100 books like The Blue Moment

By Richard Williams,

Here are 100 books that The Blue Moment fans have personally recommended if you like The Blue Moment. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Coming Through Slaughter

Philip Watson Author Of Bill Frisell, Beautiful Dreamer: The Guitarist Who Changed the Sound of American Music

From my list on jazz (and a whole lot more).

Why am I passionate about this?

I've mostly made my living as a feature writer, covering a broad range of subjects—from 9/11 to the Poker Million tournament, Miles Davis to (a film version of) James Joyce’s Ulysses, British soldiers injured in Afghanistan to the Peace One Day campaign—for numerous UK and Irish newspapers and magazines, including GQ, where I was formerly deputy editor, and Esquire, where I was editor-at-large. I've also written extensively about music, jazz in particular; musicians I've interviewed include Nick Cave, Gil Scott-Heron, McCoy Tyner, Wynton Marsalis, and Maria Schneider. My first book, a biography of the American guitarist Bill Frisell, was published by Faber in the spring of 2022.

Philip's book list on jazz (and a whole lot more)

Philip Watson Why did Philip love this book?

Another work that is wonderfully and winningly hard to pin down, Coming Through Slaughter is an imaginative and fragmentary collage of monologue, memoir, interviews, lyrics, photographs, archival material, hospital files—and white space—that builds a novelistic portrait of the mythical dark life and hard times of cornet player Buddy Bolden, one of the originators of jazz in New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century. From the little that is known about Bolden and his music, Ondaatje shapes an audacious story that is short, cinematic, dream-like, and devastating, a book that incontrovertibly proved once again to me that there are many, many ways to tell the story of a life. 

By Michael Ondaatje,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Coming Through Slaughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover Michael Ondaatje's debut novel, 'a beautifully detailed story, perhaps the finest jazz novel ever written' Sunday Times

Based on the life of cornet player Buddy Bolden, one of the legendary jazz pioneers of turn-of-the-twentieth-century New Orleans, Coming Through Slaughter is an extraordinary recreation of a remarkable musical life and a tragic conclusion. Through a collage of memoirs, interviews, imaginary conversations and monologues, Ondaatje builds a picture of a man who would work by day at a barber shop and by night unleash his talent to wild audiences who had never experienced such playing. But Buddy was also playing the…


Book cover of But Beautiful: A Book about Jazz

Annik LaFarge Author Of Chasing Chopin: A Musical Journey Across Three Centuries, Four Countries, and a Half-Dozen Revolutions

From my list on bringing music to life history listening joy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I took piano lessons as a kid, but my teacher was imperious and boring. In my mid-30s I started thinking about it again, and my partner bought me a state-of-the-art Yamaha keyboard as a Valentine’s Day present. I found a wonderful teacher, Rafael Cortés, who worked at a community music school a few blocks from my office. Every piece we worked on began with a conversation about the composer, the period in which she/he wrote the piece, and the other artists–painters, sculptors, poets–who were working then. I fell in love with both playing and learning about music, and more than 30 years later, I’m still taking weekly lessons with Rafael. 

Annik's book list on bringing music to life history listening joy

Annik LaFarge Why did Annik love this book?

Dyer is a gorgeous writer, and this book, which takes its title from a hauntingly beautiful 1947 song, is one of the most musical pieces of prose I’ve ever read. This paragraph captures both his voice and penetrating musical insights: 

“If [Thelonius] Monk had built a bridge he’d have taken away the bits that are considered essential until all that was left were the decorative parts–but somehow he would have made the ornamentation absorb the strength of the supporting spars so it was like everything was built around what wasn’t there. It shouldn’t have held together, but it did, and the excitement came from the way that it looked like it might collapse at any moment, just as Monk’s music always sounded like it might get wrapped up in itself.”

