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The Jazz Masters - Setting the Record Straight

The Jazz Masters

Setting the Record Straight

By Peter C. Zimmerman
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 is a celebration of jazz and the men and women who created and transformed it. In the twenty-one conversations contained in this engaging and highly accessible book, we hear from the musicians themselves, in their own words, direct and unfiltered. Peter Zimmerman’s interviewing technique is straightforward. He turns on a recording device, poses questions, and allows his subjects to improvise, similar to the way the musicians do at concerts and in recording sessions. Topics range from their early days, their struggles and victories, to the impact the music has had on their own lives. The interviews have been carefully edited for sense and clarity, without changing any of the musicians’ actual words.

Peter Zimmerman tirelessly sought virtuosi whose lives span the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The reader is rewarded with an intimate look into the past century’s extraordinary period of creative productivity. The oldest two interview subjects were born in 1920 and all are professional musicians who worked in jazz for at least five decades, with a few enjoying careers as long as seventy-five years. These voices reflect some seventeen hundred years of accumulated experience yielding a chronicle of incredible depth and scope.

The focus on musicians who are now emeritus figures is deliberate. Some of them are now in their nineties; six have passed since 2012, when Zimmerman began researching The Jazz Masters. Five of them have already received the NEA’s prestigious Jazz Masters award: Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Yusef Lateef, Jimmy Owens, and most recently, Dick Hyman. More undoubtedly will one day, and the balance are likewise of compelling interest. 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.

This book is a labor of love celebrating the vibrant style of music that Dizzy Gillespie once described as “our native art form.” Zimmerman’s deeply knowledgeable, unabashed passion for jazz brings out the best in the musicians. Filled with personal recollections and detailed accounts of their careers and everyday lives, this highly readable, lively work succeeds in capturing their stories for present and future generations. An important addition to the literature of music, The Jazz Masters goes a long way toward “setting the record straight.”


"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)

"Zimmerman has coaxed noteworthy insights from seasoned jazz musicians for this book, which will appeal to fans of the genre."

- David P. Szatmary, Library Journal

"Zimmerman has made a very valuable contribution to jazz literature."

- Jazz Journal

"You can read about music and musicians, but nothing beats hearing them, or for that matter, going out to see them when you can. Maybe better times are, indeed, ahead. Whatever the case, this is a basic collection, and well worth the read."

- Richard J Salvucci,