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The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music

Amiri Baraka (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 426 pages
ISBN: 9780520265820
May 2009
$24.95, £20.00
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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.

Part One: Essays

1. Griot/Djali: Poetry, Music, History, Message
2. Miles Later
3. The “Blues Aesthetic” and the “Black Aesthetic”: Aesthetics as the Continuing Political History of a Culture
4. Blues People: Looking Both Ways
5. Rhythm
6. The American Popular Song: “The Great American Song Book”
7. Blues Line
8. Cosby and the Music
9. Nina Returns
10. Jazz Criticism and Its Effect on the Music
11. Not “the Boss”: Bruce Springsteen
12. Wynton Marsalis: Black Codes (from the Underground)
13. “The International Business of Jazz” and the Need for the Cooperative and Collective Self-Development of an International People’s Culture
14. Newark’s’ “Coast” and the Hidden Legacy of Urban Culture
15. Black Music as a Force for Social Change
16. What You Mean, DuWop?
17. Classical American Music
18. Singers and the Music (A Theater Piece)
19. Newark’s Influence on American Music
20. Black Music in Newark: A Proposal
21. Bopera Theory
22. “Jazz and the White Critic”: Thirty Years Later
23. Random Notes on the Last Decade

Part Two: Great Musicians

24. Panthalassa: Miles Davis
25. When Miles Split!
26. David Murray, Ming’s Samba
27. David Murray, Fo Deuk Revue
28. David Murray, Addenda to a Concert
29. On Reissuing Trane
30. John Coltrane: Why His Legacy Continues
31. Some Memories of Alan Shorter: Interview with Wayne Shorter
32. High Art: Art Tatum
33. Max Roach at the Iridium
34. Paris Max
35. The Great Max Roach
36. Billie Holiday
37. The High Priest of Be Bop
38. Eric Dolphy: A Note
39. Jackie Mc
40. It Ain’t about You
41. You Ever Hear Albert Ayler?
42. Albert’s Will
43. Sassy Was Definitely Not the Avon Lady
44. Fred
45. Fred Hopkins’s Memorial
46. Duke Ellington: The Music’s “Great Spirit”
47. Duke Was a Very Great Pianist!
48. Blind Tom: The Continuity of Americana
49. Don Pullen Leaves Us
50. Black History Month Rediscovers “the Music” in New York City
51. Black History Month Rediscovers “the Music,” Part 2: The Charles Tolliver Big Band at the Jazz Standard
52. Wonderful Stevie
53. Abbey Lincoln
54. Four Tough Good-byes: Jackie McLean, John Hicks, Hilton Ruiz, Halim Suliman

Part Three: Notes, Reviews, and Observations

55. Impulse Sampler, Act on Impulse
56. Ralph Peterson
57. Andrew Cyrille, Good to Go
58. Odean Pope Saxophone Choir, Epitome
59. Ravi Coltrane, Moving Pictures
60. Donal Fox and David Murray, Ugly Beauty
61. Tyrone Jefferson, Connections
62. James Moody
63. Barry Harris: In the Tradition
64. Pharoah Sanders, Shukuru
65. Don Pullen–George Adams Quartet, Breakthrough
66. Von and Chico Freeman, Freeman and Freeman
67. Alan Shorter, Orgasm
68. The Work Man: Reggie Workman
69. Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory
70. Jimmy Scott, But Beautiful
71. Malachi Thompson, Talking Horns
72. The Nexus Orchestra, Seize the Time
73. Three Fresh Ticklers
74. Rodney Kendrick, Last Chance for Common Sense
75. Jazz Times Review, Multiple Artists
76. More Young Bloods to the Rescue!
77. Vijay Iyer, Memorophilia
78. TriFactor, If You Believe
79. Live Lessons
80. New York Art Quintet
81. Peter Brötzmann, Nipples, and Joe McPhee, Nation Time
82. Jon Jang and David Murray, River of Life
83. Trio Three, Encounter
84. Jackie Mc—Coming and Going
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.
“A major contribution to both African American literature and American music criticism.”—African American Review
“Meditations on black music, primarily jazz, that American classical music, that will satisfy anyone who desires intelligent thought on the genre.”—Colin Cooper Beat Scene Magazine
“Virtually everything here is as lively and compelling as his strongest work of the past, and a trio of takes on Albert Ayler are together, I would argue, the most incisive, definitive, magical, true portrait of a jazzman and his music—of any era—ever writ. (Believe it.)”—Richard Meltzer The Oregonian
“There is much to recommend in this excellent volume of essays.”—Magill's Literary Annual / Salem Press
“Digging will prove an important book. But while the usual tastemakers get around to acknowledging as much, . . . enjoy the liveliness of Baraka’s writing and the life demonstrated in its mixings of Black and White, high and low, American and global cultures.”—Cadence Magazine (2)
“Through essays, observations and a focus on great musicians, Amiri Baraka offers up history, musical analyses and a political commentary as they relate to African-American music and culture.”—Goldmine Magazine
“One-time New Jersey poet laureate, one-time pioneer of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem . . . Amiri Baraka has always been a crossover artist of sorts. This is not to suggest that he has ever gone “pop;” in fact, by virtue of the title “pioneer” he has by definition taken the road less popular.”—Albuquerque Arts
“Baraka's 1963 book Blues People (written as Leroi Jones) is a landmark work of criticism on American music, and Digging offers a generous selection of recent writing undertaken in the same spirit of intellectual engagement, political advocacy, and ardent fandom.”—Ryan Michael Williams Foreword
"As a commentator on American music, and African American music in particular, Baraka occupies a unique niche. His intelligence, critical sense, passion, strong political stances, involvement with musicians and in the musical world, as well as in his community, give his work a quality unlike any other. As a reviewer and as someone inside the movement, he writes powerfully about music as few others can or do."—Steven L. Isoardi, author of Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles

"Every jazz musician who has endured beyond changing fashions and warring cultures has had a signature sound. Amiri Baraka—from the very beginning of his challenging, fiery presence on the jazz scene—has brought probing light, between his off-putting thunderclaps, on what is indeed America's classical music. I sometimes disagree insistently with Amiri, and it's mutual; but when he gets past his parochial pyrotechnics, as in choruses in this book, he brings you into the life force of this music."—Nat Hentoff, author of The Jazz Life

Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism, Jazz Journalists Association

American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation

PROSE AWARD, Association of American Publishers, Inc.

Finalist for the Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism Award, Jazz Journalists Association

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