By Geoff Dyer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked But Beautiful as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"May be the best book ever written about jazz."—David Thomson, Los Angeles Times

In eight poetically charged vignettes, Geoff Dyer skillfully evokes the music and the men who shaped modern jazz. Drawing on photos, anecdotes, and, most important, the way he hears the music, Dyer imaginatively reconstructs scenes from the embattled lives of some of the greats: Lester Young fading away in a hotel room; Charles Mingus storming down the streets of New York on a too-small bicycle; Thelonious Monk creating his own private language on the piano. However, music is the driving force of But Beautiful, and wildly metaphoric…


Book cover of Forces in Motion: Anthony Braxton and the Meta-Reality of Creative Music: Interviews and Tour Notes, England 1985

Philip Watson Author Of Bill Frisell, Beautiful Dreamer: The Guitarist Who Changed the Sound of American Music

From my list on jazz (and a whole lot more).

Why am I passionate about this?

I've mostly made my living as a feature writer, covering a broad range of subjects—from 9/11 to the Poker Million tournament, Miles Davis to (a film version of) James Joyce’s Ulysses, British soldiers injured in Afghanistan to the Peace One Day campaign—for numerous UK and Irish newspapers and magazines, including GQ, where I was formerly deputy editor, and Esquire, where I was editor-at-large. I've also written extensively about music, jazz in particular; musicians I've interviewed include Nick Cave, Gil Scott-Heron, McCoy Tyner, Wynton Marsalis, and Maria Schneider. My first book, a biography of the American guitarist Bill Frisell, was published by Faber in the spring of 2022.

Philip's book list on jazz (and a whole lot more)

Philip Watson Why did Philip love this book?

Don’t let the (original) lengthy subtitle, with its nearly forty-year-old date reference, put you off; this is a deeply original and highly engaging account of the music and philosophy of one of America’s most prolific and consistently creative musicians: composer, improviser, educator and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. With a double narrative that deftly alternates between lofty discussions of subjects such as metaphysics, mysticism, language, and astrology, and the daily grind of a challenging twelve-date tour of England by a Braxton quartet in the winter of 1985, Forces in Motion cleverly captures much of the complexity, intelligence, ambition and humour of its uncompromising subject. At one point Lock describes Braxton as “an alchemist, a man who opens doors you didn’t know existed”; the same can be said of the book itself. A perfect marriage of musician and writer. 

By Graham Lock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forces in Motion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Absolutely essential reading." — The Wire
One of modern music's towering figures, composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton has redefined critical concepts of jazz and the wider world of creative music. The Chicago native's works range from an early piece for 100 tubas to proposed compositions for orchestras on different planets. A modern classic, Forces in Motion follows Braxton's lauded quartet on a 1985 tour of England, noting his opinions of his musical predecessors — including Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Karlheinz Stockhausen — as well as his thoughts on racism and poverty.
For this new 30th anniversary edition, Graham Lock…


Book cover of Beneath the Underdog: His World as Composed by Mingus

Rich Maloof Author Of Jim Marshall - The Father of Loud: The Story of the Man Behind the World's Most Famous Guitar Amplifiers

From my list on books by musicians, for musicians.

Why am I passionate about this?

My tenure as editor-in-chief of Guitar magazine is well behind me now, but it always lights me up to create content for musicians, and to absorb it. These are my people, you see, a community of curious, empathic, chronically late daydreamers and night owls, good listeners all. I’m not qualified to comment on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory or Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music, but neither do I want to talk about rock-star memoirs or fawning fictionalizations. No fanfare here, thank you. Instead, these are five books in which musicians may recognize some element of their creative self and come away with a little more fuel for the fire.

Rich's book list on books by musicians, for musicians

Rich Maloof Why did Rich love this book?

Mingus reveals a life so foreign to my own upbringing—uninhibited, dangerous, angry, crude, at once vulnerable and invulnerable—that I was shocked by this book as a teenage jazz head.

I found his autobiography intimidating, much the way his music shoved me out of my comfort zone. In Mingus’s prose, there is no mistaking the cadences, dissonance, and strange beauty that characterize his formidable body of musical work.

