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Book details
  • Genre:MUSIC
  • SubGenre:History & Criticism
  • Language:English
  • Pages:210
  • eBook ISBN:9781450753609

Black Talk

How the Music of Black America Created a Radical Alternative to the Values of Western Literary Tradition

by Ben Sidran

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Black music - whether it be jazz, blues, R&B, gospel, or soul - has always expressed, consciously or not, its African "oral" heritage, reflecting conditions of a minority culture in the midst of a white majority. Black Talk is one of the rare books since Leroi Jones's Blues People to examine the social function of black music in the diaspora; it sounds the depths of experience and maps the history of a culture from the jazz age to the revolutionary outbursts of the 1960s. Ben Sidran finds in Buddy Bolden's loud and hoarse cornet style, the call and response between brass and reeds in a swing band, the emotionalism of gospel, the primitivism of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Milford Graves, and the cool ethic of bebop, radical challenges to the Western, white, literary tradition. "The musician is the document," says Sidran. "He is the information itself. The impact of stored information is transmitted not through records or archives, but through the human response to life."
Mr. Sidran is a songwriter, singer and jazz pianist. He holds a doctorate in American Studies from Sussex University and has hosted a number of National Public Radio programs on jazz involving weekly interviews with Jazz musicians, the latter forming the basis for his work "Talking Jazz: An Oral History" [1992]. In this work, Mr. Sidran helps us understand that the basis for many of the unique Black contributions to the creation of Jazz music stem from the fact that these features were derived from the African oral cultural tradition. He goes on to explain that an oral culture is different from a literate culture [i.e.: European] since it is based on speech which is an improvisational and spontaneous act. In "Black Talk," Mr. Sidran discusses how singular elements of black music such as a "vocalized tone" and a "peculiarly black approach to rhythm" helped Jazz evolve into a unique American art form. One of the most, instructive, illuminating and unique books about Jazz ever written.
About the author
Although best known in some circles for writing Steve Miller’s hit song “Space Cowboy”, Ben Sidran is more widely recognized as the host of National Public Radio’s landmark jazz series “Jazz Alive”, which received a Peabody Award, and as the host of VH-1 television’s “New Visions” series, which received the Ace Award for best music series. A pianist, producer, singer and composer, he has recorded twenty five solo albums, including the Grammy nominated “Concert for Garcia Lorca,” and has produced recordings for such noted artists as Van Morrison, Diana Ross, Mose Allison and Jon Hendricks. He composed the soundtrack for the acclaimed film “Hoop Dreams”, and scored the documentary “Vietnam: Long Time Coming”, which won both the Aspen Film Festival audience award and an Emmy. He is the author of two books on the subject of jazz, “Black Talk,” a cultural history of the music, and “Talking Jazz,” a series of conversations with well known musicians. Although he holds a PhD. in American Studies from Sussex University, he has generally avoided the academic life, preferring instead to spend his time performing—most recently in Europe and Asia—producing radio and records, and completing his memoir, “A Life in the Music” (Taylor Trade Press, February, 2003). His most recent records include “Walk Pretty”, the songs of Alec Wilder, “Nick's Bump”. and “Cien Noches” recorded live in Madrid. Sidran is currently completing an album of Bob Dylan songs (“Dylan Different”) and working on a text, “Jews, Music and the American Dream”.