Jazz Appreciation Month is a music festival held every April in the United States, in honor of jazz as an early American art form. JAM was created in 2001 by John Edward Hasse, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It became a national extension of the original Jazz Awareness Month created by the Louisiana Jazz Federation in New Orleans in 1980. In addition, the month of April was selected in recognition of the birthdays of jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Gerry Mulligan, and Tito Puente.



Billie’s blues the Billie Holiday story, 1933-1959 by John Chilton

DB 35412 (Downloadable talking book)

Chilton begins Billie’s story with her recording debut in 1933 since facts about the jazz singer’s early life are difficult to verify. Eleanora, as she was named by her Baltimore parents in 1915, took the name Billie in the late 1920s. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by Lester Young, she sang with all the jazz greats and the big bands of the day, until she succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction in 1959.


Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth by John F. Szwed

DB 81774 (Downloadable talking book) / BR 20856

Jazz scholar Szwed starts his examination of singer Billie Holiday by looking at the many contradictory stories told about her and by her, especially in her own 1956 autobiography Lady Sings the Blues. He analyzes Holiday’s influences, iconic songs, and her unique gifts as a singer. Some strong language.


Chicago Jazz a cultural history by William H Kenney

DB 37092 (Downloadable talking book)

How the migration of African Americans northward created a favorable climate for the growth of jazz and how, once jazz flourished in the multiracial environment of South Side Chicago, white jazz evolved. The author examines the interdependent relationship of music, where it was played, and the rise of economic opportunities created by industries such as recording companies and dance halls


Coltrane: the story of a sound by Ben Ratliff

DB 66428 (Downloadable talking book) / BR 17755

New York Times jazz critic analyzes the performance style of saxophonist John Coltrane (1926-1967), from his 1946 recordings as a navy bandsman and 1950s improvisational experimentation to his 1961 breakthrough song, “My Favorite Things.” Discusses Coltrane’s openness to other cultures and influence on other musicians.


Early Jazz by Gunther Schuller

DB 38263 (Downloadable talking book)

Jazz from its beginnings through the early 1930s. Schuller explores sound recordings made since the advent of jazz and responds to hypothetical questions a musician might ask. He shows how elements of jazz grew out of African music, stresses the shift of emphasis from the music to the performer, and notes the difficulty of studying something as ephemeral as improvised sounds.


Giants of Jazz by Studs Terkel

DB 60829 (Downloadable talking book) / BR 16209

Collective biography of thirteen American jazz greats: Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Bix Beiderbecke, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane. Portraits blend musicians’ life stories with information about the evolution of jazz. Includes discography.


Hi-De-ho the life of Cab Calloway by Alyn Shipton

DB 100775 (Downloadable talking book)

A jazz critic sheds light on the life and career of performer and bandleader Cab Calloway (1907-1994), explaining how he traversed racial and social boundaries to become one of the country’s most beloved entertainers. Draws on first-hand accounts from Calloway’s family, friends, and fellow musicians.


The history of Jazz by Ted Gioia

DB 46401 (Downloadable talking book)

Covers the origins of jazz from African instruments and rhythms of the early 1800s through the emergence of modern jazz and the technological changes of the 1990s. Evaluates the contributions of individual musicians; provide the social and cultural context for the development of this art form.


How to listen to jazz by Ted Gioia      

DB 85237 (Downloadable talking book)

A musician who is also a music historian examines jazz. Aimed at listeners new to jazz, the content covers the origins of this musical form, its typical structure, the evolution of various styles of jazz, profiles of some famous innovators, and a look at jazz today.


Jazz by Gary Giddins

DB 71772 (Downloadable talking book)

Traces the evolution of jazz from its nineteenth-century precursors to its modern form. Profiles musicians from Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker to Miles Davis and beyond; discusses improvisation and technique and provides seventy-eight listening guides analyzing a broad range of recordings.


Jazz: a history of America’s music by Geoffrey C. Ward

DB 52433 (Downloadable talking book)

Longtime jazz critic for NPR provides a primer on the musical genre. Beginning with definitions and answers to some frequently asked questions, he goes on to cover the history of jazz, dividing it into four main time periods. Includes a glossary and discography.


A life in Jazz by Danny Barker   

DB 26386 (Downloadable talking book)

Danny Barker was born in New Orleans and began his lifelong involvement with jazz music in the children’s bands there. In a folksy style, he tells of his early days in New Orleans playing jazz funerals, and of life on the road with blues singer Little Brother Montgomery. In the 1930’s he joins the New York jazz scene and plays with Jelly Roll Morton, Benny Carter, Cab Calloway, James P. Johnson, and others.


