–by Michael Pierce
SAINT LOUIS JAZZ: A HISTORY by Dennis C. Owsley. Published by The History Press, July 15, 2019. Photos courtesy of the publisher.
I became a jazz fan over thirty years ago, thanks to Dennis Owsley.
Every Sunday night I fall asleep listening to his radio show, Jazz Unlimited, on KWMU. His show is filled with a variety of jazz, from its earliest beginnings to some of today’s up and coming instrumentalists and vocalists.
So it goes without saying that I was really excited when I learned of his latest book – SAINT LOUIS JAZZ: A HISTORY. It also goes without saying that I really enjoyed reading it.
Owsley has crammed a whole lot of information into a relatively small volume. Not only is he a jazz fan and aficionado, he’s historian, and he has an absolute love of jazz music and its history. In this book Owsley has combined his love and knowledge of jazz with a bit of occasionally biting social history. Owsley immerses his reader what was going on in Saint Louis and the world and, even though this type of commentary is short, readers will come away with a pretty good idea of where he stands on many issues.
One thing that I loved about this book is that the author, rather than creating an unwieldy volume filled with details, refers readers to a website that is chock full of interviews, a discography, and additional information on all of the artists mentioned. Just in case readers want to take a deep dive into Saint Louis’ rich jazz history.
Owsley has had the opportunity to interview many of Saint Louis’ jazz greats over the past several decades, and it is a true pleasure to listen to his interviews with these legends. His interviewing style is so calm and relaxed that listeners feel like the proverbial fly on the wall, listening to a couple of old friends sitting and talking about their lives.
Sources are also extensively covered at the end of the narrative and, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself discovering more about these artists via video and audio streaming service. And, if you’re like me, you’ll discover more folks affiliated with jazz as you watch and listen on these services.
Get this book and, as you read it, go to the KWMU website and those streaming services. Listen to them talk. Listen to their music. Think about the driving forces that some of them have become in this musical genre.
You won’t be disappointed.