Milwaukee Jazz Profiles: Lives & Lessons from the Cream City,
by: Derek J. Pinkham. ISBN 13: 978-0-87462-057-3. Paper. 329 pp. 52 illustrations. 216 pp. $22. Notes. Index.
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Milwaukee jazz has forever lain in the shadow of Chicago’s vibrant and ground-breaking scene, and few Milwaukee artists’ stories have made it into text. One such musician, who is the earliest and arguably the most famous Milwaukee jazz personality, was Jabbo Smith, a trumpeter who split his time between the two cities, reportedly running from the law. Alas, Jabbo was ahead of his time and unlucky enough to play the trumpet at the same time as Louis Armstrong. Although he played and sang as well as Louis with as much if not more artistry, he was ultimately branded a clone and sank into obscurity. Well past the height of his powers of the late 20s and early 30s, he enjoyed resurgence in the 1980s after being discovered working at the Milwaukee airport—he had no horn and no teeth. Irrespective of geography, Milwaukee has fostered numerous fine musicians. Some have moved to New York and Chicago for bigger markets and wider acclaim, but many great players have stayed and toughed out a living in a city where there are limited venues for real exploration in the music and where an artist risks obscurity. So who is Paul Silbergleit? We should be more curious…. In this unmatched collection, Pinkham presents his interviews of over 30 contemporary Milwaukee jazz musicians in the format of music and life “lessons.”
Derek J. Pinkham lives and woodsheds in Lexington, Virginia with his wife Janet and their two extraordinary children. He is a graduate of Bennington College and a former chemist. Between 2000–2003, Pinkham lived in Milwaukee where he worked as a staff member at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and where he studied saxophone with the great Berkley Fudge. Currently, he works at the Center for Leadership and Ethics at Virginia Military Institute and spends time playing, repairing, and building instruments.