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Jazz Audiobooks

 

Explore our list of recommended jazz audiobooks!   Biographies and memoirs of jazz greats, histories on the culture and music of jazz, and engaging jazz stories for young listeners and families.

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QUEEN OF BEBOP: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan

QUEEN OF BEBOP: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan

by Elaine M. Hayes | Read by Allyson Johnson

Harper Audio
Biography & Memoir

In a youthful voice, narrator Allyson Johnson delivers this substantial biography of the great jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan. As fans know, Vaughan’s speaking voice was high pitched and childish sounding, which is how Johnson realistically presents the many Vaughan interviews. But this is also a scholarly piece of music history, and Johnson’s overall peppy narration seems too... Read More

QUEEN OF BEBOP: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan
WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? A Biography

WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? A Biography

by Alan Light | Read by Adenrele Ojo

Random House Audio
Biography & Memoir

Adenrele Ojo narrates the biography of jazz singer Nina Simone. This complex, larger-than-life figure’s musical journey is told through detailed accounts of the relationships that influenced her. From her mother and her music teachers to her band members, her only child, and her second husband, who maintained a powerful hand in most of her endeavors—the people who were... Read More

WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? A Biography
BILLIE HOLIDAY: The Musician and the Myth

BILLIE HOLIDAY: The Musician and the Myth

by John Szwed | Read by Karen Chilton

Recorded Books
Biography & Memoir

This investigative history studies Billie Holiday’s life and music and the various other biographies written since her death in 1959. Karen Chilton’s mellifluous voice is perfect for the study of a jazz singer. The author examines Holiday's autobiography, excerpted materials, and oral histories to understand her and the world she lived in. This audiobook is long winded, and... Read More

BILLIE HOLIDAY: The Musician and the Myth
HERBIE HANCOCK: POSSIBILITIES

HERBIE HANCOCK: POSSIBILITIES

by Herbie Hancock, Lisa Dickey | Read by Herbie Hancock

Penguin Audio
Biography & Memoir

Grammy Award winner Hancock, jazz musician and composer, provides a detailed, candid, and predominantly joyful examination of his life and creative expression. While the listener is likely to be pleased that Hancock serves as narrator of his own story, the highly intimate experience is compromised by the single tone that pervades. There is essentially no attempt to use... Read More

HERBIE HANCOCK: POSSIBILITIES
BESSIE

BESSIE

by Chris Albertson | Read by Robertson Dean

Tantor Media
Biography & Memoir

Robertson Dean offers a solid reading of this biography of Bessie Smith, a pioneering jazz singer known as the "Empress of the Blues." In the portions that cover the history and culture of the 1920s entertainment world, he keeps the text flowing by varying his pacing and adding appropriate pauses. But his real strength comes in direct quotations. He adopts just enough of an... Read More

BESSIE
MILES: The Autobiography

MILES: The Autobiography

Earphones Award Winner

by Miles Davis, Quincy Troupe | Read by Dion Graham

Blackstone Audio
Biography & Memoir

Narrator Dion Graham mimics the raspy, gravelly voice of jazz great Miles Davis to perfection. Covering every aspect of Davis’s tumultuous life, Graham, at times, adds a light chuckle or a low growl to the story—especially as he leads the way through the murky and painful episodes. Most fascinating are the connections between Davis’s relationships and the development of his... Read More

MILES: The Autobiography
HAZEL SCOTT: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from the Cafe society to Hollywood to HUAC

HAZEL SCOTT: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from the Cafe society to Hollywood to HUAC

by Karen Chilton | Read by Karen Chilton

Recorded Books/Griot Audio
Biography & Memoir

Author Karen Chilton narrates the life of classical pianist, singer, and actor Hazel Scott—from her Trinidad and Tobago roots to the Juillard School of Music, and on to Hollywood. Chilton's calm, eloquent tone replicates Scott's 1940s musical style. Chilton’s soft, melodious voice captures the listener’s attention with its hypnotic stillness. This performance invokes the... Read More

HAZEL SCOTT: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from the Cafe society to Hollywood to HUAC
WORLD ON A STRING: A Musical Memoir

