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Discover new books for the jazz and blues lovers on your gift list

Saxophonist Sonny Rollins in undated performance
Veryl Oakland
Saxophonist Sonny Rollins in undated performance

Details of the seemingly charmed life of an international jazz star. Memories of the rough-and-tumble heyday of Chicago blues, and the tiny independent record labels that nurtured it. A collection of exquisite moments in the lives and performances of some of the jazz greats, captured in real light. 

There's a new book for every jazz and blues enthusiast this year.

"Sopisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon"

Cover of book "Sophisticated Giant:  The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon"
Credit University of California Press
University of California Press
Cover of book "Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon"

Author Maxine Gordon is an arts advocate, jazz historian, archivist, activist, manager and producer. She more than fulfills a promise she made to her husband to finish the autobiography that he had worked on sporadically for years. Maxine adds her own perspective, humor and grace to the story of Dexter Gordon, a man Sonny Rollins called "a great musician of the highest level and a great human being of the highest level."

"Bitten By The Blues: The Alligator Records Story"

Cover of the book "Bitten By the Blues"
Credit photo of Koko Taylor by Steve Kagan, photo of Hound Dog Taylor by Diane C. Allmen
Cover of the book "Bitten By the Blues"

Chicago-based Alligator Records brought the urban blues to fans worldwide starting in the 1970s, and it continues today with a roster of outstanding artists, including Shemekia Copeland, Tommy Castro and Marcia Ball.  Founder Bruce Iglauer outlines the label's humble beginnings, tells some great stories about the musicians, and gives us a peek into the music business and the drastic changes he's witnessed over the years. Iglauer's writing style is friendly and casual, and his love for the music and musicians is evident on every page.

"Jazz in Available Light: Illuminating the Jazz Greats from the 1960s, 70s and 80s"

Photo of Miles Davis on the cover of the book "Jazz in Available Light"
Credit Veryl Oakland / Schiffer Publishing
Schiffer Publishing
Cover of Veryl Oakland's book "Jazz in Available Light," photo of Miles Davis at UC Berkeley, 1970

Jazz fanatic Veryl Oakland picked up his first camera at age 25. Determined to document the West Coast jazz scene his own way, Veryl decided to use only natural light for his photos, no flash or lamps. It made for more relaxed sessions, allowing the musicans more freedom and less distraction. This beautiful coffee-table sized volume of Oakland's work from the 1960s through the 1980s contains some photos that will be familiar to jazz fans, having appeared in books, magazines and album covers. The rest of the collection has a very personal feel, and Veryl's stories further illuminate the subjects of his lens.  

Robin Lloyd hosts Midday Jazz and Jazz Caliente on KNKX-FM.  She is a member of the Jazz Education Network, and currently serves on the board of the Jazz Journalists Association.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.