough.Read more ›