WORLD ON A STRING: A Musical Memoir

by John Pizzarelli, Joseph Cosgriff | Read by John Pizzarelli, Joseph Cosgriff

Audible, Inc.
Biography & Memoir

This look at the life of jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli begins with an introduction written and voiced by the imperious Sirius/XM Radio deejay Jonathan Schwartz. The bulk of the work is narrated by Pizzarelli himself, who offers a candid, if pedestrian, examination of his life. He grew up the son of another famous guitarist, Bucky Pizzarelli, a member of “The Tonight Show”... Read More

WORLD ON A STRING: A Musical Memoir
DUKE: A Life of Duke Ellington

DUKE: A Life of Duke Ellington

by Terry Teachout | Read by Peter Francis James

Penguin Audio
Biography & Memoir

With a biography of Louis Armstrong under his belt, the author now has his sights on Duke Ellington, and this audiobook is well worth hearing: fascinatin’, illuminatin’, and syncopatin’. Peter Francis James’s loud, resonant voice is a far cry from jazz cool, but it demands notice. James lends the book an energy that keeps the story moving and enables the listener to hear every... Read More

DUKE: A Life of Duke Ellington
KANSAS CITY LIGHTNING: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

KANSAS CITY LIGHTNING: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

by Stanley Crouch | Read by Kevin Kenerly

Blackstone Audio
Biography & Memoir

Like the massive presidential bios of Stephen Ambrose and Robert Caro, this book, about jazz giant Charlie Parker—nicknamed “Bird”—is slated to be a multi-volume affair. This first installment covers Parker’s formative years in Kansas City, and formidable jazz critic Crouch paints a vivid picture of not just Parker’s life but also the rise of this mostly African-American art... Read More

KANSAS CITY LIGHTNING: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker
WISHING ON THE MOON: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday

WISHING ON THE MOON: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday

by Donald Clarke | Read by Anna Fields

Blackstone Audio
Biography & Memoir

This biography is also a history of the musical era of Lady Day, a songstress with little formal training. We also meet the great musicians of her time who lived and worked with her. Fields discloses a consistent narration in this detailed portrait. Numerous quoted characters offer vivid anecdotes. Fields emphasizes their contributions with thoughtfulness and precision. Her... Read More

WISHING ON THE MOON: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday
THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE REMEMBERED

THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE REMEMBERED

Earphones Award Winner

by Jonathan Gross | Read by Jonathan Gross, "Mack" Jay Jordan

Brilliance Audio
Young Adult

The recording of a one-man show by "Mack" Jay Jordan features songs such as "Take the ‘A’ Train," "It Don't Mean a Thing," and "It's a Wonderful World." Between songs, listeners get a taste of the writings of Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, and others. Jordan's narrative voice, which makes the scenes set by descriptive passages seem real, brings listeners to the nightclubs and... Read More

THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE REMEMBERED
ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: Jazz Lights Up Harlem, Vol. 4

ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: Jazz Lights Up Harlem, Vol. 4

by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar | Read by Stanley Crouch, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Maya Angelou, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, will.i.am, Samuel L. Jackson, Lou Gossett Jr., Billy Crystal

Recorded Books
History

For those who love jazz, this audiobook provides valuable historical information on its development and influence on the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unfortunately, what one doesn't hear is a lot of music, only descriptions of different styles and musicians. The main narrator is critic Stanley Crouch, but Abdul-Jabbar, Quincy Jones, will.i.am, and other celebrities also... Read More

ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: Jazz Lights Up Harlem, Vol. 4
MARIAN MCPARTLAND'S JAZZ WORLD: All In Good Time

MARIAN MCPARTLAND'S JAZZ WORLD: All In Good Time

by Marian McParland | Read by Marian McPartland

Blackstone Audio
Biography & Memoir

This is an audio treasure, whether you’re a current fan of this beloved jazz pianist and her long-running public radio program or you’re new to her work. It’s clear that it’s been a joyful life as McPartland reads essays and remembrances over the decades--her joie de vivre and true immersion in jazz and its great artists come through loud and clear. Her soft London-influenced... Read More

MARIAN MCPARTLAND'S JAZZ WORLD: All In Good Time
JAZZ

JAZZ

by Ken Burns | Read by LeVar Burton

Random House Audio
History

The first tape starts with a mellow jazz riff, signaling a special experience for listeners of the audiobook adaptation of Jazz, which is the companion book for the newest Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns public television documentary (debuting in January 2001). LeVar Burton's gentle voice can be down-home plain or uptown sophisticated, depending on which jazz musician he is... Read More

