New Orleans Stompers
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Favorite Books
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New Orleans Jazz History
Recommended Reading
by Norrie Cox

The following are books that I have found useful and inspiring in my search for an understanding of early jazz. Not all are still in print, however they can be obtained from used book stores and any good library:

Edited by Fredrick Ramsey, Jr. and Charles Edward Smith.

First published in 1946 it consists of chapters each devoted to a significant musician or style of jazz written by the editors and other authorities of the day. It is a somewhat dated but important book.
  "The Jazz Crusade - The Inside Story of the Great New Orleans Jazz Revival of the 1960's"

By "Big" Bill Bissonnette

Originally this was published in 1992 by Special Request Books and is available in paperback. This is the story of Big Bill's experiences recording and touring with the elders of jazz who befriended him. A fascinating chronicle, full of insights into the music and the lives of the musicians, that includes a CD of 15 sample tracks from the many recordings he made and sponsored.
  "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya"
Edited by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

Published in 1950, it is a series of chapters devoted to various aspects of early jazz constructed of interviews with the musicians who were there. A very important book for researchers but also one that is wonderful to browse through as it makes the music come alive.
  " The Jazz Makers"
Edited by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

This consists of 21 chapters written by different authors each on an important jazz artist. First published in 1957 it covers several of the early jazzmen well but is notable by those it does not. It covers the whole spectrum of jazz and obviously space considerations dictated their choice of who to include. Nevertheless an important book in its own right.
  "Mister Jelly Roll"
By Alan Lomax

Published around 1950, this is an excellent, well-written exploration of the life and legend of Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton who claimed to have invented jazz. Alan Lomax interviewed Morton extensively for the Library of Congress in May to July of 1938 and was well qualified to separate fact from fiction. Several of the recorded interviews were originally issued on Circle Records and have been reissued many times on vinyl.
  "Early Jazz - It's Roots and Musical Development"
By Gunther Schuller

This was published in 1968 and is still available from Oxford University Press. This is an excellent book that explores both the historical and musical development of early jazz with many notated musical examples.
  "Louis - The Louis Armstrong Story 1900-1971"
By Max Jones and John Chilton

This book was originally published in England in 1971 but is now available from Da Capo Press as a paperback. It is well written and important for the chronicling of Louis' early life in New Orleans.
  "George Lewis - A Jazzman From New Orleans"
By Tom Bethell

First published in 1977 by University of California Press, this is an excellent biography with a detailed discography of a second generation jazz musician who didn't leave New Orleans until he became the center of attention in the revival of the 1940/50s. This is one of my all-time favorite books.
  "Preservation Hall - Music From The Heart"
By William Carter

Originally published by the Courier Group in 1991, this is a well researched history of the famous hall in New Orleans and the musicians who finished out their long careers playing there. Full of wonderful photographs and written by a fine revivalist clarinet player, this book, as the jacket proclaims, "brilliantly captures the essence of this colorful chapter in America's musical history."
  "Bill Russell's American Music"
Compiled and edited by Mike Hazeldine

This was published in 1993 and still available from Jazzology Press. Bill Russell was the most important researcher and recorder of true New Orleans music and Mike has done an excellent job of detailing Bill's extraordinary life and the historic recordings he produced using Bill's extensive diaries and personal interviews. A sampler CD containing 19 of Bill's recordings is included with the book.
  "Shining Trumpets - A History of Jazz"
By Rudi Blesh

Published in the late 1940s as a result of the author giving a series of lectures on jazz history at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Another book that is dated but has stood the test of time.

Most of these books are available (through special ordering) from any good bookseller. They may also be ordered from the Jazz Record Mart ( The Jazzology Press book is also available through the mail from the Collectors Record Club, 1206 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116 (or visit their website at A good on-line source for any of these great books is the Louisiana Music Factory (

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