Sitting In: Selected Writings on Jazz, Blues, and Related Topics / Edition 1

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This collection of essays and poems about the influence of jazz on writing and culture in this country, an expanded edition of the 1986 publication, is a rewarding volume for all those entranced by jazz. Carruth brings his considerable poetic and literary sensibilities to bear on a topic very near to his heart: "Those who are devoted primarily to jazz, to poetry, to all the arts, are also those who contribute more intelligently than others to our practical and moral, political and social, advancement."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sitting In is a book about art, about participation, about the cultures of jazz and poetry: the homage of a white poet and jazz musician to the greatness of the African American gift to the sensibility of this country. But, more than this, it's a book about our extremes—personal and public—a book that defies critical boundaries—a book of passion, conscience, and contradictions. Poets and musicians should read it, students of multiculturalism should read it; all those with hopes for our national future should read it. And keep going back to the music."—Adrienne Rich

"Writing about jazz is no easy matter. Its pleasures and its artistry have no precedent in aesthetics. Here's a new American art form of which we have rarely had an adequate description. It is appropriate that a great poet should be the one who finds the words for that experience. Hayden Carruth has written one of the finest books on jazz we have."—Charles Simic

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Poet, critic, novelist, editor and professor of English at Bucknell, Carruth, like the late Philip Larkin, is a devoted, knowledgeable aficionado of jazz, and in some of his best writing he relates black music to English and American literature, Afro-American culture and the nature of artistic imagination. In these reprinted essays and poems, he explores the origins, forms and influences of jazz and the blues, the principles of improvisation and spontaneity, the nature of expressiveness and the contributions of Earl Hines, Bessie Smith, Maxine Sullivan, Joe Turner, Ben Webster and other musicians. Some jazz fans may find this book scholarly, but the more literate will be enthralled by Carruth's comparing the playing ofPee Wee Russell with the poetry of Alexander Pope and William Butler Yeats. (October
Library Journal
Readers interested in literature and jazz will enjoy Carruth's essays and poems; he's one of few writers who can discuss the playing style of trumpeter Bunny Berigan in one paragraph and the merits of writers Alexander Pope and Ezra Pound in the next. Although some essays focus on literature alone, Carruth's interest in jazz music unites these essays, which might otherwise seem unrelated. He writes passionately and knowledgeably about the jazz of the 1940s, and he may inspire some readers to rediscover their old Ben Webster recordings. Sitting In could fit equally well among titles on poetry, literary criticism, or music. For essays that focus consistently on jazz, see works by Gene Lees, Whitney Balliett, or Gary Giddins. Recommended for comprehensive collections.-- Paul Baker, CUNA Inc., Madison, Wis.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877454236
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1993
  • Edition description: EXPANDED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 239
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

The Guy Downstairs 1
A Chaconnade for Everyone Named Rebecca 10
Freedom and Discipline 14
Academicism 17
Who Cares, Long as It's B-Flat 20
Influences: The Formal Idea of Jazz 22
Joe Turner 30
Song about Earl Hines 32
With Respect to the Infuriating Pervasiveness of Optimism 33
A Possibly Momentary Declaration In Favor of William Butler Yeats and Charles Ellsworth Russell 38
Paragraph 52
Got Those Forever Inadequate Blues 53
The Intentional Alligator 60
Personality of Genius 67
Tom McGrath Is Harvesting the Snow 69
Authenticity in the Age of Massive, Multiplying Error 73
Michigan Water: A Few Riffs before Dawn 77
Three Paragraphs 83
The Defeated Generation 85
The Cowshed Blues 94
The Main Thing about Improvisation 99
The Blues Scale 102
Ben Webster 107
The Time of Falling Apart 108
The Blues as Poetry 111
In That Session 117
James Wright's Collected Prose 118
Mystery and Expressiveness 123
An Expatiation on the Combining of Weathers at Thirty-Seventh and Indiana Where the Southern More or Less Crosses the Dog 132
Instances 134
Letter to Maxine Sullivan 144
Smith 146
To All Human Consciousness the Clandestine Is Basal 153
Duncan's Dream 159
Coda 163
Meditation In the Presence of "Ostrich Walk" 164
What Does "Organic" Mean? 165
Good Old Wagon 167
Ben Webster 173
Anthems 182
The Spun-Off Independent Dead-End Ten-Star Blast 185
Homage to John Lyly and Frankie Newton 195
What a Wonder Among the Instruments Is the Walloping Tramboone 196
Eleven Memoranda on the Culture of Jazz 198
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2012

    Mind boggling collection

    Carruth's essays are treasures. Wise and well considered, eloquent and plain, these pieces cover it all. Regardless of your knowledge of jazz, deep or passing or nonexistent, the candor with which Carruth addresses each subject, and the reader, immediately Heartily recommended work by an American master.

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