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Living with Music: Jazz Writings

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Before Ralph Ellison became one of America’s greatest writers, he was a musician and a student of jazz, writing widely on his favorite music for more than fifty years. Now, jazz authority Robert O’Meally has collected the very best of Ellison’s inspired, exuberant jazz writings in this unique anthology.


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Before Ralph Ellison became one of America’s greatest writers, he was a musician and a student of jazz, writing widely on his favorite music for more than fifty years. Now, jazz authority Robert O’Meally has collected the very best of Ellison’s inspired, exuberant jazz writings in this unique anthology.

30 review for Living with Music: Jazz Writings

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    (from the present) I enjoyed reading the book, but maybe because I'm not real informed about jazz literature, I can remember very little about it. Obviously nothing in it struck me as earth-shaking. Invisible Man this isn't. (from the past, notes after reading it) Ellison's fine writing shows through in these music/jazz-related pieces. Curiously the fictional pieces are uneven, some fun, some boring. The interviews and (especially) letters exhibit Ellison as the egomaniac he was. What seemed to m (from the present) I enjoyed reading the book, but maybe because I'm not real informed about jazz literature, I can remember very little about it. Obviously nothing in it struck me as earth-shaking. Invisible Man this isn't. (from the past, notes after reading it) Ellison's fine writing shows through in these music/jazz-related pieces. Curiously the fictional pieces are uneven, some fun, some boring. The interviews and (especially) letters exhibit Ellison as the egomaniac he was. What seemed to me pretty negative views on the Civil Rights movement came through in various places.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Allan MacDonell

    Ralph Ellison, beyond all else, left behind that one enormous, insurmountable novel, a book that is a thrilling breeze to read and does not allow the reader to get away as simpleminded as when the reading began. Living With Music is collection of outtakes and essays, like a thematic greatest hits album in record collector terms. If you were to pick it up without first having been turned around by Ellison's Invisible Man, you might not feel the full weight of what all the fuss is about. Ralph Ellison, beyond all else, left behind that one enormous, insurmountable novel, a book that is a thrilling breeze to read and does not allow the reader to get away as simpleminded as when the reading began. Living With Music is collection of outtakes and essays, like a thematic greatest hits album in record collector terms. If you were to pick it up without first having been turned around by Ellison's Invisible Man, you might not feel the full weight of what all the fuss is about.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    If you are looking for a book to learn about jazz, then don’t pick up this book. If you are looking for a book about writing, then don’t choose this book. This book is for people who live jazz and can understand the technical stuff, which I cannot. I was hoping to better understand and appreciate jazz by reading this book and was killed into a false sense of security since it was Ralph Ellison’s name on the cover. But this was much more than I bargained for. Though I did learn a lot about jazz, If you are looking for a book to learn about jazz, then don’t pick up this book. If you are looking for a book about writing, then don’t choose this book. This book is for people who live jazz and can understand the technical stuff, which I cannot. I was hoping to better understand and appreciate jazz by reading this book and was killed into a false sense of security since it was Ralph Ellison’s name on the cover. But this was much more than I bargained for. Though I did learn a lot about jazz, I was overwhelmed and confused by it in the long run.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Allan

    A representative selection of Ellison's writings relating to music, this book gives the reader insight into the author's likes (Ellington, Armstrong) and dislikes (bebop, in general), as well as a good taste of his jazz-inflected fiction. Ellison is always a pleasure to read, and these pieces are excellent takes on a topic he loved. A representative selection of Ellison's writings relating to music, this book gives the reader insight into the author's likes (Ellington, Armstrong) and dislikes (bebop, in general), as well as a good taste of his jazz-inflected fiction. Ellison is always a pleasure to read, and these pieces are excellent takes on a topic he loved.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Donovan Foote