Linda Ronstadt: it’s so easy! By Mark Bego         

DB 36268 (Downloadable talking book)

Bego’s unauthorized biography traces Ronstadt’s diverse singing career. After debuting in the 1960s with the folk group the Stone Poneys, the Tucson artist launched a solo career as a rock singer. She then moved on to a Broadway musical, opera, pop, jazz, blues, and a Mexican mariachi band. Her extensive discography includes work with artists such as Emmylou Harris and Aaron Neville.


Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism by Thomas David Brothers

DB 78244 (Downloadable talking book)

Music professor examines the life, career, and influence of jazz trumpeter and bandleader Armstrong (1901-1971). Chronicles Armstrong’s ascendency in the music scenes of Chicago and New York City and discusses ways he helped to establish jazz as a musical art form.


Lullaby of Birdland by George Shearing

DB 57996 (Downloadable talking book) / BR 15308

A jazz critic sheds light on the life and career of performer and bandleader Cab Calloway (1907-1994), explaining how he traversed racial and social boundaries to become one of the country’s most beloved entertainers. Draws on first-hand accounts from Calloway’s family, friends, and fellow musicians.


My singing teachers by Mel Tome

DB 40974 (Downloadable talking book)

Jazz vocalist Mel Torme reflects on the singers, instrumentalists, and others who influenced his musical style and career. He offers a medley of anecdotes and observations on some big names, like Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong, as well many less well-known artists.


Nat King Cole by James Haskins        

DB 23124 (Downloadable talking book)

Sympathetic biography of the popular singer and jazz musician who died in 1965 at the age of forty-five. A minister’s son, growing up poor in Chicago, Nat Cole went from high school to jazz piano playing, before he became known as a singer, and was greatly influenced by Earl “Fatha” Hines’ inimitable style at the keyboard.


Peggy Lee a century of song by Tish Oney          

DB 100755 (Downloadable talking book)

A jazz composer and musicologist examine the legacy of Peggy Lee (1920-2002) as a singer, composer, lyricist, and actress. Details her journey from a North Dakota farm girl to star and highlights her contributions to jazz and popular music with interviews with Lee’s family, friends, and music colleagues.


Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington by Nadine Cohodas

DB 59865 (Downloadable talking book)

Biography of African American pop, blues, and jazz diva Dinah Washington (1924-1963), who sang in Lionel Hampton’s band at age eighteen as Ruth Jones. Cohodas uses archives and family interviews to highlight Washington’s career, recording sessions, struggles with racism, seven marriages, and personal life.


Satchmo: My life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong

DB 63277 (Downloadable talking book)

Autobiography of jazz legend Louis Armstrong (1900-1971) chronicles his early years in New Orleans. Describes Armstrong’s home life and his foray into the music scene, playing in bars with the biggest names in New Orleans until his 1922 departure to Chicago. Includes 1986 introduction by Dan Morgenstern.


Swing Shift: “all-girl” bands of the 1940s by Sherrie Tucker

DB 103955 (Downloadable talking book)

A professor of Women’s Studies examines the history of all-female jazz bands that flourished in the 1940s. Includes firsthand accounts of more than one hundred women, both white and African American, who performed in ballrooms, theaters, dance halls, military installations, and makeshift USO stages during this era.


Trumpet Story by William G. Coleman        

DB 33468 (Downloadable talking book)

A jazz trumpeter from the swing era chronicles his life playing with such greats as Nat “King” Cole, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Lester Young. Coleman recalls musical experiences, including his 1927 debut at the Harlem Savoy, all-night jam sessions, and the racism he faced before he moved to Paris, France.


The Uncrowned King of Swing by Jeffrey Magee          

DB 60620 (Downloadable talking book)

Music professor’s biography of the African American musician credits Henderson with devising the arranging formula that made Benny Goodman the King of Swing. Portrays Henderson as a pianist and bandleader who “profoundly shaped American jazz…during the 1920s and 1930s.” Describes Henderson’s work with Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.


Why Jazz? a concise guide by Kevin Whitehead

DB 92795 (Downloadable talking book)

Longtime jazz critic for NPR provides a primer on the musical genre. Beginning with definitions and answers to some frequently asked questions, he goes on to cover the history of jazz, dividing it into four main periods. Includes a glossary and discography.


Why Jazz Happened by Marc Myers    

DB 76178 (Downloadable talking book)

Journalist chronicles the development of jazz music from the early 1900s to the twenty-first century. Discusses the art and social environment that led to the rise of jazz. Details its influences on later genres and the movements it affected, including labor and civil rights. Profiles notable personalities.



Music that touches your soul.

A foundation from the year of old.

Musicians play their songs as we march on.

In between each note, the spirits tell

the tale that would prevail the

Freedom Sound.

As we listen with anticipation

for the truth, it brings through

the rhythm that it sings.

By T. Herbison