Conversations in Jazz

The Ralph J. Gleason Interviews

Ralph J. Gleason; Edited by Toby Gleason; Foreword and Introductory Notes by Ted Gioia

View Inside Price: $30.00


May 24, 2016
296 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300214529
HC - Paper over Board

An extraordinary collection of revealing, personal interviews with fourteen jazz music legends

During his nearly forty years as a music journalist, Ralph J. Gleason recorded many in-depth interviews with some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. These informal sessions, conducted mostly in Gleason’s Berkeley, California, home, have never been transcribed and published in full until now.
 
This remarkable volume, a must-read for any jazz fan, serious musician, or musicologist, reveals fascinating, little-known details about these gifted artists, their lives, their personas, and, of course, their music. Bill Evans discusses his battle with severe depression, while John Coltrane talks about McCoy Tyner's integral role in shaping the sound of the Coltrane quartet, praising the pianist enthusiastically. Included also are interviews with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Jon Hendricks, and the immortal Duke Ellington, plus seven more of the most notable names in twentieth-century jazz.

One of the most influential music journalists of his era, Ralph J. Gleason (1917–1975) was co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and the author of numerous articles and three highly regarded books on music and musicians. Toby Gleason is a veteran jazz radio producer, programmer, and host, and a former assistant editor at Rolling Stone.

“Ralph Gleason had a masterfully succinct interviewing style, and he  elicited the candid thoughts of his subjects whose responses create a time capsule of a fascinating moment in jazz. This book is a portal into the mystic and insular world of jazz musicians and their interest in both tradition and innovation. I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about how the music is understood by the people who play it.”—Lenny Pickett

“Louis Armstrong once declared: ‘What we play is life.’ For his part, Ralph J. Gleason venerated and joyfully embraced the music of life and the musicians who played it, and the the memorable interviews that he conducted with the extraordinary jazz creators featured in this book are themselves revelatory conversation-performances that illuminate with wit, depth, love, and insight the life and soul of music itself.”—Jonathan Cott

“I’ve been digging Ralph Gleason’s dialogues in jazz since before I was born! My father and Ralph were still teenagers when John Hammond brought the first Lester Young recordings to them in a dorm room. So the discussions began.  I heard some later ones on their original broadcasts, but the interviews in this book come from a private stash--at home--somewhat as it started 80 years ago.”—Phil Schaap

"Ralph Gleason brought jazz into countless American living rooms during the 1960s through his TV series, ‘Jazz Casual.’ Yet the one-on-one discussions in his own Berkeley living room—tape recorder rolling, Gleason and one or another of jazz’s greats sitting in overstuffed leather chairs—tell deeper stories. Here, framed with a wise and light touch by Ted Gioia, we get windows into personal worlds: John Coltrane on the cusp of a breakthrough; Sonny Rollins entering a period of reclusion; ‘Philly’ Joe Jones sharing drumming tradecraft and history; Duke Ellington explaining why, in music as in life, problems are opportunities.”—Larry Blumenfeld

“What a great opportunity to eavesdrop on these conversations with some of my musical heroes. Trane, Duke, Sonny. Are you kidding?”—Steve Elson

Conversations in Jazz features one of the greatest jazz writers of all time, Ralph J. Gleason, interviewing some of the greatest musicians of all time.  Gleason had a gift for coaxing relaxed and truthful verbal expression from musicians who often preferred to communicate through their music. In the language of jazz, this book is a motherfucker.”—Michael Wolff
--MICHAEL WOLFF

“Reading Conversations in Jazz is like digging up a chest full of buried treasure—fourteen previously unpublished, at times startlingly frank interviews with some of the greatest jazz musicians of the twentieth century, conducted by one of the most gifted journalists ever to write about jazz. This is an important, immensely readable book.”—Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

“With an undying respect and ever-expanding curiosity, Ralph J. Gleason heard music as a means of entering into a world of creativity, connection, uplift, and human understanding—long before others recognized it. His conversations with music-makers whom we now worship with unquestioning reverence are required reading. They show the information and deference one needs to bring to any cultural discussion, and the treasures of insight and information one can hope to leave with.”—Ashley Kahn

“Feeling more like conversations than interviews, these encounters with notable musicians, mostly just at the threshold of fame, contain many nuggets revealing even to a seasoned observer.  Gleason knew how to make his subjects feel at ease.”—Dan Morgenstern

“For fans of jazz from the mid-twentieth century, these interviews will prove fascinating.”—Booklist

“[A] treasure trove of previously unavailable interviews by a premier journalist who unfailingly asked perceptive and probing questions.”—Library Journal

“A godsend to folks like me who already know and admire [Gleason’s] work — and a standard setter for those who should know him.”—Felix Contreras, NPR Books

“One of the happier publishing surprises of the year.”—Jeff Simon, Buffalo News

“The kind of righteous combination of sociocultural theory and radical politics that, today, you might find on Mark Fisher’s K-punk blog, or in the odd article Ben Watson is able to sneak past editors. In 1970, Gleason wrote “If there is no way to change this world without killing half of us, then fuck it. I’ll do my best to have a ball and go out swinging.” The world still needs changing. We still need writing like this.”—Daniel Spicer, The Wire

“Gleason was clearly a great listener, to both the music and the people who produced it, and the nuggets of wisdom and frank self-revelation he elicits from the likes of John Coltrane, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie et all, constitute a great contribution to our understanding of a pivotal era of jazz.”—Chris Parker, London Jazz

“Fresh and defining anthologies of the writer.”—Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

“A fine start to what should be a shelf of books on Gleason and his achievement.”—Beyond Chron

“Two important new collections . . . both make for absorbing and instructive reading, in quite different ways.”—Nate Chinen, Jazz Times

“Time and again Gleason helps an artist explain his essence at a crucial point in his career, capturing a very important moment in time.”—Downbeat

“The experience of reading this book is more akin to eavesdropping on private conversations: indeed you almost feel as if you’re in the room with Gleason as he gets into a discussion with Jones over the pitfalls of being a bandleader, and listens to Coltrane meditate on what motivates him in his exploration of sound.”—Charles Waring, Record Collector

“An able guide to this  American province.”—Daniel Matlin, Literary Review
Music in the Air
The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason

Ralph J.

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