The Jazzmen

How Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie Transformed America

by Larry Tye

On Sale: 05/07/2024

The Jazzmen

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The Jazzmen

How Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie Transformed America

by Larry Tye

On Sale: 05/07/2024


About the Book

From the New York Times bestselling author of Satchel and Bobby Kennedy, a sweeping and spellbinding portrait of the longtime kings of jazz—Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie—who, born within a few years of one another, overcame racist exclusion and violence to become the most popular entertainers on the planet.

This is the story of three revolutionary American musicians, the maestro jazzmen who orchestrated the chords that throb at the soul of twentieth-century America.

  • Duke Ellington, the grandson of slaves who was christened Edward Kennedy Ellington, was a man whose story is as layered and nuanced as his name suggests and whose music transcended category.
  • Louis Daniel Armstrong was born in a New Orleans slum so tough it was called The Battlefield and, at age seven, got his first musical instrument, a ten-cent tin horn that drew buyers to his rag-peddling wagon and set him on the road to elevating jazz into a pulsating force for spontaneity and freedom.
  • William James Basie, too, grew up in a world unfamiliar to white fans—the son of a coachman and laundress who dreamed of escaping every time the traveling carnival swept into town, and who finally engineered his getaway with help from Fats Waller.

What is far less known about these groundbreakers is that they were bound not just by their music or even the discrimination that they, like nearly all Black performers of their day, routinely encountered. Each defied and ultimately overcame racial boundaries by opening America’s eyes and souls to the magnificence of their music. In the process they wrote the soundtrack for the civil rights movement.

Based on more than 250 interviews, this exhaustively researched book brings alive the history of Black America in the early-to-mid 1900s through the singular lens of the country’s most gifted, engaging, and enduring African-American musicians.

Critical Praise

“Tye brings his subjects to life as both forces of social change and three-dimensional human beings who lived and breathed their art, from Ellington’s soulful, 'Shakespearian' arrangements to Armstrong’s 'heart as big as Earth' and Basie’s 'Buddha-like' temperament. It’s a vibrant ode to a legendary trio and the 'rip-roaring harmonies' that made them great.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 “Like the best music created by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie, The Jazzmen SWINGS. As Tye makes clear, their story is the story of America in the twentieth century.” — RICKY RICCARDI, Grammy Award–winning author of What a Wonderful World and Heart Full of Rhythm

The Jazzmen begins with colorful people and flows to rich history so beautifully it is musical.” — JUAN WILLIAMS, author of Eyes on the Prize 

“Proud and important history, beautifully told.” — DEVAL PATRICK, former governor of Massachusetts, assistant attorney general for civil rights under Bill Clinton 

The Jazzmen reveals how these three musicians, when they express themselves through their instruments, become magical.” — MERCEDES ELLINGTON, dancer, choreographer, and Duke’s granddaughter 

“Larry Tye has written a masterpiece. These three are not only the most important people in American music, but they changed the whole world in their individual ways.” — WENDELL BRUNIOUS, New Orleans bandleader and trumpeter 

The Jazzmen tells an uplifting and unifying story that is especially important now, when times are so fractured.” — SONNY ROLLINS, Grammy Award–winning tenor saxophonist 

“Entertaining and engrossing, and a warm invitation to an essential part of American history.” — TRACY KIDDER, Pulitzer Prize–winning author 

“I thought I was already well-informed about these jazz heroes, but Larry Tye reveals so much more about their musical journeys and personal experiences. It’s like meeting them all over again. I couldn’t put it down.” — GARY BURTON, Grammy Award–winning jazz vibraphonist

“Tye has found that there are new things to say about The Three Musketeers of Jazz. Read, learn, and enjoy.” — DAN MORGENSTERN, jazz author, historian, editor, educator, and former director of the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies


Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780358380436
  • ISBN 10: 035838043X
  • Imprint: Mariner Books
  • On Sale: 05/07/2024
  • Pages: 416
  • List Price:40.50 CAD
  • BISAC1 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Composers & Musicians
  • BISAC2 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / African American & Black
  • BISAC3 : MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Jazz
  • BISAC4 : HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
  • BISAC5 : MUSIC / History & Criticism
  • BISAC6 : MUSIC / Individual Composer & Musician

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