From Publishers Weekly
Many people don't realize that novelist Ralph Ellison, best-known as the author of Invisible Man, was first an accomplished trumpeter and a student of musical composition, especially jazz. In Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings, literature and jazz scholar Robert O'Meally, founder and director of the Center for Jazz Studies, has collected the best of this oeuvre in a volume that includes profiles of jazz greats like Charlie Parker, meditations on jazz classics, music-related selections from Ellison's fiction and a foreword by Wynton Marsalis. No Ellison fan or jazz aficionado should ignore this book, in which the novelist eloquently conveys the profound role that music has played in the lives of black Americans. As he wrote in the title essay, "it was either live with music or die with noise, and we chose rather desperately to live."
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Ellison (1914-94) developed his love of music during his childhood in Oklahoma City, a bastion of Southwestern jazz in the 1920s and 1930s and the home of Jimmy Rushing, Charlie Christian, and the famous Blue Devils. As a young man, he lived with music, listening to it, analyzing it, and mingling with performers in the hopes of becoming one himself (he became a trumpeter). As editor O'Meally (Zora Neale Hurston Professor of Comparative Literature, Columbia Univ.) makes clear, jazz influenced both his thinking and writing. This fine collection consists mainly of previously uncollected jazz writings, among them "On Bird, Bird-Watching, and Jazz" and "Homage to Duke Ellington on His Birthday." These interesting and highly personal pieces offer details about a bygone era as well as insights into the formation of Ellison's mind and the writing of Invisible Man and other fiction in which jazz and its processes figured so strongly. Supplementing these are some pertinent short stories and excerpts from Ellison's novels, three interviews, and several letters all of which contribute to O'Meally's well-conceived design. In addition, O'Meally's illuminating introductions vastly enhance this work. Highly recommended.- Harold V. Cordry, Baldwin, KS
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.