Four Jazz Lives

A. B. Spellman
A revival of a classic oral biography of four nearly overlooked jazz giants


This new and retitled edition of A. B. Spellman's long-out-of-print Four Lives in the Bebop Business brings a classic work on jazz back to life, and shines a light on four musicians who've finally gotten their due.

In 1966, at the height of the avant-garde and the year of the first edition, the subjects of Spellman's interviews for the book—Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Nichols, and Jackie McLean—were considered too subtle, complex, or difficult, certainly far from the comfortable melodies of more mainstream artists. Nearly forty years later, in the new edition, Spellman notes the capriciousness of the jazz industry and writes of darker cultural currents, "the most sinister of which is the gross indifference with which America receives those aspects of Afro-American culture that are not 'entertaining.'"

Now that the world has caught up to the talents of Taylor, Coleman, Nichols, and McLean, Four Jazz Lives not only celebrates their musical genius but reminds us again of the permanent place they occupy in the pantheon of jazz greats.

A. B. Spellman is a well-known author, poet, critic, and instructor. He has published numerous books and articles on the arts, including Art Tatum: A Critical Biography and The Beautiful Days.

Praise / Awards

  • "Remains the best introduction to the worlds of Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Herbie Nichols, and Jackie McLean."
    —Ben Ratliff

  • "Four black jazzmen speak at considerable length for themself, with connective passages supplied with persistent relevancy by a poet, historian, and critic."
    —Nat Hentoff

  • "An essential book in the jazz canon. . . . [T]he University of Michigan Press has given it a rebirth under the title Four Jazz Lives."
    —Nat Hentoff, JazzTimes

  • "An engrossing, impressionistic history of contemporary jazz."

  • "[Spellman] views these men with a perceptive and understanding eye."
    New York Times

Look Inside

Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted January 2004.

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Product Details

  • 282 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02264-9

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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