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A selection of books written about Free Jazz, by critics as well as participants
Blues People by
Publication Date: 1999-01-20
A seminal text for the "new music"; poet LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka's 1963 history of Black American music established many of the terms and concepts through which Free Jazz practitioners and critics understood the music. Baraka was considered so central a thinker to the movement that the sleeve for Coltrane's "Ascension" features a blurb from him: "Trane is now a scope of feeling. A more fixed traveler, whose wildest onslaughts are gorgeous artifacts not even deaf people should miss."
Free Jazz/Black Power
Free Jazz/Black Power by
Publication Date: 2015-01-01
French theorists Philippe Carles and Jean-Louis Comolli published this treatise in 1971. Drawing heavily from Baraka/Jones's "Blues People", they make a similar argument to Kofsky ("Free Jazz" is a cultural development closely tied to the burgeoning Black revolutionary movement). While a strong book, many have since pointed out that its argument fails to deal with Free Jazz's relationship to (predominantly white, bourgeois) 20th century avant-garde music.
Free Jazz by
Publication Date: 1981-10-21
German saxophonist Ekkehard Jost's 1973 thesis on Free Jazz is widely held to be the first, and still most detailed, work on the music from a strictly musicological perspective.
Four Lives in the Bebop Business
Four Lives in the Bebop Business by
Publication Date: 1985-05-01
Jazz critic A.B. Spellman published "Four Lives in the Bebop Business" in 1966. The book profiles Free Jazz luminaries Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Jackie McLean, and Herbie Nichols. Particular attention is paid to the "business" aspect of "bebop", specifically, how the music interacted with the often-white record company and club ownerships.
Black Music by
Publication Date: 1971-01-01
Written eight years after "Blues People", "Black Music" focuses on individual concepts and players in, well, Black music. Written in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a special attention is paid to the Free Jazz movement and its central players.
This is Our Music
This Is Our Music by
Publication Date: 2007-06-05
This 2007 book by Iain Anderson chronicles Free Jazz's development over the 1960s, and eventual dissolution in the 1970s.
As Serious as Your Life
As Serious As Your Life by
Publication Date: 1992-03-01
Published in 1977, English photographer Valerie Wilmer's "As Serious As Your Life" is a treatment of the Free Jazz movement with extensive interviews by many of its core (and peripheral) participants. Like Kofsky, she focuses on the political dimensions of the music, but she draws politics out of the language used by the subjects she profiles, rather than out of strict adherence to Marxist terminological categories.
Publication Date: 1993-08-22
Written by one of the movement's most prominent guitarists, "Improvisation" tackles the thorny questions of "free" composition and performance, where most books on Free Jazz focus on its sociological, historical, and political aspects
A Power Stronger Than Itself
A Power Stronger Than Itself by
Publication Date: 2009-10-15
One of the few major poles for Free Jazz outside of New York City was Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. In this 2009 history, AACM member George E. Lewis explains their significance.
Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music
Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music by
Publication Date: 1970-01-01
Written by Marxist historian and critic Frank Kofsky, "Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music" is one of the first major treatments of Free Jazz in its specific political contexts. Kofsky argues that Free Jazz is an outcropping of the Black freedom movement's growth from domestic civil rights struggles to internationalist anti-imperialism.
The Freedom Principle
The Freedom Principle by
Publication Date: 1990-03-21
In this book, published in 1990, Litweiler examines Free Jazz's relationship to prior forms of jazz, troubling the oft-told story about jazz, Free Jazz, and 'European' musics.
Sun Ra: The Immeasurable Equation
Sun Ra by
Publication Date: 2003-01-01
This is an anthology of the writings, both theoretical and poetic, of Sun Ra, the highly influential Philadlephia-based bandleader. His major disagreements with the practical approach of the AACM is dealt with here.