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At the Jazz Band Ball

Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene

Nat Hentoff (Author), Lewis Porter (Foreword)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 272 pages
ISBN: 9780520261136
June 2010
$48.95, £38.00
Other Formats Available:
Nat Hentoff, renowned jazz critic, civil liberties activist, and fearless contrarian—“I’m a Jewish atheist civil-libertarian pro-lifer”—has lived through much of jazz’s history and has known many of jazz’s most important figures, often as friend and confidant. Hentoff has been a tireless advocate for the neglected parts of jazz history, including forgotten sidemen and -women. This volume includes his best recent work—short essays, long interviews, and personal recollections. From Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong to Ornette Coleman and Quincy Jones, Hentoff brings the jazz greats to life and traces their art to gospel, blues, and many other forms of American music. At the Jazz Band Ball also includes Hentoff’s keen, cosmopolitan observations on a wide range of issues. The book shows how jazz and education are a vital partnership, how free expression is the essence of liberty, and how social justice issues like health care and strong civil rights and liberties keep all the arts—and all members of society—strong.
Foreword by Lewis Porter


Part One. What Am I Here For? The Rules of My Jazz Odyssey
1. Who Owns Jazz?
2. My Debt to Artie Shaw
3. The Family of Jazz
4. Beyond the Process
5. Playing Changes on Jazz Interviews

Part Two. In the Presence of Ellington
6. Inside the Ellington Band
7. Duke Ellington’s Posthumous Revenge
8. Essentially Duke (and Wynton)
9. Ellington’s Band Is Heavenly in These “Live” Forties Recordings

Part Three. Jazz Credentials
10. Is Jazz Black Music?
11. No One Else Sounded Like “Pee Wee” Russell
12. Just Call Him Thelonious
13. Remembering Dizzy
14. Oscar Peterson: A Jazz “Behemoth” Moves On
15. A Great Night in Providence for Jazz and Snow
16. The Perfect Jazz Club
17. Anita O’Day: The Life of a Music Legend
18. The Music of the 1930s Is Back in Full Swing
19. The Expansive Jazz Journey of Marian McPartland
20. Going Inside Jazz with Wynton

Part Four. The Jazz Life On and Off the Road
21. Memories Are Made of This: A Conversation with Clark Terry
22. Man, I’m So Lucky to Be a Jazz Musician: Phil Woods
23. Conventional Unwisdom about Jazz

Part Five. Who Is a Jazz Singer?
24. Are Krall and Monheit Jazz Singers?
25. Billie Holiday, Live: A Biography in Music
26. This Daughter of Jazz Is One Cool Cat
27. The Springtime of Frank Sinatra
28. Sinatra Sings in Vegas, and You Are There
29. She’s on the Road to Renown
30. Bing and Guests Swing on the Air

Part Six. The Life Force of the Music
31. The Joyous Power of Black Gospel Music
32. The Healing Power of Jazz
33. Old Country Jewish Blues and Ornette Coleman
34. The Jewish Soul of Willie “The Lion” Smith

Part Seven. Finding the First Amendment Groove
35. Satchmo’s Rap Sheet
36. The Constitution of a Jazzman
37. How Jazz Helped Hasten the Civil Rights Movement
38. The Congressman from the Land of Jazz
39. Jazz Musicians in the Public Square
40. Quincy Jones—Past, Present and Future

Part Eight. Roots
41. King Oliver in the Groove(s)
42. Giants at Play
43. Barrelhouse Chuck Goering Keeps the Blues Alive
44. Jazz’s History Is Living in Queens . . .
45. Uncovering Jazz Trails
46. Expanding the Map

Part Nine. The Survivors
47. The Thoreau of Jazz
48. A Living Memory of Dr. Art
49. Barren Days
50. Keeping Jazz—and Its Musicians—Alive
51. In New Orleans, the Saints Are Marching In Again
52. The Beating Heart of Jazz

Part Ten. The Regenerators
53. Bridging Generations
54. The Rebirth of the Hot Jazz Violin
55. The Newest Jazz Generation
56. Born in Israel
57. Theo Croker Arrives
58. The Ladies Who Swung the Band
59. Nineteen-Year-Old Saxophonist Verifies Future of Jazz

Part Eleven. The Master Teachers
60. A Complete Jazzman
61. The Lifetime Teacher: Jon Faddis
62. A House of Swing—for All Ages
63. Inside the Jazz Experience: Ron Carter
64. These Little Kids Think Coltrane Is Cool

Epilogue: My Life Lessons from the Jazz “Souls on Fire”

