Give Now

Night Lights Classic Jazz

Jazz Capitals Of America: A Bibliography

Books about the urban centers of 20th century America that played host to vital proving grounds for generations of jazz musicians.

The cover for Samuel Charters' and Leonard Kunstadt's chronicle of NYC jazz.

Photo: Book cover art

Sound of the city: accounts of places where the music flourished.

Random thoughts from a resident of the Jazz States of America: this past weekend I checked in with Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker to see how his book on Detroit jazz was coming along. (Full disclosure: Mark is a friend and hails from Night Lights’ home base of Bloomington.) The book, Made in Detroit: Jazz from the Motor City (Univ. of Michigan Press), is described by Mark as “profiles and essays focused on modern and contemporary players, among them Gerald Wilson, Hank, Thad and Elvin Jones, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Louis Hayes, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, Marcus Belgrave, Geri Allen, Bob Hurst, Karriem Riggins, etc. In progress.” Another friend, singer David Floodstrand, says he’s working on “Rush Street, Chicago’s Street of Dreams, a history of Chicago’s nightlife and entertainment district.”

I sought out these updates because I’d been thinking about my penchant for reading histories of jazz in particular cities, and wanted to put together a list of previously-published titles for the Night Lights site. In a number of instances, these books have been written by hometown historians as a labor of love. I tried to stick to volumes that are concerned primarily with a comprehensive chronological look, but there are others certainly worthy of mention, such as bassist Bill Crow’s memoir From Birdland To Broadway, which functions indirectly–well, pretty directly, really–as an account of the mid-20th century New York City jazz scene, and Sam Stephenson’s Jazz Loft Project, an almost laboratory-like look at one specific beehive of jazz-and-arts culture in 1950s and 60s NYC.

I can’t lay claim to having read all of the books listed below, but I’ve finished many of them and intend to read the ones I haven’t. If I’m overlooking anything (and I surely am), comment below or shoot me your suggested addition through the Night Lights contact form.

The List: Books About Jazz Cities

Night Lights Shows About Jazz Cities

  • Steve Griggs

    Jazz City: The Impact of Our Cities on the Development of Jazz by Leroy Ostransky
    Goin’ to Kansas City by Nathan W Pearson
    One O’clock Jump: The Unforgettable History of the Oklahoma City Blue Devils by Douglas Henry Daniels
    Jazz Style in Kansas City and the Southwest by Ross Russell
    New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans by John Swenson
    The Blue Note: Seattle’s Black Musician’s Union, A Pictorial History by David Keller

  • Andrew Homzy

    Swinging in Paradise: The Story of Jazz in Montreal

    John Gilmore

    For almost half a century, more jazz was made in Montreal than anywhere else in Canada. Here are the lives, the music, and the concerns of the musicians who made the city swing—among them Myron Sutton, Willy Girard, Johnny Holmes, Oscar Peterson, Louis Metcalf, Steep Wade, Maury Kaye, and René Thomas. Here too is the story of Montreal after dark, from the silent movies, vaudeville theatres and dance pavilions to the nightclubs with names like the Montmartre, the Chez Paree, the St. Michel, and Paradise.Who’s Who of Jazz in Montreal is a companion to the widely-acclaimed Swinging in Paradise: The Story of Jazz in Montreal.

  • Andrew Homzy

    And – You need a list of the many-more books about the First City of Jazz – New Orleans -

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Night Lights Classic Jazz:

Support For Indiana Public Media From

About Night Lights

Search Night Lights

where to hear night lights

This Week On Afterglow

2018 Grammy Award Preview


A preview of the nominees for the Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Traditional Pop Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards

Read more »

Afterglow is WFIU's weekly program of jazz and American popular song hosted by David Brent Johnson.

More from Afterglow »