From the AA Library: Mark Stryker talks about the history of jazz, his new book, and the Detroit jazz scene

By Patricia Mulroy / WLAA

Mark Stryker, a well-renowned author and former arts reporter and critic for the Detroit Free Press, visited the Ann Arbor Library on Thursday to help promote his new book, “Jazz from Detroit.”

Stryker, a longtime Jazz aficionado and music critic, covered numerous jazz and music events as a reporter and has received many awards for his writing.

Having spent a lifetime reporting on the music scene and interviewing key players, Stryker gives personality to the history of the jazz scene in his latest work, “Jazz from Detroit,” which focuses on the people of Detroit who helped make the jazz culture what it is today.

With his words, which flowed in a melodic way, Stryker’s passion for jazz came through loud and clear during his stop at the Ann Arbor Library.

“Jazz from Detroit” covers the history of Detroit’s long history with jazz and the cultural, economic and social impact it has had on the city. With many records featuring at least one or two people originally from Detroit, the influence of Detroit in the world of jazz cannot be overlooked and should be highlighted and celebrated.

Detroit and jazz grew up together in the first half of the 20th century. Both progressed swiftly. The music, rooted in African-American culture and forged from a melting pot of American, European, and African influences, barreled through its boisterous early years fueled by one innovator after another.

While life would be difficult and challenging for African Americans in Detroit, the great migration brought an influx of African Americans as well as new influences to the area’s culture, arts and music.

Like Detroit itself, the city’s jazz musicians took their share of punches over the last half century, but the bullish feelings about the city have also found expression amid the jazz scene. One sign is that while the city is still graduating musicians to New York and elsewhere, accomplished young players like Marcus Elliot and Michael Malis have doubled down on the Motor City.

They’ve found opportunities to work, teach and develop professional relationships across a range of idioms in a city where the cost of living is a fraction of New York and the jazz legacy has bred a true feeling of community.

Pat Metheny praised the new book: “Deeply researched and expertly rendered, Mark Stryker’s “Jazz from Detroit” has provided a diligent and insightful window into every aspect of how Detroit came to be one of the major centers of modern American musical research. This is an important and highly entertaining document that will stand as a definitive testament to the musical culture of Detroit.”

The event at the Ann Arbor Library concluded with the author signing books and then asking anyone interested to join him at the Blue LLama in Ann Arbor where he was introducing several of the acts.

Stryker’s book, “Jazz from Detroit,” was published by Michigan University Press is now available online and at local bookstores.  

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