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Living with Music: Jazz Writings
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Living with Music: Jazz Writings

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  207 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Before Ralph Ellison became one of America’s greatest writers, he was a musician and a student of jazz, writing widely on his favorite music for more than fifty years. Now, jazz authority Robert O’Meally has collected the very best of Ellison’s inspired, exuberant jazz writings in this unique anthology.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 14th 2002 by Modern Library (first published 2001)
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Ted
(from the present) I enjoyed reading the book, but maybe because I'm not real informed about jazz literature, I can remember very little about it. Obviously nothing in it struck me as earth-shaking. Invisible Man this isn't.

(from the past, notes after reading it) Ellison's fine writing shows through in these music/jazz-related pieces. Curiously the fictional pieces are uneven, some fun, some boring. The interviews and (especially) letters exhibit Ellison as the egomaniac he was. What seemed to m
...more
Allan MacDonell
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ralph Ellison, beyond all else, left behind that one enormous, insurmountable novel, a book that is a thrilling breeze to read and does not allow the reader to get away as simpleminded as when the reading began. Living With Music is collection of outtakes and essays, like a thematic greatest hits album in record collector terms. If you were to pick it up without first having been turned around by Ellison's Invisible Man, you might not feel the full weight of what all the fuss is about.
Lauren
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a book to learn about jazz, then don’t pick up this book. If you are looking for a book about writing, then don’t choose this book.
This book is for people who live jazz and can understand the technical stuff, which I cannot. I was hoping to better understand and appreciate jazz by reading this book and was killed into a false sense of security since it was Ralph Ellison’s name on the cover. But this was much more than I bargained for. Though I did learn a lot about jazz,
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Allan
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
A representative selection of Ellison's writings relating to music, this book gives the reader insight into the author's likes (Ellington, Armstrong) and dislikes (bebop, in general), as well as a good taste of his jazz-inflected fiction. Ellison is always a pleasure to read, and these pieces are excellent takes on a topic he loved.
Donovan Foote
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been thinking I should read Ellison's Invisible Man lately, but wasn't sure if it was for me. I'm really glad a stumbled upon this book at the library... the book fairy said, 'hey, start here!' The second half of this collection has excerpts from Invisible Man, which I will read soon. I found Ellison's writing incredibly insightful and I guess... smart? I suppose I could say intelligent and matter of fact. There is something very sweet and elegant in the way he poses his opinions.

The collec
...more
Anthony D'Juan Shelton
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: music lovers.
Recommended to Anthony by: no one. Found it randomly.
This book not only introduced me to Charlie Christian (the most influential guitarist in the world, who never found world wide notoriety) but to the concept of music being years ahead of all other mediums of expression -- literature, theater, and cinema. It was a scary notion. And a notion that I have held on to with the attempts to catch up to music through my writing.

The book also reminded me that I wasn't the only wanna-be musician in the world (instead choosing writing).
Josh Sinton
Sep 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like music criticism
Shelves: music
Some of the most thoughtful writing I've found on the subject of jazz. Introduces the powerful concept that jazz is a geographically determined and defined music. Also outlines the importance of the Southwest's contribution to jazz.
It could (and should be read) as an interesting counterpoint to some of Albert Murray and Amiri Baraka's writings.
Bret
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of Ellison's writings on music. You'll be introduced to some of his heroes. This also brings together short stories and portions from his previous publications (including Juneteenth). One passage inspired the name of my music label.
Chrisf
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great if only for the fact that it exposes it's readers to Charlie Christian. The title story is wonderful but aside from that it gets a bit mundane.
Michael Sedor
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
These super conservative hot takes on, idk, the greatest North American music ever produced kinda makes me retrospectively leary about the whole Ellison oeuvre. Regardless I'm #teamamiribaraka TID
Matt
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A master writing about one of his life's passions. It doesn't get much better than this.
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Ralph Ellison was a scholar and writer. He was born Ralph Waldo Ellison in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, named by his father after Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ellison was best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He also wrote Shadow and Act (1964), a collection of political, social and critical essays, and Going to the Territory (1986). For The New York Times , the b ...more

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