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The Jazz Masters - Setting the Record Straight

The Jazz Masters

Setting the Record Straight

By Peter C. Zimmerman
Series: American Made Music Series
Hardcover : 9781496832221, 324 pages, 55 b&w illustrations, November 2021
Paperback : 9781496837431, 324 pages, 55 b&w illustrations, November 2021

An unprecedented jam session on memories and music from the best in jazz


The Jazz Masters: Setting the Record Straight features twenty-one conversations with musicians who have had at least fifty years of professional experience, and several as many as seventy-five. In all, these voices reflect some seventeen hundred years’ worth of paying dues. Appealing to casual fans and jazz aficionados alike, these interviews have been carefully, but minimally edited by Peter Zimmerman for sense and clarity, without changing any of the musicians’ actual words.

Five of the interviewees—Dick Hyman, Jimmy Owens, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, and Yusef Lateef—have received the National Endowment for the Arts’ prestigious Jazz Masters Fellowship, attesting to their importance and ability. While not official masters, the rest are veteran performers willing to share their experiences and knowledge. Artists such as David Amram, Charles Davis, Clifford Jordan, Valery Ponomarev, and Sandy Stewart, to name a few, open their hearts and memories and reveal who they are as people.

The musicians interviewed for the book range in age from their early seventies to mid-nineties. Older musicians started their careers during the segregation of the Jim Crow era, while the youngest came up during the struggle for civil rights. All grapple with issues of race, performance, and jazz's rich legacies. In addition to performing, touring, and recording, many have composed and arranged, and others have contributed as teachers, historians, studio musicians, session players, producers, musicians’ advocates, authors, columnists, poets, and artists. The interviews in The Jazz Masters are invaluable primary material for scholars and will appeal to musicians inspired by these veterans' stories and their different approaches to music.


"This is a wonderful book filled with glorious living history. Thanks to Pete for doing this!"

- Adam Nussbaum, drummer, The Lead Belly Project (2018)

"Down-to-earth interviews with a gracious and well-studied writer. A must-read!"

- Valerie Naranjo, percussionist, Saturday Night Live Band

"In The Jazz Masters, Peter Zimmerman creates a rarefied environment for the wide range of major musicians whom he interviews to be themselves and to speak freely from their hearts. What emerges is an honest snapshot of their passion, perseverance, and personality. A welcome addition to music journalism. "

- Pianist Bill Charlap, director of jazz studies at William Paterson University and creative director of the 92nd Street Y’s Jazz in July series

"This is a wonderful book for any music/jazz listener and lover who is curious about the how, why, who, and what concerning the bottom of the sound of the jazz music machine. "

- Bassist Ron Carter, professor emeritus of the City College of New York

"The Jazz Masters: Setting the Record Straight offers an intimate look at the lives of twenty-one musicians who defined acoustic ‘mainstream’ jazz in profoundly important ways. In thoughtful interviews with each artist, Peter Zimmerman probes their musical worlds with a knowing eye and ear, presenting the jazz community as an extended family and showing how musicians know and respect each other. From New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City, and other towns along the Mississippi and its tributaries, artists traveled to New York as the acknowledged Jazz Mecca and built their careers in its clubs and concert halls. This entertaining book is also an invaluable resource that will be welcomed by music lovers. "

- William R. Ferris, professor of history emeritus at University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of the American South

"Much has been written about the history of jazz and its storied past. Peter Zimmerman has posited the subject as a contemporary living musical form through use of original source material in the form of oral histories. This makes it an invaluable resource for jazz scholars and general fans of the genre. His style is accessible, personal, and familiar, avoiding the dryness of academic writing and conveying a real passion for the music. "

- Alex de Laszlo, collection development librarian at the City University of New York (CUNY)

"Peter Zimmerman’s The Jazz Masters is an engaging and diverse mix of eminent players and fascinating personalities. Zimmerman presents their observations, opinions, and insights in a relaxed, conversational style that feels more like informal chats than traditional interviews. "

- Bob Bernotas, author of Top Brass: Interviews and Master Classes with Jazz's Leading Brass Players and Reed All About It: Interviews and Master Classes with Jazz's Leading Reed Players

"A necessary and enjoyable work. "

- Marty Sheller, Latin jazz composer/arranger

"Their strength, fortitude, intelligence, humility, humor, and the sacrifices they made to play this wonderful music shine with all of them. Peter Zimmerman is an excellent interviewer, and this book is a must-read for all of us lovers of jazz. "

- Mark Feldman, Reservoir Music

"Peter Zimmerman's book, The Jazz Masters, is quite interesting and filled with information that would normally be unavailable to those who were not a part of the music scene. I commend him for his efforts in capturing this crucial part of jazz history straight from the musical sources who have not only witnessed it but were a part of making it. Now more than ever, we need works such as this one to hold testimony of the musicians who devoted their lives to this creative art force that the world knows as jazz. "

- Billy Harper, saxophonist, The Roots of the Blues with Randy Weston (2013)