JAZZ
JAZZ 101

JAZZ 101

by John F. Szwed | Read by Grover Gardner

Blackstone Audio
Contemporary Culture

In this idiosyncratic introduction to jazz, John Szwed’s tone is refreshing--he’s not ideological (jazz writers have a tendency to be dismissive of certain styles or artists), he recognizes that jazz didn’t end in 1960 (see Ken Burns), and his notes on landmark recordings are concise gems. Grover Gardner’s reading is entirely competent, but he’s like a pianist with great chops... Read More

JAZZ 101
TROMBONE SHORTY

TROMBONE SHORTY

Earphones Award Winner

by Troy Andrews | Read by Dion Graham

Live Oak Media
Children

Music featuring a single trombone precedes Dion Graham’s narration of this picture-book autobiography by "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, a New Orleans native and Grammy Award-nominated musician. Then, the first words of the audiobook—“Where y’at?”—greet listeners with an energetic New Orleans welcome. Graham draws listeners of all ages into an experience that’s lyrical in word,... Read More

TROMBONE SHORTY
JAZZ DAY: The Making of a Famous Photograph

JAZZ DAY: The Making of a Famous Photograph

by Roxane Orgill | Read by Robin Miles

Recorded Books
Children

Picture it: In mid-August, 1958, 57 jazz musicians gather in front of a Harlem brownstone for an epic photograph. And for a story that is, at its roots, a visual tale. Narrator Robin Miles delivers Orgill’s collection of poems describing this day with a passion that paints the picture for listeners. Miles brings each unique personality to light, notably Thelonius Monk and Count... Read More

JAZZ DAY: The Making of a Famous Photograph
DIZZY

DIZZY

by Jonah Winter | Read by Kevin R. Free

Recorded Books
Children

Kevin Free's swinging rendition of DIZZY will have listeners tapping their feet. The book recounts the story of jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie with broad, poetic strokes well suited to young listeners. From Dizzy's violent youth to his early love of music and his big band days, Winter's text celebrates the spirit of this musical pioneer. Narrator Free trumpets the musical... Read More

DIZZY
DJANGO: World's Greatest Guitarist

DJANGO: World's Greatest Guitarist

by Bonnie Christensen | Read by George Guidall

Live Oak Media
Children

Christensen’s biography of Django Reinhardt brings this pioneer of jazz to life for young people. Through her poetry, Christensen chronicles Django’s “hard life”—his birth in 1910, his abandonment and early musical days in Paris, his crippling accident, his rebirth and new form of jazz guitar technique, his musical alliances and tours. Narrator George Guidall combines reality... Read More

DJANGO: World's Greatest Guitarist
THIS JAZZ MAN

THIS JAZZ MAN

Earphones Award Winner

by Karen Ehrhardt | Read by James "D Train" Williams

Live Oak Media
Children

Some stories shared by parents and children have the power to be remembered long after the loved and repeated tellings or playings are over. THIS JAZZ MAN delights on several levels. The jazzy, snazzy illustrations of the legendary musicians—Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and six others—evoke each personality and his music. The images will capture young... Read More

THIS JAZZ MAN
JAZZ

JAZZ

by Walter Dean Myers | Read by James "D-Train" Williams, Vaneese Thomas

Live Oak Media
Children

"Start with rhythm/ Start with the heart"—so begins this collection of Walter Dean Myers poems, where listeners will find plenty of rhythm and plenty of heart. R&B artists James "D-Train" Williams and Vaneese Thomas read and sing the 17 poems—joyful tributes to jazz and bebop, to the piano and the slide trombone, to Louis Armstrong and New Orleans—with energy and verve,... Read More

JAZZ
ELLA FITZGERALD: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

ELLA FITZGERALD: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

Earphones Award Winner

by Andrea Davis Pinkney | Read by Billy Dee Williams

Weston Woods Studio
Children

The hip narration of Scat Cat (Andrea Pinkney), the captivating illustrations of Brian Pinkney, and the music that bears her name bring Ella Fitzgerald vividly to life for young listeners. From the beginning moments when she was too stage frightened to dance--so she sang instead--to the Savoy’s Battle of the Bands and on to Carnegie Hall with Dizzy Gillespie, Ella set the... Read More

ELLA FITZGERALD: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa

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