The best books to welcome you to the magical world of jazz

Lilian Terry Author Of Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends: On and Off the Record with Jazz Greats
By Lilian Terry

Who am I?

Lilian Terry’s background is quite out-of-the-ordinary. Born in Egypt in 1930 to Maltese and Italian parents, she undertook academic studies in Cairo and Florence. Terry studied classical piano until age 17, developing an interest in jazz in her early teens. She participated in a variety of ways with jazz in Europe, beginning in the 1950s. As a singer, she was an active performer and recording artist. At the same time, she produced radio and television shows for Italy’s RAI network, and this activity led to some of her encounters with major figures of American jazz. Seven of these interactions (most of which spanned decades) are the subject of Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends.


I wrote...

Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends: On and Off the Record with Jazz Greats

By Lilian Terry,

Book cover of Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends: On and Off the Record with Jazz Greats

What is my book about?

"Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends offers a positive glimpse into the world of beloved jazz artist personalities with amusing anecdotes. From Ellington’s poetry to conversations with Roach, Charles, Silver, and Gillespie, Terry’s shared experiences and interviews present a captivating look into the world of jazz and its private moments." - Kerilie McDowall, Downbeat Magazine, January 2018

The books I picked & why

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Music is My Mistress

By Edward ‘Duke’ Ellington,

Book cover of Music is My Mistress

Why this book?

I have three main reasons to love this book: a) it is brilliantly written by Ellington himself; with his gentle-ironical sense of humour and his intention to put down on paper his magic musical world for the entertainment of all generations to come. b) I was fortunate to be “adopted” by him during the last nine years of his life, when “Uncle Eddie” would dictate to me any subject that came to his mind and I would make sure he had his copy, for later use in his book. c) to the last days of his life he was a constant inspiration; as a generous human being and as a universal musician.

Music is My Mistress

By Edward ‘Duke’ Ellington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Music is My Mistress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

}Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one. This is the story of Duke Ellingtonthe story of Jazz itself. Told in his own way, in his own words, a symphony written by the King of Jazz. His story spans and defines a half-century of modern music.This man who created over 1500 compositions was as much at home in Harlems Cotton Club in the 20s as he was at a White House birthday celebration in his honor in the 60s. For Duke knew everyone and savored them all. Passionate about his music and the people who made…

The Music of Black Americans: A History

By Eileen Southern,

Book cover of The Music of Black Americans: A History

Why this book?

One day Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln presented me with a thick, intense book saying: ”Here Lil, it’s one of the most important books ever written on our music. You might say it’s our bible! You’re going to love it!” They were right, I opened the heavy book, set it on my lap, and was smoothly led away into a magic world of slave ships, English colonies; then music, artists, and composers, all the way to the black liberation movement. As Dr. Southern makes clear: Despite the burden of social injustice, to the people, music has always played a central role in the life of the nation. And today the music of Black Americans is definitely universal.

The Music of Black Americans: A History

By Eileen Southern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Music of Black Americans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beginning with the arrival of the first Africans in the English colonies, Eileen Southern weaves a fascinating narrative of intense musical activity. As singers, players, and composers, black American musicians are fully chronicled in this landmark book. Now in the third edition, the author has brought the entire text up to date and has added a wealth of new material covering the latest developments in gospel, blues, jazz, classical, crossover, Broadway, and rap as they relate to African American music.

To Be, or Not... to Bop

By Dizzy Gillespie, Al Fraser,

Book cover of To Be, or Not... to Bop

Why this book?

For the same reason I would recommend attending any musical performance by John Birks ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie: Sheer entertainment, surprisingly touching aspects of his personality, instant feelings of friendship shared, and his unbreakable optimism, with which to face and endure whatever life had in store for him. In Italy he was a beloved “Italian,” officially elected honorary citizen of Bassano del Grappa, where we had opened the “Dizzy Gillespie Popular School of Music” that carried an integrated section for blind students. When his memoirs were published he asked me to translate the book into Italian, therefore I had to read it with particular concentration. Many were the moments I would have to shut the book and laugh out loud! Oh yes, Diz the Wiz, or The Joyous Soul of Jazz!     

To Be, or Not... to Bop

By Dizzy Gillespie, Al Fraser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked To Be, or Not... to Bop as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You don't have to know John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie's songs to feel his influence. The self-taught trumpet player rose from a poor but musically driven upbringing to become a jazz mastermind, founding the bebop movement and giving rise to Afro-Cuban music.

This extensive biography is intertwined with reflections from famous Gillespie associates Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Mary Lou Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others. They provide numerous perspectives of Gillespie's early start on the road to fame and the spirited times that would follow.

To Be, or Not . . . to Bop is a unique…

In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz

By Donald M. Marquis,

Book cover of In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz

Why this book?

Donald Marquis takes you firmly by the hand and leads you into that Wonderland that was New Orleans from 1877, when Bolden was born; then through the brief but extraordinary rise of Bolden’s personality and the powerful sound of his trumpet echoing through the streets of New Orleans. The author brings out Buddy’s tragic descent into mental illness, his entrance into the Insane Asylum of Louisiana, and his untimely death in 1930 at the young age of thirty-three. The book is a very sober tale of life in those times, it is rooted in the political and artistic history of jazz music and a very touching homage to a ghost. Today there are people wondering if Buddy Bolden really did exist?

In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz

By Donald M. Marquis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In Search of Buddy Bolden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The beginnings of jazz and the story of Charles ""Buddy"" Bolden (1877- 1931) are inextricably intertwined. Just after the turn of the century, New Orleanians could often hear Bolden's powerful horn from the city's parks and through dance hall windows. Despite his lack of formal training, his unique style- both musical and personal- made him the first ""king"" of New Orleans jazz and the inspiration for such later jazz greats as King Oliver, Kid Ory, and Louis Armstrong.

For years the legend of Buddy Bolden was overshadowed by myths about his music, his reckless lifestyle, and his mental instability. In…

Aux Frontières du Jazz

By Robert Goffin,

Book cover of Aux Frontières du Jazz

Why this book?

Any aficionado follower of our music is aware that – for all the lists of books on jazz, worldwide nowadays – in truth the very first nations to study seriously and passionately this extraordinary music called jazz were the European countries.   They discovered in the 1930s the magic of those Black orchestras that entertained the wealthy cruise ships travelling from the United States to France and Europe. The local musicians welcomed their Black colleagues who became their teachers. While in the United States jazz music was considered just another form of dance music, in Europe, it was examined, dissected, catalogued, and played with great passion.

The very first world book ever published on jazz came from Belgium in 1932, called At the Frontiers of Jazz by Robert Goffin (in the French language). Followed the famous Le Hot Jazz by Panassiè in 1934, today also translated into English. The dam was opened and Europe offered all sorts of books, magazines, guides to the rest of the world. In America, jazz was rhythmic music to be danced to. In Europe, it was also a matter of study, like any form of classic music.   

Aux Frontières du Jazz

By Robert Goffin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aux Frontières du Jazz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in jazz, jazz musicians, and Louisiana?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about jazz, jazz musicians, and Louisiana.

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