Nat Hentoff is an internationally known jazz critic and the only critic ever designated a Jazz Master by the NEA. He is a regular columnist for and the Wall Street Journal, the United Media Newspaper Syndicate, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow. His many books include Jazz Country; Jazz Is; The Jazz Life; Boston Boy: Growing Up with Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions; Living the Bill of Rights; and the forthcoming Is This America?
“Hentoff comes off as the cool uncle who weaves fascinating stories about historical figures. . . . His life is jazz history.”—Downbeat
“Hentoff has been following his bliss for more than 60 years. He remains optimistic about the future of jazz and the infectious nature of the music. Its power to inspire, heal and regenerate comes across vividly. Sixty Years At The Jazz Band Ball is a celebration of the music and its practitioners and challenges those who would read jazz the last rights.”—All About Jazz
“Hentoff’s interviews . . . are informed and entertaining, casual but insightful chats. . . . Hentoff, as much as any of the musicians he admires, has lived the jazz life; he understands the jazz mindset and the relationship of jazz not only to the larger culture but to the larger world. Not so much a critic as a chronicler, Hentoff is at home within the music, knows where it’s been and how it got here, and he revels in it. His gift is his ability to pass along his knowledge, wisdom and elation without sinking to condescension or verbosity. Reading Hentoff, who personally befriended many of jazz’s most legendary creators and has witnessed personally many of its landmark moments, is akin to listening to war stories from a still-sharp old uncle—except that Hentoff’s stories are better.”—Jazz Times
“So personal is Hentoff’s writing style, he makes us feel that we are on intimate terms with the likes of Duke Ellington (clearly his main man), Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ruby Braff, Dizzy Gillespie, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Marian McPartland, John Coltrane, such younger artists as singer Catherine Russell and violinist Aaron Weinstein, and even a teenage student saxophonist, the JJA’s Mikayla Gilbreath. . . . Much like the musicians he loves and admires and who have given him direction in his life, Nat Hentoff has his own voice. It is warmly personal, authoritative, sometimes curmudgeonly.”—Jja News (Jazz Journalist Assoc)
“Anyone who is interested in jazz, or potentially interested in jazz, should read Hentoff for insights and perspectives on the most important American contribution to the world of music.”—C.M. Weisenberg Choice
“Hentoff is . . . an iconic jazz writer”—Brian Priestley Jazzwise
“These sixty-four essays and articles read like a colorful potted history of jazz in America, and are peppered with rich anecdotes and first-hand stories from the mouths of the great jazz artists that Hentoff knew personally.”—All About Jazz
[Hentoff] is known for the quality and depth of his humanity in addressing the lives of the people who create jazz, an art form he believes has an energy stream of its own, a tributary to the river of life. This idea leaps out at the reader from almost every page of this work. . . . The offerings here -- a prosaic, unadulterated look into Hentoff's world view -- demonstrate that he's on the same path as the great musicians he writes about. He wants to be free, and understands that he's not unless everyone else is. He is a unique American. And a great one.”—Charleston Post & Courier
“For more than half a century, Hentoff has deftly chronicled the lives of jazz musicians, the rise of jazz music in America, and the intimate relationship between jazz and civil rights, weaving intricate rhythmic prose around themes of loss, triumph, and musical virtuosity. . . . Hentoff’s essays often generate thoughtful insights into this uniquely American musical form.”—Publishers Weekly
“Hentoff may wear his love for jazz on his sleeve, but he balances it with insight, knowledge and long experience.”—Rifftides/Artsjournalblogs
“Nat Hentoff may very well be the foremost jazz historian in the world because he was there to witness firsthand the music’s evolution from big band and swing to fusion and bossa nova; and to dive into the souls of the men and women who created it from Ellington, Basie, Miles, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington, among many others. At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene is an invaluable archive of not only the musical influence of America’s only indigenous music on the world, but its enormous impact as an engine for social change as well. It is a book that should be read by every young musician, music fan, and educator in America.”—Quincy Jones

"The very best witnesses in the worlds of the law, aesthetic evaluation, social contexts of imposing significance, and artistic public performance are those who accurately understand what they have seen or what they are seeing. Nat Hentoff has been and continues to be a star witness in every one of those arenas. One of the greatest contributions of his jazz writing is that he has never felt the need to condescend to black people or to let the dictates of sociology diminish the universal significance of what they do when they do it well. Nat knows that so many jazz musicians have done what they do superbly, quite often expressing themselves beyond the narrows of color. As sensitive to the Americana of jazz as he is to its transcendent revelations about the sound of the human heart, Nat Hentoff is part of our American luck."—Stanley Crouch

At the Jazz Band Ball is full of nuggets from Nat's rich lode of wit and wisdom, gleaned in a lifetime of fellowship with jazz and its makers.”—Dan Morgenstern, Director, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University; author of Living With Jazz: A Reader

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