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Bebop, Swing, and Bella Musica: Jazz and the Italian American Experience

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A book by Bill Dal Cerro and David Anthony Witter.

Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, Louie Bellson, Lennie Tristano, Tony Bennett, Buddy DeFranco, Flip Phillips, and Joe Lovano: These are just some of the hundreds of musicians of Italian descent whose talents have enriched jazz.

Bebop, Swing, and Bella Musica is more than just a book about jazz. From the lynching of Italian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891 through the headliners and award winning performers of today, this book documents the cultural barriers which Italians faced in their pursuit of the American Dream. It also profiles the many Italian American musicians, including Bennett, Sinatra, Bellson, and Joe Marsala, who played a vital role in the integration of jazz.

Bebop, Swing, and Bella Musica features original interviews with artists such as Louie Bellson, Buddy DeFranco, Buddy Greco, Sam Butera, Johnny Frigo, and Bucky Pizzarelli who survived the immigrant experience, the Great Depression, poverty, and other personal tragedies in pursuit of their craft. In the end, they drew strength from the musical traditions of their ancestors, bringing Italian passion to America’s greatest art form.

The book also features interviews with modern musicians like Joe Lovano, Al Di Meola, Pat Martino, John Pizzarelli and Frank Catalano who continue to win awards and influence jazz music.

Artists like Morgana King, Roberta Gambarini, Joanie Pallatto, and Ada Rovatti are just a few of the female musicians whose contributions are likewise documented in the book.

As Grammy Award winning saxophonist Joe Lovano said: “Jazz has a specific root—the African American experience—but it’s also about the branches of the tree. Jazz is about cultures coming together, inspiring each other, which is what makes it so beautiful.”

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