The year 2016 will mark 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 thse 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.
“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
“Like Barthes and Bazin, Murray is a truly original thinker . . . Murray Talks Music is irresistibly stimulating.” —The New Yorker
“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
“Insightful.” —New York Times
“Murray Talks Music bears indelible witness to the writer’s role in elevating both jazz itself and the scholarship surrounding the music.” —JazzTimes
“Murray is rare touchstone writer for jazz. Indeed, there’s an argument that the later career of Wynton Marsalis and the entire edifice of Jazz at Lincoln Center is founded on Murray’s work. This is the only case of a major jazz musician treating the work of a major jazz writer with such reverence.”—Ethan Iverson, DO THE [email protected]
“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
“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
“If Allan Bloom was right that ‘this is the age of music and the states of soul that accompany it,’ then Albert Murray is a guide for our time. Against this backdrop, we can appreciate the posthumous publication of Murray’s work.” —The Weekly Standard
About the Author
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.
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, and the New York Daily News, for which he was the jazz columnist.