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As serious as your life: John Coltrane and beyond
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As serious as your life: John Coltrane and beyond

4.38  ·  Rating Details ·  137 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
Reissue of a jazz classic with photos by the author who is a well known photographer.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 9th 1999 by Serpent's Tail (first published October 1977)
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Nov 06, 2013 Geoff marked it as to-read
The "New Thing" in jazz from the 60's, 70's and beyond has had such an important impact on my life, my personality, my state of being, my worldview, etc.- it was especially very influential on my late-teens, early-twenties self. It is hard for me to describe just how vital it was for me to find improvised music, the energy, freedom, revolutionary creativity it inspired not only in me, but inspired me to see and seek out in the world around me, the fire it lit beneath my feet as a young man. At a ...more
Nov 07, 2013 Declan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
Essential reading for anyone curious about the revolution in jazz which was improvised into being in the 60s and 70s by players like Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler and Rashid Ali. Val Wilmer was there to witness the emergence of this amazing explosion of energy and creativity. She photographed all of the main musicians, she talked to them, she befriended their wives and partners and she wrote about it all as nobody else could. This is a unique and invaluable account of a wonderful time in music hist ...more
Tim Niland
Jul 13, 2012 Tim Niland rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-reads
As Serious as Your Life is one of the few books to chronicle the “New Thing” in jazz, free jazz that developed in the 1960’s and continued into the Loft Scene of the 1970’s. British writer Wilmer focuses on American musicians, primarily in the New York City region, and succeeds in putting together a portrait of the musicians and the scene that is extremely valuable. The first part of the book is made up of portraits of some of the leading lights of the scene, both living and dead. John Coltrane, ...more
Aug 27, 2016 Davyd rated it liked it
It's good in that it has and gives more than it lacks. I wanted even more "information, information, information", but that's wanting too much of a book which aimed to be primarily a work of advocacy and cultural diplomacy -- and thus a book hesitant about exposing even what it attempted to expose. The sections on the drummers were the most informative, and the section about the role of women was important. I can't imagine this kind of protocolish writing seducing any outsiders, but still I'd fa ...more
Oct 30, 2013 Alex rated it it was amazing
This is one of the very best books about music that I've ever read. Wilmer provides a nice overview of free jazz, the roll of women, politics around free jazz and biographies and intimate thoughts of several of the musicians involved. Of particular note are chapters on the under appreciated Cecil Taylor (one of the great, largely unsung geniuses of 20th century music) and Albert Ayler. Great jazz photography from Wilmer to accompany her stellar writing. A must read for anyone interested in "the ...more
Soshull Burris
Jan 12, 2014 Soshull Burris rated it it was amazing
The best book ever written on American free jazz (and, truthfully, there ain't many of 'em out there). Essential for anyone even remotely interested in improvisational music. I've read this book at least 5 or 6 times from cover to cover. I re-read bits and pieces of it a few times every year.
Carlo Keshishian
Mar 06, 2013 Carlo Keshishian rated it really liked it
Very informative account of the 'new music' movement, and interesting in terms of it being written not long after the time.
Oct 26, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it
Very cool book, especially helpful when researching Trane. Valerie Wilmer knows a lot of cool stuff. No doubt.
Michael Fleegler
Jun 29, 2012 Michael Fleegler rated it it was amazing
Following the thread from the civil rights movement to innovations in the African American music of its day. Masterful!
Jun 08, 2010 Sam rated it liked it
A lot of really choice quotes about how commitment to any sort of ideals is destroyed by the marketplace, plus it's about a lot of obscure jazz musicians of whom I'm sure you've never heard.
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