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In the essay “Jazz and the White Critic” LeRoi Jones observes: “Most jazz critics have been white Americans, but most important jazz musicians have not been.” In Black Music, his perceptive and provocative collection of articles, reviews, profiles, interviews, liner notes, and new essays, Jones has offered a remedy of sorts. In brilliant discussions of Billie Holiday, In the essay “Jazz and the White Critic” LeRoi Jones observes: “Most jazz critics have been white Americans, but most important jazz musicians have not been.” In Black Music, his perceptive and provocative collection of articles, reviews, profiles, interviews, liner notes, and new essays, Jones has offered a remedy of sorts. In brilliant discussions of Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, and Sun-Ra, he examines each musician’s personality, background, musical ambitions, accomplishments, and disappointments, to illuminate both the context and spirit of jazz.


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In the essay “Jazz and the White Critic” LeRoi Jones observes: “Most jazz critics have been white Americans, but most important jazz musicians have not been.” In Black Music, his perceptive and provocative collection of articles, reviews, profiles, interviews, liner notes, and new essays, Jones has offered a remedy of sorts. In brilliant discussions of Billie Holiday, In the essay “Jazz and the White Critic” LeRoi Jones observes: “Most jazz critics have been white Americans, but most important jazz musicians have not been.” In Black Music, his perceptive and provocative collection of articles, reviews, profiles, interviews, liner notes, and new essays, Jones has offered a remedy of sorts. In brilliant discussions of Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, and Sun-Ra, he examines each musician’s personality, background, musical ambitions, accomplishments, and disappointments, to illuminate both the context and spirit of jazz.

30 review for Black Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peter Landau

    Anyone who writes a play called “The Toilet” is okay by me. I first discovered Amiri Baraka in high school as a playwright but only much later did I learn he was also a music critic under his old name LeRoi Jones. BLACK MUSIC is a collection of his writings on “the new thing,” jazz of the late 1950s into the mid-1960s. He champions all the out-there expressionists in language that pushes for the extremes, with a point that is worked razor sharp. It’s a fun read and made he go back and listen to Anyone who writes a play called “The Toilet” is okay by me. I first discovered Amiri Baraka in high school as a playwright but only much later did I learn he was also a music critic under his old name LeRoi Jones. BLACK MUSIC is a collection of his writings on “the new thing,” jazz of the late 1950s into the mid-1960s. He champions all the out-there expressionists in language that pushes for the extremes, with a point that is worked razor sharp. It’s a fun read and made he go back and listen to all the giants who walked among us then.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Omar

    Gran libro sobre música, raza y política. Una adecuada manera de recuperar el legado musical más importante del siglo xx