I’ve never bought into the trope that one has to suffer for one’s art but I believed Mingus when he said, “I'm trying to play the truth of what I am."

By Charles Mingus,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Beneath the Underdog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bass player extraordinaire Charles Mingus, who died in 1979, is one of the essential composers in the history of jazz, and Beneath the Underdog, his celebrated, wild, funny, demonic, anguished, shocking and profoundly moving memoir, is the greatest autobiography ever written by a jazz musician.

It tells of his God-haunted childhood in Watts during the 1920s and 1930s; his outcast adolescent years; his apprenticeship, not only with jazzmen but also with pimps, hookers, junkies, and hoodlums; and his golden years in New York City with such legendary figures as Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie.…


Book cover of Easy Meat

Lloyd Sachs Author Of T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit

From my list on crime with soundtracks you'll want to playlist.

Why am I passionate about this?

My earliest filmgoing memory is of a bad guy getting pushed down the stairs in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. That shocking scene has stayed with me, leading me into a lifetime of exploring the dark visions of crime stories. It was only natural that my love of rock music, and in its interaction with other media would draw me to mystery writers whose books were fueled by their love of rock, blues and pop. "If not for music and movies, I wouldn't be a novelist," George Pelecanos once told me. "They have influenced me more than any author. I want to shout about it." Me too.

Lloyd's book list on crime with soundtracks you'll want to playlist

Lloyd Sachs Why did Lloyd love this book?

As a jazz critic, I was long struck by the absence of knowledgable (and fun) references to this music in mystery novels, my second love. Then I happened upon a pair of remaindered books by British novelist John Harvey. A blurb referring to his police detective Charlie Resnick's devotion to bebop giants Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk sealed the deal. Harvey doesn't just drop names and titles in Easy Meat, he plays jazz critic himself: "It was a bad sign, Resnick knew, when he played Monk last thing at night, the pianist’s fractured attempts at melody obeying no logic but their own. A big man, as Resnick was big, Monk’s fingers stabbed down at single notes, crushed chords into the beauty of an abstract painting, twisted scaffolding seen in a certain light." 

By John Harvey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Easy Meat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fifteen year old Nicky Snape is found hanging from the shower in a local authority home where he is awaiting trial for his involvement in a brutally violent burglary. Charlie Resnick, Nicky's arresting officer, knows the poor, working-class Snape family well and suspects foul play. When the investigation results in a vicious murder on the banks of the River Trent, Resnick's suspicions about the case appear to have been well founded. The deaths coincide with a series of brutal male rapes in the city and Resnick finds himself in charge of investigations that lead to some startling and sinister revelations.…


Book cover of Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation

Katherine Giuffre Author Of Outrage: The Arts and the Creation of Modernity

From my list on maverick creativity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent my career as a sociologist studying how creative people work, what social settings are most conducive to creativity, and how to foster creativity for everyone in our daily lives. I know that creativity is often not easy and can even be met with hostility much more frequently than we might think. Creativity is, after all, a type of deviance and creative people can face real obstacles in finding and following their vision. But a richer understanding of how and why creativity happens – and of its obstacles – can be a tool for making a more vibrant, creative, inclusive, and just world.

Katherine's book list on maverick creativity

Katherine Giuffre Why did Katherine love this book?

How do jazz musicians think about what they are doing when they are improvising within a group? How do they learn to do such a thing in the first place – going their own way, but still going there together?

This is an immersion into the minds of musicians, starting with their earliest days and going through the rigors of learning their craft and then mastering it. The combination of discipline and freedom, hard work and wild inventive joy, finding an individual voice, and being part of the larger whole – the things that make improvisation a breath-taking artistic high-wire act – come together in this book.

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but this book made me wish I was a jazz musician.

