B1576. SAMUEL B. CHARTERS & LEONARD KUNSTADT. Jazz – A History of the New York Scene. A professional, hardbound Xerox copy of the 1962 Doubleday Edition. 382pp. Index; Photos. Very decent ex-lib. copy.
“Samuel Charters is an American music historian, writer, record producer, musician, and poet. He is a noted and widely published author on the subjects of blues and jazz music, as well as a writer of fiction. Charters first became enamored of blues music in 1937, after hearing Bessie Smith's version of Jimmy Cox's song, ‘Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out’. He moved with his family to Sacramento, California at the age of 15. Charters says that he was ‘playing clarinet, playing jazz steadily all this time; I had my first orchestra when I was thirteen...I had no natural abilities, but I soldiered on, and it was this that directly lead me to the beginning of the research’. After being kicked out of Harvard for political activism, he received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956.
In the 1940s and 1950s, though he was mostly immersed in in studying and playing jazz, Charters also purchased numerous old recordings of American blues musicians, eventually amassing a huge and valuable collection and beginning to understand that blues and jazz were connected in the history of black music. In 1951, at the age of 21, he moved to New Orleans, where he absorbed the history and culture he had previously only read about; he lived there for most of the 1950's, moving back and forth between Berkeley and New Orleans. He served for two years in the United States Army (1951-53) and began to study jazz clarinet with George Lewis.
Charters was always interested in politics and had wished to play a role in public life, but because he had run afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee while in the Army in 1952, he decided that he would have to engage in politics without holding any sort of office. ‘For me, the writing about black music was my way of fighting racism. That's why my work is not academic, that is why it is absolutely nothing but popularization: I wanted people to hear black music, as I said in The Poetry of the Blues . . . It's where I say, you know, if by introducing music I can have somebody look across the racial divide and see a black face and see this person as a human being -- and that's why my work is unashamedly romantic’. Charters always thought of blues as containing within it a small and pure strain of folk poetry, something that ran through the lyrics of early artists such as Charley Patton or Blind Willie McTell, but which was lost in the later, more commercialized, blues. ‘I really got bored with all those damn guitar solos. To me, they all sounded like B.B. King, and what I really wanted to hear was great text....’ The poetry of the blues, then, Charters thought of as profound human cultural expression that could connect all people who love poetry.”
- Ned Ludd