Adam Shatz is a Contributing Editor at the London Review of Books. (September 2016)


The Sorcerer of Jazz

Miles Davis at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, 1986

Miles Ahead

a film directed by Don Cheadle

Bitches Brew

by George Grella Jr.
In 1975, Miles Davis put down his trumpet and retired. Davis was famous for his dramatic silences in performance: the notes he chose not to play were almost as meaningful as those he did. But this silence would last for nearly five years, during which he all but disappeared into his Upper West Side brownstone.

The Fierce Courage of Nina Simone

Nina Simone performing in the 1960s

What Happened, Miss Simone?

a Netflix documentary film directed by Liz Garbus

What Happened, Miss Simone?: A Biography

by Alan Light
Simone’s courage was undeniable, but it was also a shield, even a mask, designed to protect her from hostile forces, real and imagined. White supremacy was not the only hellhound on her trail.

Le Jazz Hot

Juliette Gréco and Miles Davis at the Salle Pleyel, Paris, 1949

After Django: Making Jazz in Postwar France

by Tom Perchard

Jazz/Black Power

by Philippe Carles and Jean-Louis Comolli, translated from the French by Grégory Pierrot
Jazz is an art that inspires possessive devotion, and nowhere more so than in France. That proud sense of ownership is understandable: Paris opened its arms to jazz when it was a motherless child back home, a music associated with brothels, race mixing, and other vices. The American clarinetist Sidney …

The Beautiful Sounds of Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix performing at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 1969

Jimi Hendrix: I Hear My Train A Comin’

a film directed by Bob Smeaton

Starting at Zero: His Own Story

by Jimi Hendrix
Shortly before his death at age twenty-seven on September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix told his friend Colette Mimram that he didn’t have much time left. He’d heard it from a fortune-teller in Morocco, and he believed her. Hendrix, who’d grown up penniless, could earn $14,000 a minute playing his white …


Charlie Parker in a photo booth, Kansas City, 1940

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

by Stanley Crouch
“Bird was kind of like the sun, giving off the energy we drew from him,” Max Roach said of the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. The sun set early for Parker, who died at thirty-four of pneumonia on March 12, 1955. He was a world-class musician, but he was also a world-class addict. His body was so haggard that the doctor who examined him estimated his age at fifty-three.

The Jewish Question

The Jewish Prison: A Rebellious Meditation on the State of Judaism

by Jean Daniel, translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell
Jean Daniel, who turned eighty-five in early July, has a strong claim to being France’s most eminent journalist. The editorial director of Le Nouvel Observateur, the center-left weekly he founded in 1964, Daniel has played a role in French political society that has no equivalent in American letters, with the …


The Hypnotic Clamor of Morocco

In 1931, a twenty-one-year-old American composer in Paris named Paul Bowles visited Morocco at the suggestion of Gertrude Stein. Bowles later travelled throughout Morocco, recording traditional music of a startling variety—Berber, Arabic, Andalusian and Jewish—now re-edited and re-released in a meticulously prepared box set called Music of Morocco.