Let Freedom Swing: Collected Writings on Jazz, Blues, and Gospel

Overview

A swing note is, to the listener of the rhythm, an unexpected note, and it is the spark of life in jazz and its relatives. Whether playing the standards or the most experimental piece, it is how a musician handles these notes—fearlessly or safely—that determines the fate of the performance. Howard Reich’s critical writing is similarly unexpected and fearless, and Let Freedom Swing is a collection of the articles from the past three decades that best capture this spirit.

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Overview

A swing note is, to the listener of the rhythm, an unexpected note, and it is the spark of life in jazz and its relatives. Whether playing the standards or the most experimental piece, it is how a musician handles these notes—fearlessly or safely—that determines the fate of the performance. Howard Reich’s critical writing is similarly unexpected and fearless, and Let Freedom Swing is a collection of the articles from the past three decades that best capture this spirit.

Each section of Let Freedom Swing composes a suite, focusing on either a person, place, or scene. Reich gives new life to the standards with his profiles and elegies for such giants as Gershwin, Ellington, and Sinatra. A profile of Louis Armstrong brings out the often angry side of Satchmo but also reveals a more remarkable musician and human being.

His open-mindedness makes Reich a particularly astute observer of the experimental and new, from Ornette Coleman to Chicago experimentalist Ken Vandermark. And his observations about street music open our ears to the songs of everyday life. Reich’s fearlessness is evident in his writing about daunting subjects, such as the New Orleans music scene after Katrina, the lost legacy of jazz in Panama, and the complicated legacy of "race music" in America.

Howard Reich combines a deep enthusiasm for music, a breadth of knowledge, and an ability to share his world with his readers, and Let Freedom Swing is essential reading for anyone interested in the continuing vitality of jazz, gospel, blues, and American music in general.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810127050
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2010
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Reich has been a Chicago Tribune arts critic and writer since 1983. He is also a correspondent for DownBeat magazine. In addition to covering jazz, blues, gospel, and world music for the Tribune, he has authored several investigative reports that have been featured on ABC’s Nightline and various National Public Radio programs. He is the author of three books: The First and Final Nightmare of Sonia Reich: A Son’s Memoir (2006); Jelly’s Blues: The Life, Music, and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton (2003), written with William Gaines; and Van Cliburn (1993). He most recently wrote, produced, and narrated a feature-length documentary film about his mother’s previously unspoken Holocaust childhood, Prisoner of Her Past. Reich graduated from Northwestern University’s School of Music.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Ellis L. Marsalis Jr. xiii

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xix

I Born on the South Side: Exploring Chicago Gospel, Jazz, and Blues-Then and Now (in Three Parts)

Can Music Save the Church That Gave Birth to Gospel? 5

The Drill Sergeant of DuSable 19

Faded Blues 32

II Street Scenes: Music Bubbling Up from the Pavement

St. John the Saxist 47

A Groovable Feast 52

In the Home of Jazz, Swing Definitely Not the Thing 57

Heavenly Choir 60

Night School 65

III Havana's Pulse: At the Nexus of Afro-Cuban Jazz

Homegrown Virtuosos 71

"I May Never Get to the Heart of Jazz" 79

Link to the Past: Compay Segundo Upholds the Traditions of a More Romantic Era 88

Back in the Swing: The Spotlight Is Finally Reaching an Early Master of Afro-Cuban Jazz 92

Latin Evolution: The Remarkable Cachao Is the Real Mambo King 97

Sound Architect: Buena Vista's Unsung Hero Brings His Band to Chicago 101

IV Musings on Satchmo: Behind the Famous Facade (in Two Parts)

Jazz Giant's Private Views Show Anger Behind Smile 107

The Thoroughly Human Side of a Jazz Virtuoso 113

V Crisis of Culture in New Orleans: The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (in Four Parts)

Battered Katrina 121

The Long March Back 128

Treasures of Music Lovers Now Just So Much Debris 134

The Struggle to Reclaim Threads of the Past 139

VI Ellington's Legacy: Grasping an Enormous Oeuvre

Maestro's Mystique 147

Fans Recover Ellington's Lost Musical 154

Silent for Thirty-Five Years, Ellington's Restored Musical Celebrates Black Culture, Composer's Genius 158

Lost Classics 161

The Unknown Ellington 165

VII Sinatra Songs: Listening Anew to the Voice

A Bouquet for Sinatra 171

Frank Sinatra: The Virtuoso 177

The Memory of All That ... 182

VIII "The Sound of Surprise": Unexpected Developments in Jazz

Let Freedom Swing 191

The Measure of Jazz 195

Completely Hot: Live at the Plugged Nickel 200

Maturity Isn't the Right Key in Today's Jazz 204

Landmark Blues Opera De Organizer Powerfully Reborn 207

Lady Has Her Say 211

IX Gershwin Reconsidered: Assessing America's Quintessential Composer, a Century Later

Bittersweet Rhapsody 217

Gershwin at One Hundred 223

Porgy and Bess 229

X Race Music: Crossing the Color Line-in Sound

"It Took Our Minds off of the Bad Things" 237

Coming to America 242

Anniversary Tune 249

"Strange Fruit": The Song Too Painful to Sing 254

XI Chicago Radicals: The Alluring Eccentrics of Chicago Jazz

Ragtime Blues: Reginald Robinson 261

Patricia Barber Has Built Her Career Defying Conventions 273

Jazzman: Kurt Elling 280

Jazz Lovers Are Beating a Path to Fred Anderson and His Velvet Lounge 290

Chicago Jazzman Among "Genius Grant" Winners: Ken Vandermark 296

XII Profiles in Jazz: Major Voices Speak

Herbie's Blues 305

Nobody Knows the Trouble She's Seen: Dee Dee Bridgewater 318

Ornette Coleman Still Blazing a Musical Trail 329

The Last Diva: Lena Horne 336

Von Freeman Is Chicago Jazz History 341

XIII Panama's Vanished Music: Searching for the Missing Link of Jazz-in Panama (in Three Parts)

A Culture with a Lost Past 349

"I've Got to Go Back Home" 357

Falling on Deaf Ears 362

XIV Farewells: Final Parting from the Masters

Legendary Farewell: Lionel Hampton 371

Sounding the Trumpet: Miles Davis 375

An Underrated Legend: Ella Fitzgerald 379

A Free-Form Life: Sun Ra 382

Favors's Spirit Will Live On Through Music 385

Spirit of Dorsey's Songs Fills His "Home-Going" 388

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