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Crompton

    I've had this book since I was a teenager, and had read bits and pieces over the years, but had never read it from cover to cover until now. It's a collection of LeRoi Jones' (aka Amiri Baraka) 1961-67 short pieces on jazz - magazine articles, liner notes, record reviews, etc. On reading the whole shebang, I found it interesting, dated, enlightening, and exasperating in turn. Part of the "exasperating" part came from Baraka's pat dismissal of music he didn't like. I'll cite just one example. In I've had this book since I was a teenager, and had read bits and pieces over the years, but had never read it from cover to cover until now. It's a collection of LeRoi Jones' (aka Amiri Baraka) 1961-67 short pieces on jazz - magazine articles, liner notes, record reviews, etc. On reading the whole shebang, I found it interesting, dated, enlightening, and exasperating in turn. Part of the "exasperating" part came from Baraka's pat dismissal of music he didn't like. I'll cite just one example. In his review of Into the Hot, a 1961 album that was split between Cecil Taylor and John Carisi, Baraka goes into great detail about Taylor's pieces, and is quite insightful about the strength and importance of these recordings. Then he dismisses Carisi's quite beautiful half of the record with one sentence: "John Carisi's music is cool progressive, you dig?" But rather than dwell on the negatives, here are some positive or interesting things I found in these pages: The 1963 essay "Jazz and the White Critic," which was not the angry diatribe I expected, but a thoughtful examination of the relationship between music and culture. Early profiles of Wayne Shorter, Dennis Charles, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, and Bobby Bradford, and a mid-career portrait of Roy Haynes. "The Dark Lady of the Sonnets," his liner notes to a Billie Holiday album - as deep and oblique as one would expect from a poet of Baraka's caliber. A 1961 piece called "The Jazz Avant-Garde," which is dated, wrong about a lot of things, and utterly fascinating as a report from the front lines as "the new thing" was developing. For those interested in the 1960s free jazz scene, this book is well worth reading. Just be warned that everything has not held up equally well. And that the last essay, "The Changing Same (R & B and the New Black Music)" is kind of a mess.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    From his perch in and above the Five Spot in the 50's and 60's, Baraka saw players like John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman take shape. This collection of jazz and cultural criticism from that time is sharp, passionate, and wry: "His accents are from immediate emotional necessity rather than the sometimes hackneyed demands of a pre-stated meter, in which one cymbal is beat on coyly in the name of some fashionable soulforce." Interviews with the vanguard of the New Music are insightful, as Baraka From his perch in and above the Five Spot in the 50's and 60's, Baraka saw players like John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman take shape. This collection of jazz and cultural criticism from that time is sharp, passionate, and wry: "His accents are from immediate emotional necessity rather than the sometimes hackneyed demands of a pre-stated meter, in which one cymbal is beat on coyly in the name of some fashionable soulforce." Interviews with the vanguard of the New Music are insightful, as Baraka gives these intellectual, spiritual musicians wide berth to reflect on the experience of being a black musician in America. Baraka himself writes that "Black Music is African in origin, African-American in totality". Hence jazz music, American music, is powered by an "impulse, the force that pushes you to sing," that "makes reference to a central body of cultural experience". The African experience on American shores. Baraka digs the music deeply; listening to Coltrane in Birdland evokes an exuberant challenge to the hip: "If you can hear, this music will make you think a lot of weird and wonderful things. You might even become one of them."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Josh Sinton

    Indispensable for students of American music. Amiri Baraka is one of the grand deans of music and cultural criticism. This book presents a sizable swath of his writings from the late 50's through the early 70's. While his prose can get a little 'purple,' it's far more readable than many others mining the same area. It's a highly useful text when discussing the current culture wars in American music.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Strong, mostly short essays, especially those that point out the failures of jazz criticism. Built for those who already have a solid foundation in jazz musicians/history.

  7. 4 out of 5

    patty

    DIG THIS !!! What can I say that others haven't already said about this book? A must-read for any fan of bebop jazz.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Goff

    The "new" music of the avant garde jazz had many detractors and critics. LeRoi Jones became a champion and defender of a new wave of jazz. Jones literally lived with this music living above the iconic Five Spot in the 50's and 60's. This book is not ONLY jazz writing and reviews. It is also at times a political statement against the racism that informed jazz criticism and writing from that time. "Jazz And The White Critic" the first essay contained in this collection should give you some idea of The "new" music of the avant garde jazz had many detractors and critics. LeRoi Jones became a champion and defender of a new wave of jazz. Jones literally lived with this music living above the iconic Five Spot in the 50's and 60's. This book is not ONLY jazz writing and reviews. It is also at times a political statement against the racism that informed jazz criticism and writing from that time. "Jazz And The White Critic" the first essay contained in this collection should give you some idea of what to expect. Jones makes scathing indictments of the establishment that both wants to judge music based on European standards rather than the African-American standards of which this music is based. Jones writes with a knowing eye as not only did he listen to these giants of the new wave, Coltrane, Murray, Sun Ra, Taylor, Coleman, etc. he also knew them on a personal level so rather than feeling detached from the proceedings you are getting essays from a true insider. I liked this book so much I got "Blues People" by Jones as well. Review of that one forthcoming.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laurent Groove

    Excelente libro sobre la historia del jazz consta desde lo más pequeño desde los jams desde conversaciones importantes que marcaron la historia ! Es el mejor crítico de jazz que he leído hasta el momento.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Although Jones can come of as pretty pretentious at times, I learned a lot about music and jazz. I'm grateful for this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marco

    La forma que Amiri Baraka te describe la musica de esa epoca da pie a que uno anhele estar ahi

  12. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    Great read It helps that all of the musician mentioned I am a huge fan of.I highly recommend.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gaius

