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Murray Talks Music

Albert Murray on Jazz and Blues

2016
Author:

Albert Murray
Edited by Paul Devlin
Foreword by Gary Giddins
Afterword by Greg Thomas

Murray Talks Music

Rare and previously unpublished work from an influential critic, cultural theorist, and champion of jazz

Murray Talks Music brings together, for the first time, many of Albert Murray’s finest interviews and essays on music—most never before published—as well as rare liner notes and prefaces. A celebrated educator and raconteur, and cofounder of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Murray engages with a variety of scholars and journalists while making insightful connections among music, literature, and other art forms—all with ample humor and from unforeseen angles.

Albert Murray is . . . an authority on soul from the days of old . . . and commands respect. He doesn't have to look it up. If you want to know, look him up. He is the unsquarest person I know.

Duke Ellington

The year 2016 marks the centennial of the birth of Albert Murray (1916–2013), who in thirteen books was by turns a lyrical novelist, a keen and iconoclastic social critic, and a formidable interpreter of jazz and blues. Not only did his prizewinning study Stomping the Blues (1976) influence musicians far and wide, it was also a foundational text for Jazz at Lincoln Center, which he cofounded with Wynton Marsalis and others in 1987. Murray Talks Music brings together, for the first time, many of Murray’s finest interviews and essays on music—most never before published—as well as rare liner notes and prefaces.

For those new to Murray, this book will be a perfect introduction, and those familiar with his work—even scholars—will be surprised, dazzled, and delighted. Highlights include Dizzy Gillespie’s richly substantive 1985 conversation; an in-depth 1994 dialogue on jazz and culture between Murray and Wynton Marsalis; and a long 1989 discussion on Duke Ellington between Murray, Stanley Crouch, and Loren Schoenberg. Also interviewed by Murray are producer and impresario John Hammond and singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine. All of these conversations were previously lost to history. A celebrated educator and raconteur, Murray engages with a variety of scholars and journalists while making insightful connections among music, literature, and other art forms—all with ample humor and from unforeseen angles.

Leading Murray scholar Paul Devlin contextualizes the essays and interviews in an extensive introduction, which doubles as a major commentary on Murray’s life and work. The volume also presents sixteen never-before-seen photographs of jazz greats taken by Murray.

No jazz collection will be complete without Murray Talks Music, which includes a foreword by Gary Giddins and an afterword by Greg Thomas.

Murray Talks Music

Paul Devlin teaches at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and at St. John’s University. He earned his PhD in English at Stony Brook University in 2014. He is the editor of Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones, as told to Albert Murray (Minnesota), a finalist for the Jazz Journalists Association’s book award in 2012.

Gary Giddins is one of the world’s foremost jazz critics. His books include Visions of Jazz, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker (Minnesota), Satchmo, Weather Bird, Natural Selection, Jazz, and Warning Shadows.

Greg Thomas is an award-winning jazz writer, editor, educator, and broadcast journalist. His work on jazz has been published in the Village Voice, The Root, All About Jazz, Salon, The Guardian, American Legacy, Callaloo, and the New York Daily News, for which he was the jazz columnist.

Albert Murray (1916–2013), author of thirteen books including Stomping the Blues, was a renowned jazz historian, novelist, and social and cultural theorist. He cofounded Jazz at Lincoln Center in 1987.

Murray Talks Music

Albert Murray is . . . an authority on soul from the days of old . . . and commands respect. He doesn't have to look it up. If you want to know, look him up. He is the unsquarest person I know.

Duke Ellington

Murray Talks Music is an excellent introduction to the man’s considerable musical erudition and prolific output. It is a well-edited collection of many of Murray’s finest interviews and essays on music and musicians, and on dancers, artists, and social critics, with many articles and interviews published here for the first time.

New York Journal of Books

A compelling and comprehensive work, which will no doubt make Murrayites of us all.