    I've been thinking I should read Ellison's Invisible Man lately, but wasn't sure if it was for me. I'm really glad a stumbled upon this book at the library... the book fairy said, 'hey, start here!' The second half of this collection has excerpts from Invisible Man, which I will read soon. I found Ellison's writing incredibly insightful and I guess... smart? I suppose I could say intelligent and matter of fact. There is something very sweet and elegant in the way he poses his opinions. The collec I've been thinking I should read Ellison's Invisible Man lately, but wasn't sure if it was for me. I'm really glad a stumbled upon this book at the library... the book fairy said, 'hey, start here!' The second half of this collection has excerpts from Invisible Man, which I will read soon. I found Ellison's writing incredibly insightful and I guess... smart? I suppose I could say intelligent and matter of fact. There is something very sweet and elegant in the way he poses his opinions. The collection brought to my attention the conflict of "boppers" versus the old school jazzmen from the point of view of someone who knew the musicians involved. Bebop has simply been part of my understanding of jazz. Reading these essays from the 50s and 60s points out the changes happening in American culture and also jazz. It's a very interesting period of time for jazz, the 1960s, because it marks a turning point. It is the point when rock n roll takes over. Jazz has become fractionalized into traditionalism and avante garde...ism and generally left a bit too sterile and/or heady for mainstream consumption. Well, before I turn this into an essay on the fall of jazz, I will say this is a great...probably must read for all you jazz fans out there.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anthony D'Juan Shelton

    This book not only introduced me to Charlie Christian (the most influential guitarist in the world, who never found world wide notoriety) but to the concept of music being years ahead of all other mediums of expression -- literature, theater, and cinema. It was a scary notion. And a notion that I have held on to with the attempts to catch up to music through my writing. The book also reminded me that I wasn't the only wanna-be musician in the world (instead choosing writing). This book not only introduced me to Charlie Christian (the most influential guitarist in the world, who never found world wide notoriety) but to the concept of music being years ahead of all other mediums of expression -- literature, theater, and cinema. It was a scary notion. And a notion that I have held on to with the attempts to catch up to music through my writing. The book also reminded me that I wasn't the only wanna-be musician in the world (instead choosing writing).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Josh Sinton

    Some of the most thoughtful writing I've found on the subject of jazz. Introduces the powerful concept that jazz is a geographically determined and defined music. Also outlines the importance of the Southwest's contribution to jazz. It could (and should be read) as an interesting counterpoint to some of Albert Murray and Amiri Baraka's writings. Some of the most thoughtful writing I've found on the subject of jazz. Introduces the powerful concept that jazz is a geographically determined and defined music. Also outlines the importance of the Southwest's contribution to jazz. It could (and should be read) as an interesting counterpoint to some of Albert Murray and Amiri Baraka's writings.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bret

    This is a collection of Ellison's writings on music. You'll be introduced to some of his heroes. This also brings together short stories and portions from his previous publications (including Juneteenth). One passage inspired the name of my music label. This is a collection of Ellison's writings on music. You'll be introduced to some of his heroes. This also brings together short stories and portions from his previous publications (including Juneteenth). One passage inspired the name of my music label.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrisf

    Great if only for the fact that it exposes it's readers to Charlie Christian. The title story is wonderful but aside from that it gets a bit mundane. Great if only for the fact that it exposes it's readers to Charlie Christian. The title story is wonderful but aside from that it gets a bit mundane.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael Sedor

    These super conservative hot takes on, idk, the greatest North American music ever produced kinda makes me retrospectively leary about the whole Ellison oeuvre. Regardless I'm #teamamiribaraka TID These super conservative hot takes on, idk, the greatest North American music ever produced kinda makes me retrospectively leary about the whole Ellison oeuvre. Regardless I'm #teamamiribaraka TID

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    A master writing about one of his life's passions. It doesn't get much better than this. A master writing about one of his life's passions. It doesn't get much better than this.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Ellison

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bergis

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bobby Delisle

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  18. 5 out of 5

    Irfandi Nurdin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Monte

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  21. 4 out of 5

    Leroy Rodriguez

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dan Miller

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Totten

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janetta Iwanicki

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Snyder

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mohsenfahmy Moussa

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Pegram

  29. 5 out of 5

    Book

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mar

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