By Paul F. Berliner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Thinking in Jazz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This text reveals how musicians, both individually and collectively, learn to improvise. It aims to illuminate the distinctive creative processes that comprise improvisation. Chronicling leading musicians from their first encounters with jazz to the development of a unique improvisatory voice, Paul Berliner demonstrates that a lifetime of preparation lies behind the skilled improviser's every note. Berliner's integration of data concerning musical development, the rigorous practice and thought artists devote to jazz outside performance, and the complexities of composing in the moment leads to a new understanding of jazz improvisation as a language, an aesthetic and a tradition. The product of…


Book cover of Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz

Marianne Broadbent Author Of The Agile Executive: Embracing Career Risks and Rewards

From my list on aspiring women leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for leadership and aspiring women leaders comes from my own leadership experiences and working with women and men executives and aspiring executives, every day. I had to make some difficult work choices in my 20s and 30s (with four young children) and was wonderfully supported by some wise women. Many of my choices were different from my peers and we continue to have to make more difficult choices than our male colleagues. We need to help each other, every day. I lead a blended life co-leading an executive search and leadership advisory firm, while also being a mother, grandmother, wife, mentor, friend, and lover of good music, theatre, food, wine, and curious people. 

Marianne's book list on aspiring women leaders

Marianne Broadbent Why did Marianne love this book?

Early in my varied career I had musical training in piano and sang in choirs, including with orchestras.

The notion of a leader as an orchestra conductor, never appealed, as orchestras usually play set music. Leadership is usually not like that: situations are unpredictable, crises occur, and we take people in new directions.

Having observed one of my jazz-playing sons, I started using jazz groups and improvisation as a better analogy: a group of people who have a common goal, each have their own talents and want to explore musical journeys differently. They allow each other to ‘shine’ in a supportive and trusted environment.

The journey is greater than the individual parts. Barrett’s book then validated my messy thinking, and articulated these leadership lessons very well.  

By Frank J. Barrett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Yes to the Mess as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What Duke Ellington and Miles Davis teach us about leadership How do you cope when faced with complexity and constant change at work? Here's what the world's best leaders and teams do: they improvise. They invent novel responses and take calculated risks without a scripted plan or a safety net that guarantees specific outcomes. They negotiate with each other as they proceed, and they don't dwell on mistakes or stifle each other's ideas. In short, they say "yes to the mess" that is today's hurried, harried, yet enormously innovative and fertile world of work. This is exactly what great jazz…


Book cover of Notes and Tones: Musician-To-Musician Interviews

Richard J. Alley Author Of Five Night Stand

From my list on culture of mid-20th century music and musicians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in 1970. From my earliest memory there was music. But it’s never been just about the music, I have a natural curiosity for the people who make that music. The artist on the album cover, but also the side musicians, the producers, engineers, and promoters. I’m also fascinated by the roadmap from blues to rock to Laurel Canyon to disco to punk and on and on. Real music infuses and informs the fiction I write — by reading real-life accounts and listening to the songs, I’m put in the world from which it was all born.

Richard's book list on culture of mid-20th century music and musicians

Richard J. Alley Why did Richard love this book?

I was writing my novel in 2013, but 20 years earlier I’d picked up a book by the jazz drummer Arthur Taylor. I didn’t realize how much it influenced me until I went back to it again and again as I worked to get dialog and cadence and the ‘feel’ of jazz on paper. I prefer memoirs because I want to hear the shorthand, slang, and shortcuts artists take. This book has that and more. Taylor interviews the best of the best — Ornette, Roach, Dizzy, Nina. I like to think had my protagonist been real, he’d have been included in this list. I owe a lot to this book and if you’re looking to learn not just about jazz music, but jazz culture and life, this is a great start.

