Tad Hershorn

Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice

Jazz aficionados are familiar with the accomplishments of jazz giant Norman Granz: creator of the legendary jam session concerts known as Jazz at the Philharmonic ; founder of the Verve record label; pioneer of live recordings and worldwide jazz concert tours; manager and recording producer for numerous stars, including Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. But not all know that Granz also defied racial and social prejudice to bring jazz to audiences around the world and demanded that the performers he represented be treated equally wherever they toured.

“To tell the Granz story,” explains Hershorn in his prologue, “I have explored how he fulfilled the three oft-repeated aims on which he founded his reputation: presenting good jazz, challenging segregation, and showing that good money could be made by bringing the two together.” His biography richly details, through his interviews with Granz, interviews and insights provided by jazz insiders, and archival materials, how Granz used jazz as his way of fighting racial prejudice, focusing on Granz's longtime, and complex, professional relationship with Fitzgerald.

Hershorn, an archivist at the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, paints a multifaceted portrait of Granz, not merely a gushing tribute, and that honesty won the admiration of many who know and love jazz. The September 2011 issue of JazzTimes devoted a cover article to the book, including detailed excerpts. Gary Giddins proclaimed that Hershorn tells Granz's story “with a fearless compassion grounded in yeoman research.” Noted author Robin D. G. Kelley described Hershorn's book as a “stunning, beautiful biography of the music's most relentless advocate of social justice,” observing that Granz “was loved by some, hated by others, often controversial, and always fearless. But Granz was also elusive and, until now, sometimes came across as more symbol than man. Tad Hershorn has changed all that…”

JazzTimes, September 2011