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Release Date: 2013
Publisher: Historic New Orleans Collection
Hardcover, 381 pages
“The writing is where I dump my downs. . . . The music is where I dump my ups.”
In this heartbreakingly honest memoir, acclaimed jazz musician Harold Battiste Jr. revisits the highs and the lows of an unparalleled career. Born and raised in New Orleans, Battiste has served as an ambassador for the city’s jazz tradition—and the African-American artists at the heart of that tradition—from East Coast to West, classroom to studio, soundstage to set.
A producer, Battiste launched the careers of Dr. John, Sonny & Cher, Sam Cooke, Joe Jones, and Barbara George. Unfinished blues introduces an array of jazz luminaries and pop stars: Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Cannonball Adderley, Barry White, the O’Jays, and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis.
A businessman, Battiste founded All for One (AFO), the nation’s first African-American owned and operated record label—and recorded the first wave of contemporary jazz artists in New Orleans, including clarinetist Alvin Batiste, drummers Ed Blackwell and James Black, saxophonists Nat Perrilliat and Alvin “Red” Tyler, and pianist Ellis Marsalis.
An educator, Battiste worked alongside Ellis Marsalis to build the world-renowned jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans. He can count among his protégés many of today’s leading young jazz musicians—a “next generation” of artists keeping the New Orleans sound alive.
A community leader, Battiste has served on the Louisiana State Music Commission; the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation School of Music; the Louisiana Jazz Federation; and the Congo Square Cultural Collective.
A sense of urgency propels Battiste’s journey: “The old cats who gave us our roots are dying,” he senses. “And the new cats in N.O. can’t absorb the full heritage because too many of us are not there or have quit playing or caring.” And so he keeps playing, keeps caring. Keeps writing too—dumping the downs, lifting us one and all with the ups. Unfinished Blues begins as his story but ends as a communal story of struggle, strength, and renewal