Category Archives: music

Easily Slip into Another World: A Life in Music

By Henry Threadgill and Brent Hayes Edwards (2023)

Henry Threadgill recalls his childhood and upbringing in Chicago, his family life and education, and his brilliant career in music. Here are riveting recollections of the music scene in Chicago in the early 1960s, when Threadgill developed his craft among friends and schoolmates who would go on to form the core of the highly influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM); the year and a half he spent touring with an evangelical preacher in the mid-1960s; his military service in Vietnam—a riveting tale in itself, but also representative of an under-recognized aspect of jazz history, given the number of musicians in Threadgill’s generation who served in the armed forces.

We appreciate his genius as he travels to the Netherlands, Venezuela, Trinidad, Sicily, and Goa enriching his art; immerses himself in the volatile downtown scene in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s; collaborates with choreographers, writers, and theater directors as well as an astonishing range of musicians, from AACM stalwarts (Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, and Leroy Jenkins), to Chicago bluesmen, downtown luminaries, and world music innovators; shares his impressions of the recording industry his perspectives on music education and the history of Black music in the United States; and, of course, accounts for his work with the various ensembles he has directed over the past five decades.

Posted in biography, culture, music

Fluxus Forms: Scores, Multiples, and the Eternal Network

By Natilee Harren (2020)

While today the Fluxus collective is recognized for its radical neo-avant-garde works of performance, publishing, and relational art and its experimental, interdisciplinary approach, it was not taken seriously in its own time. With Fluxus Forms, Natilee Harren captures the magnetic energy of Fluxus activities and collaborations that emerged at the intersections of art, music, performance, and literature. The book offers insight into the nature of art in the 1960s as it traces the international development of the collective’s unique intermedia works — including event scores and Fluxbox multiples — that irreversibly expanded the boundaries of contemporary art.

Posted in art, culture, design, history, media, music, printmaking

Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews

By Arthur Taylor (1977)

Notes and Tones consists of no-holds-barred conversations which drummer Arthur Taylor held with the most influential jazz musicians of the 1960s and 70s. Free to speak their minds, these musicians offer startling insights into their music, their lives, and the creative process itself.

Posted in biography, culture, history, interview, music

Monument Eternal: The Music of Alice Coltrane

By Franya J. Berkman (2010)

Alice Coltrane was a composer, improviser, guru, and widow of John Coltrane. Over the course of her musical life, she synthesized a wide range of musical genres including gospel, rhythm-and-blues, bebop, free jazz, Indian devotional song, and Western art music. Her childhood experiences playing for African-American congregations in Detroit, the ecstatic and avant-garde improvisations she performed on the bandstand with her husband John Coltrane, and her religious pilgrimages to India reveal themselves on more than twenty albums of original music for the Impulse and Warner Brothers labels.

In the late 1970s Alice Coltrane became a swami, directing an alternative spiritual community in Southern California. Exploring her transformation from Alice McLeod, Detroit church pianist and bebopper, to guru Swami Turiya Sangitananda, Monument Eternal illuminates her music and, in turn, reveals the exceptional fluidity of American religious practices in the second half of the twentieth century. Most of all, this book celebrates the hybrid music of an exceptional, boundary-crossing African-American artist.

Posted in biography, music

Four Lives in the Bebop Business


By A.B. Spellman (1967)

This book offers biographical sketches and quotations from four musicians: Herbie Nichols, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Jackie McLean.

Posted in biography, interview, music

Something to Take My Place: The Art of Lonnie Holley

Edited by Mark Sloan (2016)

Lonnie Holley (born 1950), acclaimed by The New York Times as “the Insider’s Outsider,” is best known for his assemblage sculptures incorporating natural and man-made materials, often cast off or discarded; he has recently also begun to make music, through the Dust-to-Digital label. Legendary for his environmental assemblage that spread over two acres of his property in Birmingham, Alabama―now destroyed―Holley scavenges and repurposes found objects in the service of a personal philosophy of renewal and rejuvenation. This is the first monograph on Holley’s work in more than a decade. Illustrated with reproductions of more than 70 of Holley’s sculptures, it provides a comprehensive overview of Holley’s art, life and philosophy, with essays by Mark Sloan, Leslie Umberger, Bernard L. Herman and an “as-told-to” autobiography recorded by noted oral historian Theodore Rosengarten.

Posted in art, biography, culture, exhibition, music

Space Is the Place: The Lives And Times Of Sun Ra

By John F. Szwed (1998)

Sun Ra, a.k.a. Herman Poole “Sonny” Blount (1914–1993), has been hailed as “one of the great big-band leaders, pianists, and surrealists of jazz” (New York Times) and as “the missing link between Duke Ellington and Public Enemy” (Rolling Stone). Composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, poet, and self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, Sun Ra led his “Intergalactic Arkestra” of thirty-plus musicians in a career that ranged from boogie-woogie and swing to be-bop, free jazz, fusion, and New Age music. This definitive biography reveals the life, philosophy, and musical growth of one of the twentieth century’s greatest avant-garde musicians.

Posted in art, biography, music, myth, science

ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman


By Laurie Pepper (2014)

Art Pepper told his sexy, sordid, and exciting true adventure stories to his lover, Laurie, who put them in a book. She quizzed him (and those who knew him) unrelentingly over seven years, editing and structuring a narrative to which she dedicated all her energy. Straight Life by Art and Laurie Pepper was published in 1979. It was a critical success and remains a classic of its kind, the subject of college literary and music studies. Laurie went on to marry Art and manage his resurgent career, touring the world with his band. ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman describes her marriage to the deeply troubled, drug-addicted, madly gifted artist. “That marriage was the making of me,” says Laurie. “Some people go to grad school or join the Marines. I married a genius who valued and inspired me and challenged me to use MY gifts. We had a difficult, powerful partnership. I had to tell that story.” She says she also needs to set the record straight and clarify her role: “People think I was some kind of little wifey-saint who rescued him. And Art encouraged them in that. But he knew how truly crazy I could be. We rescued each other.”

Posted in biography, music, photography

Straight Life: The Story Of Art Pepper

By Art and Laurie Pepper (1979)

Art Pepper (1925–1982) was called the greatest alto saxophonist of the post-Charlie Parker generation. But his autobiography, Straight Life, is much more than a jazz book—it is one of the most explosive, yet one of the most lyrical, of all autobiographies.

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Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

By Terry Teachout (2013)

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century—and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm.

Posted in biography, music