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The View From the Back of the Band: The Life and Music of Mel Lewis

Description: Mel Lewis (1929-1990) was born Melvin Sokoloff to Jewish Russian immigrants in Buffalo, New York. He first picked up his father’s drumsticks at the age of two and at 17 he was a full-time professional musician. The View from the Back of the Band is the first biography of this legendary jazz drummer. For over fifty years, Lewis provided the blueprint for how a drummer could subtly support any musical situation. While he made his name with Stan Kenton and Thad Jones, and with his band at the Village Vanguard, it was the hundreds of recordings that he made as a sideman and his ability to mentor young musicians that truly defined his career. Away from the drums, Lewis's passionate and outspoken personality made him one of jazz music's greatest characters. It is often through Lewis's own anecdotes, as well as many from the musicians who knew him best, that this book traces the career of one of the world’s greatest drummers. Previously unpublished interviews, personal memoirs, photos, musical transcriptions, and a selected discography add to this comprehensive biography.
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Date: October 2014
Creator: Smith, Chris
Partner: UNT Press

A Day for Dancing: The Life and Music of Lloyd Pfautsch

Description: After earning his theology degree from Union Seminary in New York, Lloyd Pfautsch (1921–2003) found his true calling in church music. He was invited to Southern Methodist University in 1958 to start their graduate program in sacred music and remained there for 34 years. Outside the university, he formed the Dallas Civic Chorus and led it for 25 years. He was nationally known for his conducting and the quality of the musicians he produced as well as for his compositions, many of which are illustrated here with his handwritten notations. This is the first biography of this important figure, and it is told from the viewpoint of a longtime colleague and friend. Aligned with the biography, Hart analyzes some of Pfautsch's hundreds of compositions. This is the definitive work on one of the most influential American choral musicians of the twentieth century.
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Date: 2014
Creator: Hart, Kenneth W.
Partner: UNT Press

A Day for Dancing: The Life and Music of Lloyd Pfautsch

Description: In January of 2001 Jon Pfautsch, Lloyd’s youngest son, put together a CD collection of performances of as many of his father’s compositions as were known to be extant. Most were from Dr. Pfautsch’s personal collection; the rest were given to him by colleagues and former students. The collection spans nearly 50 years and involved media as varied as paper and acetate reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, LP’s and CD’s. While the fidelity is not always what one would hope, the value is in hearing the composer conduct his own works (in most cases) with a few performed by colleagues or former students, but chosen by him for this collection. They are numbered according to Track Numbers, and the “Example” numbers refer to the illustrations in UNT Press’s A Day for Dancing: The Life and Music of Lloyd Pfautsch. Note: the final selection was not used as a musical example, but appears here because it is the one composition for which Pfautsch most wished to be remembered (“Music When Soft Voices Die”).
Date: 2014
Creator: Hart, Kenneth W.
Partner: UNT Press

The Original Guitar Hero and the Power of Music: the Legendary Lonnie Johnson, Music, and Civil Rights

Description: Lonnie Johnson (1894–1970) was a virtuoso guitarist who influenced generations of musicians from Django Reinhardt to Eric Clapton to Bill Wyman and especially B. B. King. Born in New Orleans, he began playing violin and guitar in his father’s band at an early age. When most of his family was wiped out by the 1918 flu epidemic, he and his surviving brother moved to St. Louis, where he won a blues contest that included a recording contract. His career was launched. Johnson can be heard on many Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong records, including the latter’s famous “Savoy Blues” with the Hot Five. He is perhaps best known for his 12-string guitar solos and his ground-breaking recordings with the white guitarist Eddie Lang in the late 1920s. After World War II he began playing rhythm and blues and continued to record and tour until his death. This is the first full-length work on Johnson. Dean Alger answers many biographical mysteries, including how many members of Johnson’s large family were left after the epidemic. He also places Johnson and his musical contemporaries in the context of American race relations and argues for the importance of music in the fight for civil rights. Finally, Alger analyzes Johnson’s major recordings in terms of technique and style. Distribution of an accompanying music CD will be coordinated with the release of this book.
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Date: April 2014
Creator: Alger, Dean
Partner: UNT Press

Dennis Brain: a Life in Music

Description: The British horn player Dennis Brain (1921–1957) is commonly described by such statements as “the greatest horn player of the 20th Century,” “a genius,” and “a legend.” He was both a prodigy and popularizer, famously performing a concerto on a garden hose in perfect pitch. On his usual concert instrument his tone was of unsurpassed beauty and clarity, complemented by a flawless technique. The recordings he made with Herbert von Karajan of Mozart’s horn concerti are considered the definitive interpretations. Brain enlisted in the English armed forces during World War II for seven years, joining the National Symphony Orchestra in wartime in 1942. After the war he filled the principal horn positions in both the Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. He later formed his own wind quintet and began conducting. Composers including Benjamin Britten and Paul Hindemith lined up to write music for him. Even fifty years after his tragic death at the age of 36 in an auto accident in 1957, Peter Maxwell Davies was commissioned to write a piece in his honor. Stephen Gamble and William Lynch have conducted numerous interviews with family, friends, and colleagues and uncovered information in the BBC archives and other lesser known sources about recordings that were previously unknown. This volume describes Brain’s life and analyzes in depth his musical career. Its appendices of information on performances will appeal to music historians, and its details on Brain’s instruments and equipment will be useful to horn players. “A pleasure to read: serious but personable, unaffected, unpretentious—conversational in tone. The character of the prose can be said to reflect the character of the book’s subject. Eminently satisfying.”—Robert Marshall, author of Dennis Brain on Record
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Date: May 15, 2011
Creator: Gamble, Stephen & Lynch, William C.
Partner: UNT Press

Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley

Description: Living in the Woods in a Tree is an intimate glimpse into the turbulent life of Texas music legend Blaze Foley (1949--1989), seen through the eyes of Sybil Rosen, the woman for whom he wrote his most widely known song, “If I Could Only Fly." It captures the exuberance of their fleeting idyll in a tree house in the Georgia woods during the countercultural 1970s. Rosen offers a firsthand witnessing of Foley’s transformation from a reticent hippie musician to the enigmatic singer/songwriter who would live and die outside society's rules. While Foley's own performances are only recently being released, his songs have been covered by Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, and John Prine. When he first encountered “If I Could Only Fly," Merle Haggard called it “the best country song I've heard in fifteen years." In a work that is part-memoir, part-biography, Rosen struggles to finally come to terms with Foley's myth and her role in its creation. Her tracing of his impact on her life navigates a lovers' roadmap along the permeable boundary between life and death. A must-read for all Blaze Foley and Texas music fans, as well as romantics of all ages, Living in the Woods in a Tree is an honest and compassionate portrait of the troubled artist and his reluctant muse.
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Date: October 15, 2008
Creator: Rosen, Sybil
Partner: UNT Press

Jade Visions: the Life and Music of Scott Lafaro

Description: Jade Visions is the first biography of one of the twentieth century’s most influential jazz musicians, bassist Scott LaFaro. Best known for his landmark recordings with Bill Evans, LaFaro played bass a mere seven years before his life and career were tragically cut short by an automobile accident when he was only 25 years old. Told by his sister, this book uniquely combines family history with insight into LaFaro’s music by well-known jazz experts and musicians Gene Lees, Don Thompson, Jeff Campbell, Phil Palombi, Chuck Ralston, Barrie Kolstein, and Robert Wooley. Those interested in Bill Evans, the history of jazz, and the lives of working musicians of the time will appreciate this exploration of LaFaro’s life and music as well as the feeling they’ve been invited into the family circle as an intimate. “Fernandez’ insightful comments about her brother offer far more than jazz scholars have ever known about this significant and somewhat enigmatic figure in the history of jazz. All in all, a very complete portrait.”—Bill Milkowski, author of Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius
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Date: September 15, 2009
Creator: LaFaro-Fernández, Helene; Ralston, Chuck; Campbell, Jeff & Palombi, Phil
Partner: UNT Press

One Man's Music: the Life and Times of Texas Songwriter Vince Bell

Description: Texas singer/songwriter Vince Bell’s story begins in the 1970s. Following the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, Bell and his contemporaries Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, and Lucinda Williams were on the rise. In December of 1982, Bell was on his way home from the studio (where he and hired guns Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Johnson had just recorded three of Bell’s songs) when a drunk driver broadsided him at 65 mph. Thrown over 60 feet from his car, Bell suffered multiple lacerations to his liver, embedded glass, broken ribs, a mangled right forearm, and a severe traumatic brain injury. Not only was his debut album waylaid for a dozen years, life as he’d known it would never be the same. In detailing his recovery from the accident and his roundabout climb back onstage, Bell shines a light in those dark corners of the music business that, for the lone musician whose success is measured not by the Top 40 but by nightly victories, usually fall outside of the spotlight. Bell’s prose is not unlike his lyrics: spare, beautiful, evocative, and often sneak-up-on-you funny. His chronicle of his own life and near death on the road reveals what it means to live for one’s art.
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Date: April 15, 2009
Creator: Bell, Vince
Partner: UNT Press

A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt

Description: This is the first serious biography of a man widely considered one of Texas’—and America’s—greatest songwriters. Like Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt was the embodiment of that mythic American figure, the troubled troubadour. A Deeper Blue traces Van Zandt’s background as the scion of a prominent Texas family; his troubled early years and his transformation from promising pre-law student to wandering folk singer; his life on the road and the demons that pursued and were pursued by him; the women who loved and inspired him; and the brilliance and enduring beauty of his songs, which are explored in depth. The author draws on eight years’ extensive research and interviews with Townes’ family and closest friends and colleagues. He looks beyond the legend and paints a colorful portrait of a complex man who embraced the darkness of demons and myth as well as the light of deep compassion and humanity
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Date: 2008
Creator: Hardy, Robert Earl, 1957-
Partner: UNT Press

Stan Kenton: This is an Orchestra!

Description: Stan Kenton (1911–1979) formed his first full orchestra in 1940 and soon drew record-breaking crowds to hear and dance to his exciting sound. He continued to tour and record unrelentingly for the next four decades. Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra! sums up the mesmerizing bandleader at the height of his powers, arms waving energetically, his face a study of concentration as he cajoled, coaxed, strained, and obtained the last ounce of energy from every musician under his control. Michael Sparke’s narrative captures that enthusiasm in words: a lucid account of the evolution of the Kenton Sound, and the first book to offer a critical evaluation of the role that Stan played in its creation. “Michael Sparke’s book, the first general history of the Kenton Orchestra, is the best evaluation yet of Kenton’s 40-year musical development.”—The Wall Street Journal
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Date: May 15, 2010
Creator: Sparke, Michael
Partner: UNT Press