by Amiri Baraka
For almost half a century, Amiri Baraka has ranked among the most important commentators on African American music and culture. In this brilliant assemblage of his writings on music, the first such collection in nearly twenty years, Baraka blends autobiography, history, musical analysis, and political commentary to recall the sounds, people, times, and places he's encountered. As in his earlier classics, Blues People and Black Music, Baraka offers essays on the famous--Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane--and on those whose names are known mainly by jazz aficionados--Alan Shorter, Jon Jang, and Malachi Thompson. Baraka's literary style, with its deep roots in poetry, makes palpable his love and respect for his jazz musician friends. His energy and enthusiasm show us again how much Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and the others he lovingly considers mattered. He brings home to us how music itself matters, and how musicians carry and extend that knowledge from generation to generation, providing us, their listeners, with a sense of meaning and belonging.
Brian Sherman - Library Journal
Poet, playwright, and music critic Baraka (Blues People: Negro Music in White America) delivers another critical work on America's classical music, jazz, in his almost lyrical style of writing. Through previously published essays, reviews, and liner notes, he explores the cultural development of jazz music with respect to African American artists, the minstrel treatment of African American music, and the charged environment of its creation. His encounters with music greats, such as Nina Simone, and actor Bill Cosby pave a road of exploration to how some artists were affected by this treatment. Charged interpretations of how the music evolves into other forms are packaged with artist biographies and trees illustrating how these artists influenced others. Coltrane and Monk are among those discussed, and even Springsteen is found on the fringes of Baraka's commentary. Music lovers as well as anyone interested in African American culture will dig this book; academic libraries will find it suitable for history, music, and sociology programs.
Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) is a writer and critic, the poet laureate of New Jersey, and Professor Emeritus of the State University of New York, Stony Brook. His many books include Blues People, Black Music, and The Music.
Hardcover: 436 pages