By Arthur Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Notes and Tones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Notes and Tones is one of the most controversial, honest, and insightful books ever written about jazz. As a black musician himself, Arthur Taylor was able to ask his subjects hard questions about the role of black artists in a white society. Free to speak their minds, these musicians offer startling insights into their music, their lives, and the creative process itself. This expanded edition is supplemented with previously unpublished interviews with Dexter Gordon and Thelonious Monk, a new introduction by the author, and new photographs. Notes and Tones consists of twenty-nine no-holds-barred conversations which drummer Arthur Taylor held with…


Book cover of What It Is: The Life of a Jazz Artist (Studies in Jazz)

James Kaplan Author Of Sinatra: The Chairman

From my list on jazz through the stories of jazz musicians.

Why am I passionate about this?

Now it can be said: three decades ago, when Vanity Fair assigned me to write a profile of Miles Davis to accompany an excerpt of his about-to-be-published memoir, I presented myself as a jazz expert — when in fact my enthusiasm for the music far outweighed my knowledge. But in the years since I’ve learned a lot about America’s great art form, in part through researching my Frank Sinatra biography — Sinatra worked with many important jazz musicians — and now in working on my latest book, about Miles and two of the geniuses who collaborated with him on his historic album Kind of Blue, the saxophonist John Coltrane and the pianist Bill Evans.

James' book list on jazz through the stories of jazz musicians

James Kaplan Why did James love this book?

Saxophonist, flutist, and jazz educator Dave Liebman (born in 1946) was the son of two Jewish Brooklyn schoolteachers, who envisioned the same life for him — all the more so after he contracted polio at age nine. Much to their dismay, Liebman had different ideas. Because he couldn’t play sports, he nourished a passionate interest in music, first taking piano lessons, then moving on to his real interest, the saxophone. A strong student with an interest in history, he might have followed his parents’ wishes and become a teacher — until the night, at age 16, he took a date to the New York jazz club Birdland and heard the saxophone giant John Coltrane for the first time, and realized the one and only thing he wanted to do with his life.

Written in the form of a dialogue with the jazz writer and musician Lewis Porter, What It Is…

By Dave Liebman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What It Is as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dave Liebman is one of the leading forces in contemporary jazz. Prominently known for performing with Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, he has exerted considerable influence as a saxophonist, bandleader, composer, author, and educator. In addition to his recent recognition as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, he has received the Order of Arts and Letters from France and holds an honorary doctorate from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. He has mentored many of today's most notable young jazz musicians worldwide and is a prolific writer on jazz.

In What It Is: The Life of a Jazz…


Book cover of The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds

Matt Cost Author Of Velma Gone Awry: A Brooklyn 8 Ballo Mystery

From my list on where history and mystery merge.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a former history major and teacher who has always loved to read histories and mysteries and then went on to write them as well. I have two mystery series of four books each (so far), the Mainely Mystery and Clay Wolfe/Port Essex series. I’ve also written three historical fiction books about the diverse topics of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, Joshua Chamberlain and the Civil War, and New Orleans during Reconstruction. I’ve decided to combine my passion for histories and mysteries into a historical PI mystery set in 1923 Brooklyn, Velma Gone Awry

Matt's book list on where history and mystery merge

Matt Cost Why did Matt love this book?

This is a fun-filled mystery set in 1920s London. Cozies are not usually my thing, but I recently gave this a go as I am also writing a series in that exact time period and thought I’d see how Kinsey set about it. The historical beautifully captures the exuberance of the time period after World War I. Women have emerged from behind closed doors to interact on equal status as men, jazz music parades the pages with wild abandon, and the slang of the characters is spot on. The twists, turns, and action are blended in with the rich description to make this a delightful read.  

By T E Kinsey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Missing diamonds. Mysterious deaths. And all that jazz.

London, 1925. With their band the Dizzy Heights, jazz musicians Ivor 'Skins' Maloney and Bartholomew 'Barty' Dunn are used to improvising as they play the Charleston for flappers and toffs, but things are about to take a surprising turn.

Superintendent Sunderland has had word that a deserter who stole a fortune in diamonds as he fled the war is a member of the Aristippus private members' club in Mayfair-where the Dizzy Heights have a residency. And the thief is planning to steal a hoard of jewels hidden there under the cover of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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