Wesleyan University Press

Music/Interview

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Always in Trouble

An Oral History of ESP-Disk’, the Most Outrageous Record Label in America

Jason Weiss

In 1964, Bernard Stollman launched the independent record label ESP-Disk' (short for "Esperanto Disko") in New York City to document the free jazz movement there, beginning with iconic saxophonist Albert Ayler. A bare-bones enterprise, ESP was in the right place at the right time, producing albums by artists like Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, Giuseppi Logan, and Patty Waters. Soon the label broadened its catalog, including recordings by folk-rock bands like The Fugs and Pearls Before Swine, as well as Timothy Leary, William Burroughs, and Charles Manson. But the label quickly ran into difficulties and, due to the politically subversive nature of some productions and sloppy business practices, it folded in 1974. The story of ESP-Disk' is told through a multitude of voices--first by Stollman, as he recounts the improbable life of the label, and then by many of the artists involved. The result is a fascinating account of the music and the times. Includes interviews with Amiri Baraka, Gato Barbieri, Milford Graves, Roswell Rudd, Sirone, Sonny Simmons, James Zitro, Tom Rapp, Sunny Murray, and many more.

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Fela

Kalakuta Notes

John Collins

Fela: Kalakuta Notes is an evocative account of Fela Kuti—the Afrobeat superstar who took African music into the arena of direct action. With his antiestablishment songs, he dedicated himself to Pan-Africanism and the down-trodden Nigerian masses, or “sufferheads.” In the 1970s, the British/Ghanaian musician and author John Collins met and worked with Fela in Ghana and Nigeria. Kalakuta Notes includes a diary that Collins kept in 1977 when he acted in Fela’s autobiographical film, Black President. The book offers revealing interviews with Fela by the author, as well as with band members, friends, and colleagues.

For the second edition, Collins has expanded the original introduction by providing needed context for popular music in Africa in the 1960s and the influences on the artist’s music and politics. In a new concluding chapter, Collins reflects on the legacy of Fela: the spread of Afrobeat, Fela’s musical children, Fela’s Shrine and Kalakuta House, and the annual Felabration. As the dust settles over Fela’s fiery, creative, and controversial career, his Afrobeat groove and political message live on in Kalakuta Notes. Features a new foreword by Banning Eyre, an up-to-date discography by Ronnie Graham, a timeline, historical photographs, and snapshots by the author.

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Producing Country

The Inside Story of the Great Recordings

Michael Jarrett

Musicians make music. Producers make records. In the early days of recorded music, the producer was the “artists-and-repertoire man,” or A&R man, for short. A powerful figure, the A&R man chose both who would record and what they would record. His decisions profoundly shaped our musical tastes. Don Law found country bluesman Robert Johnson and honky-tonk crooner Lefty Frizzell. Cowboy Jack Clement took the initiative to record Jerry Lee Lewis (while his boss, Sam Phillips, was away on business). When Ray Charles said he wanted to record a country-and-western album, Sid Feller gathered songs for his consideration. The author’s extensive interviews with music makers offer the fullest account ever of the producer’s role in creating country music. In its focus on recordings and record production, Producing Country tells the story of country music from its early years to the present day through hit records by Hank Williams, George Jones, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard, among many others.

Includes original interviews with producers Chet Atkins, Pete Anderson, Jimmy Bowen, Bobby Braddock, Harold Bradley, Tony Brown, Blake Chancey, Jack Clement, Scott Hendricks, Bob Johnston, Jerry Kennedy, Blake Mevis, Ken Nelson, Jim Ed Norman, Allen Reynolds, Jim Rooney, James Stroud, Paul Worley, and Reggie Young, among others.

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Reel History

The Lost Archive of Juma Sultan and the Aboriginal Music Society

Stephen Farina

In this engaging hybrid work--a blend of oral history and graphic novel--Stephen Farina finds "Juma Sultan" in a local phonebook. After an initial meeting at a roadside diner, Juma takes Steve and a fellow researcher to a decrepit barn, which, amazingly, contains a treasure trove of reel-to-reel audio tapes and 16mm films of jam sessions and jazz performances from the 1960s and 1970s. As the men go through the boxes and begin the painstaking process of preservation, Juma recalls the players, places, and time period when free jazz exploded then fused with the political momentum of the Civil Rights era. This true story documents "The Aboriginal Music Society" Archival Project, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Available exclusively as an e-publication, Reel History's expressive and glowing black-and-white illustrations are augmented by audio clips and haunting silent video from Juma Sultan's unique archive. This is an invaluable history for jazz historians and readers in the digital age.

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Yip Harburg

Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist

Harriet Hyman Alonso

Known as "Broadway's social conscience," E. Y. Harburg (1896-1981) wrote the lyrics to the standards, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," "April in Paris," and "It's Only a Paper Moon," as well as all of the songs in The Wizard of Oz, including "Over the Rainbow." Harburg always included a strong social and political component to his work, fighting racism, poverty, and war. Interweaving close to fifty interviews (most of them previously unpublished), over forty lyrics, and a number of Harburg's poems, Harriet Hyman Alonso enables Harburg to talk about his life and work. He tells of his early childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, his public school education, how the Great Depression opened the way to writing lyrics, and his work on Broadway and Hollywood, including his blacklisting during the McCarthy era. Finally, but most importantly, Harburg shares his commitment to human rights and the ways it affected his writing and his career path. Includes an appendix with Harburg's key musicals, songs, and films.

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