    Amiri Baraka weirdly (though maybe not so weirdly) is one of the best music writers of the 20th century. His "Blues People" is a masterpiece, and this book is its underrated cousin. It is a collection of Baraka's articles and reviews of the then contemporary jazz. This was the 60s, when jazz was going through one of its greatest and revolutionary transformations, from the modal to the avant-garde and finally to free jazz, a sub-genre that challenges music listeners to this day. Even people who Amiri Baraka weirdly (though maybe not so weirdly) is one of the best music writers of the 20th century. His "Blues People" is a masterpiece, and this book is its underrated cousin. It is a collection of Baraka's articles and reviews of the then contemporary jazz. This was the 60s, when jazz was going through one of its greatest and revolutionary transformations, from the modal to the avant-garde and finally to free jazz, a sub-genre that challenges music listeners to this day. Even people who listen to the heaviest, dirtiest, crunchiest death or black metal cannot withstand the onslaught of shrieks and lack of set rhythm frothing from the great free jazz records. Needless to say, it's an intense yet necessary musical experience. That being said, I wouldn't recommend it to those new to jazz. This book will bring you back to the time, it will bring up painful issues and problems we still deal with. For a fan of Baraka's poetry and plays this is a must-read. (I'd even go as far to say that his music books are the best things he ever wrote.) Beautiful, definitive, and a great guide to the luminous powers of jazz, which has regrettably fallen out of favor with many music lovers at the moment.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cobertizo

    "Pero en cuanto al artefacto que usted tiene ahora en sus manos, diré, en primer lugar, que si tiene capacidad de escuchar, entonces va a estar conmovido (...) Tanto Tyner como Coltrane aparecen guiados, casi acosados, por el drama ritual alocado con el que acecha Elvin Jones. No hay forma de describir el modo en que toca Elvin, como tampoco supongo se pueda describir al propio Elvin. El largo 'Afro blue', con Elvin Jones insultando y dando golpes detrás de la línea de Trane, es increíble. No "Pero en cuanto al artefacto que usted tiene ahora en sus manos, diré, en primer lugar, que si tiene capacidad de escuchar, entonces va a estar conmovido (...) Tanto Tyner como Coltrane aparecen guiados, casi acosados, por el drama ritual alocado con el que acecha Elvin Jones. No hay forma de describir el modo en que toca Elvin, como tampoco supongo se pueda describir al propio Elvin. El largo 'Afro blue', con Elvin Jones insultando y dando golpes detrás de la línea de Trane, es increíble. No tiene nada que ver con algo bello, y sin embargo lo es. Cuando termina el tema, entre platillos destruidos, los toms bombardeados, y el soprano de Coltrane como si cantara una canción familiar, uno siente que no debería terminar nunca, que esta canción podría seguir y seguir como el pulso salvaje de la vida"

  15. 4 out of 5

    Esteban

    Los ensayos sobre jazz funcionan mejor como artículos de referencia. En vez de leerlos de un tirón conviene ir leyéndolos cada vez que uno tenga suficiente tiempo y ganas para prestarle atención a algún disco o músico en particular. El penúltimo es una reivindicación del R&B como expresión pura de la "nación negra". El hecho de que se trate del género musical estadounidense menos prestigiado por las audiencias blancas en EEUU y en el resto del mundo compensa la ira y la sorna con la que Los ensayos sobre jazz funcionan mejor como artículos de referencia. En vez de leerlos de un tirón conviene ir leyéndolos cada vez que uno tenga suficiente tiempo y ganas para prestarle atención a algún disco o músico en particular. El penúltimo es una reivindicación del R&B como expresión pura de la "nación negra". El hecho de que se trate del género musical estadounidense menos prestigiado por las audiencias blancas en EEUU y en el resto del mundo compensa la ira y la sorna con la que Baraka arma el argumento en su favor.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Graham Oliver

    As someone who knows little about music and even less about jazz, this book was still amazingly engaging and accessible. Was really surprised by just how fun and joyous the writing was. Highly recommend if you want a portrait of the black music scene in NYC in the '50s and '60s.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    The discography is pure gold. Profiles of Archie Shepp, Wayne Shorter, and Don Cherry are excellent. Mostly though, this struck me as too negative and ideological.

  18. 5 out of 5

    McKenzie Watson

  19. 5 out of 5

    Clayton

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sheree

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gruver Mitchiner Burrus

  22. 5 out of 5

    Victor

  23. 4 out of 5

    Saira.c

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tereza

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robert Hosang

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert Stenson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leo Jade

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jake Kmiecik

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dan Eggleston

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marco Carrizo

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