DownBeat

Before Murray Talks Music, there was little in print of Albert Murray as spontaneous orator. This new collection corrects that problem and shows how brilliant he could be even when he didn’t have time to polish his prose.

The Arts Fuse

The name Albert Murray was never household familiar. Yet his complex, mind-opening analysis of art and life remains as timely as ever—probably more so. Devlin’s book is both a public service and a testament to how Murray could impress and inspire those who came in contact with him.

The Nation

Whether we realize it yet or not, the omnifarious wisdom of Albert Murray is everywhere around us.

The Nation

Insightful.

New York Times

Sincere thanks to Devlin for this important labor of love.

Ethan Iverson

Murray Talks Music bears indelible witness to the writer’s role in elevating both jazz itself and the scholarship surrounding the music.

JazzTimes

Like Barthes and Bazin, Murray is a truly original thinker . . . Murray Talks Music is irresistibly stimulating.

The New Yorker

A treasure of expert writing on jazz and African American culture.

www.jive-talk.com

This collection of interviews and essays is proof that one can grasp the structure that animates great music by – in a manner of speaking - swinging with verbal ideas.

Mojo

Murray Talks: Albert Murray on Jazz and Blues is further testimony to the fact that Murray was a charming character and a determined thinker. It is a fascinating edition to the Murray canon.

Living Blues

The freewheeling give-and-take in Murray Talks Music is robust and colorful. In conversation, Murray was even more of a paradigmatic jazzman in his spontaneous digressions and in his ability to call on a breathtaking range of resources and references.

Bookforum

A glimpse into Murray’s brilliance, his refusal to seek the easy way out . . . and his standing as one of the last great public intellectuals.

No Depression

Murray Talks Music

Contents

Foreword: St. George and the Blues
Gary Giddins
Introduction. Albert Murray: Making Words Swing, on and off the Page
Paul Devlin


“Art is about elegant form”
Interview with Wynton Marsalis, 1994

“Finding ourselves in the role of elder statesmen”
Interview with Dizzy Gillespie, 1985–86

“How did Basie come by the name Count?”
Interview with Dan Minor, 1981

“Human consciousness lives in the mythosphere”
Interview with Greg Thomas, 1996

“Hear that train whistle harmonica!”
Talk at St. John’s University with Paul Devlin, 2003

“A real conservative? I’m not one. I’m an avant-garde person.”
Interview with Russell Neff, 1989

“The blues always come back”
Liner Notes to Revelations/Blues Suite, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, 1978

Second Lining, Third Liners—and the Fourth Line
Notes on a Jazz Tradition, 2003–2004

“Basie’s a special guy”
Interview with Billy Eckstine, 1983

“It’s not bad being Huck”
Interview with Janis Herbert and Foreword to The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman “Honeyboy” Edwards, by David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 1997

Three Omni-American Artists
Foreword to Mitchell & Ruff: An American Profile in Jazz, by William Zinsser, 2000

“I know the world that these sounds come out of!”
Interview with Paul Devlin, 2006

“Flexibility, the art of adapting, and the necessity of continuous creation”
A Talk on Jazz, Delivered in Morocco, 1958

“We really integrated Fifty-second Street”
Interview with John Hammond, 1982

“No better example of the ungaudy”
Biographical Sketch of Count Basie, 2004

“It’s a mistake to think of any art form in terms of progress”
Interview with Susan Page, 1997

“There was no gap: educational gap, cultural gap, between music education and what Negroes were doing in music”
Interview with Robert G. O’Meally, 1994

The Achievement of Duke Ellington
A Discussion with Loren Schoenberg and Stanley Crouch, 1989

Murray’s Final Published Nonfiction Statement
Jazz: Notes toward a Definition, 2004

Afterword: The Blues and Jazz as Aesthetic Statement
Greg Thomas

Acknowledgments

Appendix A. Albert Murray’s Canon of Jazz Arrangements, 2001–2002

Appendix B. American Patterns and Variations on Rhythm and Tune: An Ellington–Strayhorn List, 1990s

Index