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Ira Gitler Ira Gitler

Ira Gitler is an NEA Jazz Master

“Ira is very honored to receive this award; advocacy is a fitting description of his life in jazz. He has been sharing his love of the music since he wrote about Dizzy Gillespie for his high school paper in 1946.” – Fitz Gitler

Ira Gitler is an American jazz historian, journalist, educator, and author who has written several books about jazz and hundreds of liner notes for jazz recordings. He has also written for many jazz publications, and served as associate editor of DownBeat during the 1960s. In the 1980s and '90s he produced concerts for George Wein’s New York jazz festivals. Gitler also taught jazz history at several colleges and is considered one of the great historians and champions of the music.

From age seven, Gitler immersed himself in the music of the swing bands of the 1930s and early 1940s. In the mid-1940s, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker’s new bebop innovations brought an epiphany. His professional writing career began in 1951, when he was asked to write Prestige Records’ first liner notes for a 10-inch LP of Zoot Sims Swings the Blues. His duties at Prestige in the early 1950s included producing recording sessions with musicians such as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins. In his 1958 liner notes for Soultrane, he coined the term “sheets of sound,” likening John Coltrane’s emerging style to undulating fabric.

In 1954, Gitler began assisting leading jazz authority Leonard Feather in preparing The Encyclopedia of Jazz, one of the first great jazz reference books. He became co-author starting with the 1970s edition, and completed The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz in 1999 after Feather's death in 1994.

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