Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music


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.

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

African American Review
“A major contribution to both African American literature and American music criticism.”
Beat Scene Magazine - Colin Cooper
“Meditations on black music, primarily jazz, that American classical music, that will satisfy anyone who desires intelligent thought on the genre.”
The Oregonian - Richard Meltzer
“As lively and compelling as his strongest work of the past.”
Magill's Literary Annual / Salem Press
“There is much to recommend in this excellent volume of essays.”
Cadence Magazine (2)
“Digging will prove an important book. . . . Enjoy the liveliness of Baraka’s writing.”
Goldmine Magazine
“Offers up history, musical analyses and a political commentary as they relate to African-American music and culture.”
Library Journal

Poet, playwright, and music critic Baraka (Blues People: Negro Music in White America) delivers another critical work on America's classical music, jazz, in his almost lyrical style of writing. Through previously published essays, reviews, and liner notes, he explores the cultural development of jazz music with respect to African American artists, the minstrel treatment of African American music, and the charged environment of its creation. His encounters with music greats, such as Nina Simone, and actor Bill Cosby pave a road of exploration to how some artists were affected by this treatment. Charged interpretations of how the music evolves into other forms are packaged with artist biographies and trees illustrating how these artists influenced others. Coltrane and Monk are among those discussed, and even Springsteen is found on the fringes of Baraka's commentary. Music lovers as well as anyone interested in African American culture will dig this book; academic libraries will find it suitable for history, music, and sociology programs.
—Brian Sherman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520265820
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/20/2010
  • Series: Music of the African Diaspora Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 426
  • Sales rank: 1,032,847
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 Essays

1 Griot/Djali: Poetry, Music, History, Message 5

2 Miles Later 9

3 The "Blues Aesthetic" and the "Black Aesthetic": Aesthetics as the Continuing Political History of a Culture 19

4 Blues People: Looking Both Ways 28

5 Rhythm 33

6 The American Popular Song: "The Great American Song Book" 38

7 Blues Line 47

8 Cosby and the Music 49

9 Nina Returns 56

10 Jazz Criticism and Its Effect on the Music 72

11 Not "the Boss": Bruce Springsteen 86

12 Wynton Marsalis: Black Codes (from the Underground) 88

13 "The International Business of Jazz" and the Need for the Cooperative and Collective Self-Development of an International People's Culture 91

14 Newark's "Coast" and the Hidden Legacy of Urban Culture 101

15 Black Music as a Force for Social Change 106

16 What You Mean, Du Wop? 110

17 Classical American Music 117

18 Singers and the Music: A Theater Piece 119

19 Newark's Influence on American Music 124

20 Ritual and Performance 133

21 Bopera Theory 140

22 "Jazz and the White Critic": Thirty Years Later 145

23 Random Notes on the Last Decade 155

Part 2 Great Musicians

24 Panthalassa: Miles Davis 159

25 When Miles Split! 166

26 David Murray, Ming's Samba 170

27 David Murray, Fo Deuk Revue 173

28 David Murray, Addenda to a Concert 176

29 On Reissuing Trane 178

30 John Coltrane: Why His Legacy Continues 192

31 Some Memories of Alan Shorter: Interview with Wayne Shorter 195

32 High Art: Art Tatum 198

33 Max Roach at the Iridium 208

34 Paris Max 210

35 The Great Max Roach 214

36 Billie Holiday 219

37 The High Priest of BeBop 222

38 Eric Dolphy: A Note 236

39 Jackie Mc 237

40 It Ain't about You 240

41 You Ever Hear Albert Ayler? 242

42 Albert's Will 259

43 Sassy Was Definitely Not the Avon Lady 261

44 Fred 265

45 Fred Hopkins's Memorial 267

46 Duke Ellington: The Music's "Great Spirit" 270

47 Duke Was a Very Great Pianist! 276

48 Blind Tom: The Continuity of Americana 277

49 Don Pullen Leaves Us 280

50 Black History Month Rediscovers "the Music" in New York City 286

51 Black History Month Rediscovers "the Music," Part 2: The Charles Tolliver Big Band at the Jazz Standard 289

52 Wonderful Stevie 292

53 Abbey Lincoln 295

54 Four Tough Good-byes Jackie McLean John Hicks Hilton Ruiz Halim Suliman 304

Part 3 Notes, Reviews, and Observations

55 Impulse Sampler, Act on Impulse 313

56 Ralph Peterson 316

57 Good to Go Andrew Cyrille 318

58 Epitome Odean Pope Saxophone Choir 321

59 Moving Pictures Ravi Coltrane 323

60 Ugly Beauty Donal Fox David Murray 326

61 Connections Tyrone Jefferson 331

62 James Moody 334

63 Barry Harris: In the Tradition 338

64 Shukuru Pharoah Sanders 340

65 Breakthrough Don Pullen-George Adams Quartet 344

66 Freeman and Freeman Von Chico Freeman 349

67 Orgasm Alan Shorter 352

68 The Work Man: Reggie Workman 356

69 Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory 360

70 But Beautiful Jimmy Scott 364

71 Talking Horns Malachi Thompson 366

72 The Nexus Orchestra, Seize the Time 368

73 Three Fresh Ticklers 370

74 Last Chance for Common Sense Rodney Kendrick 373

75 Multiple Artists Jazz Times Review 375

76 More Young Bloods to the Rescue! 378

77 Memorophilia Vijay Iyer 381

78 TriFactor, If You Believe 384

79 Live Lessons 387

80 New York Art Quintet 394

81 Nation Time Peter Brötzmann Nipples Joe McPhee 398

82 River of Life Jon Jang David Murray 401

83 Encounter Trio Three 404

84 Coming and Going Jackie Mc 407

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