Jazz from Detroit explores the city’s pivotal role in shaping the course of modern and contemporary jazz. With more than two dozen in-depth profiles of remarkable Detroit-bred musicians, complemented by a generous selection of photographs, Mark Stryker makes Detroit jazz come alive as he draws out significant connections between the players, eras, styles, and Detroit’s distinctive history.
Stryker’s story starts in the 1940s and ’50s, when the auto industry created a thriving black working and middle class in Detroit that supported a vibrant nightlife, and exceptional public school music programs and mentors in the community like pianist Barry Harris transformed the city into a jazz juggernaut. This golden age nurtured many legendary musicians—Hank, Thad, and Elvin Jones, Gerald Wilson, Milt Jackson, Yusef Lateef, Donald Byrd, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, and others. As the city’s fortunes change, Stryker turns his spotlight toward often overlooked but prescient musician-run cooperatives and self-determination groups of the 1960s and ’70s, such as the Strata Corporation and Tribe. In more recent decades, the city’s culture of mentorship, embodied by trumpeter and teacher Marcus Belgrave, ensured that Detroit continued to incubate world-class talent; Belgrave protégés like Geri Allen, Kenny Garrett, Robert Hurst, Regina Carter, Gerald Cleaver, and Karriem Riggins helped define contemporary jazz. The resilience of Detroit’s jazz tradition provides a powerful symbol of the city’s lasting cultural influence.
Stryker’s 21 years as an arts reporter and critic at the Detroit Free Press are evident in his vivid storytelling and insightful criticism. Jazz from Detroit will appeal to jazz aficionados, casual fans, and anyone interested in the vibrant and complex history of cultural life in Detroit.
“There is no other city like Detroit: the musicians, the vibe, the people. Thank you, Mark Stryker, for Jazz from Detroit.”
“No city has meant more to American musical culture than Detroit. In the bass register alone, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, and James Jamerson provided the foundation for some of the greatest music of the 20th century, and we can continue to climb the entire frequency range to find the same deep and detailed descriptions of American life at its very best through the ideas and voices of iconic Detroit musicians. Deeply researched and expertly rendered, Mark Stryker’s Jazz from Detroit has provided a diligent and insightful window into every aspect of how Detroit came to be one of the major centers of modern American musical research. This is an important and highly entertaining document that will stand as a definitive testament to the musical culture of Detroit.”
“With a smooth and deeply informed style Mark Stryker in Jazz from Detroit writes authoritatively about the city’s almost matchless contribution to the history of jazz. His profiles on some of the iconic figures in jazz are so insightfully drawn, so musical that you are tempted to stop reading and listen to their recordings.”
—Herb Boyd, author of Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination
“Jazz from Detroit is a masterpiece—one of the most insightful books about this music ever written. Mark Stryker’s perceptive commentary will resonate with both aficionados and newcomers to jazz.”
Jacket photo: Elvin Jones from McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy session for Blue Note on April 21, 1967, at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Photo by Francis Wolff, © Mosaic Images LLC.
Author photo: Donald Dietz
Mark Stryker is an award-winning arts journalist and critic based in Detroit, Michigan, specializing in jazz, classical music, and visual art.