cover image Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings

Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings

Ralph Waldo Ellison. Modern Library, $19.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-679-64034-9

Many people don't realize that novelist Ralph Ellison, best-known as the author of Invisible Man, was first an accomplished trumpeter and a student of musical composition, especially jazz. In Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings, literature and jazz scholar Robert O'Meally, founder and director of the Center for Jazz Studies, has collected the best of this oeuvre in a volume that includes profiles of jazz greats like Charlie Parker, meditations on jazz classics, music-related selections from Ellison's fiction and a foreword by Wynton Marsalis. No Ellison fan or jazz aficionado should ignore this book, in which the novelist eloquently conveys the profound role that music has played in the lives of black Americans. As he wrote in the title essay, ""it was either live with music or die with noise, and we chose rather desperately to live."" ( May 15)