"Conversations in Jazz" by Ralph J. Gleason

Conversations in Jazz The Ralph J. Gleason Interviews Ralph J. Gleason, Toby Gleason, Ted Gioia

Publication date:
13 Oct 2020
Yale University Press
296 pages: 235 x 156mm
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Ralph J. Gleason (1917–1975) was cofounder 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.

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

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

"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

"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

“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