Imagine a completely different version of one of jazz’s most revered compositions sitting on a shelf in a Los Angeles office building for three decades without anyone knowing it. . .


With an ear for the overlooked, Aaron Gilbreath chronicles the forgotten corners of the mid-century jazz scene. Shadowing the greats, from Sonny Clark to John Coltrane, Gilbreath traces the tragedy of saxophonist Hank Mobley, unearths the story of lost pianist Jutta Hipp, and pauses on the meaning of heroin for trumpeter Lee Morgan. He also revisits a few standards, like The Connection, an influential film with its own take on drugs and sobriety; the ten-year evolution of Miles Davis' "So What"; and the impact of record labels' vault archives. THIS IS: ESSAYS ON JAZZ celebrates the joy, genius and struggle of jazz, in essays both intimate and deeply researched.

Advance praise

"The richness of the essays in Aaron Gilbreath's THIS IS is a fitting tribute to the richness of jazz itself. Gilbreath weaves unique insight with a profound understanding of the history of jazz. His crisp prose and diverse range make you want to turn the page and run to the record store in equal measure." ─ Roxane Gay, author of Hunger and Bad Feminist

"Aaron Gilbreath's writing about jazz is as friendly and welcoming as any you'll find." ─ Luc Sante, author of Low Life and Kill All Your Darlings

"Aaron Gilbreath writes about Jutta Hipp and Miles Davis and Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean and others long gone with curiosity: he lines up the questionable historical record with what's knowable and provable, and finds out where the lessons are." ─ New York Times jazz and pop critic Ben Ratliff, author of Coltrane: The Story of a Sound and The Jazz Ear: Conversations over Music

"Aaron Gilbreath is an outstanding jazz writer, with a deep appreciation for the music's tradition and an engaging prose style." ─ Ted Gioia, author of The History of Jazz and Delta Blues

"In these vivid, affectionate essays, Aaron Gilbreath moves in pure and distinct prose among stories and histories, moments and decades, mystery and clarity. His account of Jutta Hipp is one of the finest pieces I've read on the forgotten fringes of the music industry. This Is is an essential read for anyone who loves mid-century jazz culture and wonders about the dynamics of expression." ─ Joe Bonomo, author of Sweat: The Story of The Fleshtones, America's Garage Band and Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found

"Aaron Gibreath's open, easy prose swoops into pockets of jazz--forgotten players, drug blighted scenes, classic tunes played and altered over legendary careers--with warmth and familiarity." ─ Elena Passarello, author of Let Me Clear My Throat

"If you happened to wish, as I have, for a catalog of jazz writing to rival the Blue Note catalog of jazz music, maybe you're in luck, because THIS IS: ESSAYS ON JAZZ would make a fine first installment." ─ Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk

"Apart from being both historically versed and attuned to jazz at the level of texture, of vital nuance, Aaron Gilbreath knows how to exude enthusiasm." ─ Sven Birkerts, essayist, critic and editor of AGNI

"Aaron Gilbreath's This Is: Essays on Jazz is a vital and entertaining collection, one of the finest books on jazz (or any genre of music) I have read." ─ David Gutowski, Largeheartedboy.com

"The passion and fire Aaron Gilbreath commits to his writing on music is good stuff and big time contaminating on me" ─ Mike Watt, the man in the van with a bass in his hand

"Get IN and FEEL IT!" ─ Russell Quan, drummer for The Mummies


Launch event: Powell's on Hawthorne, August 31, 2017, 7:30pm


"Religiously reading the Oxford American‘s annual Music Issue helped show me music writing’s range and possibilities. They wrote about Mussel Shoals and Sam Cook, Big Mama Thornton and RL Burnside; I’ve hoarded nearly every print issue in my home library. The OA led me to writers like Ellen Willis, Hua Hsu and the now defunct Best Music Writing anthology series, and that showed me how you can talk about universal themes and the larger world by talking about an album, a musician or a song. Music writing doesn’t always limit itself to the music. . ." - Aaron Gilbreath in a Q&A with Tobias Carroll at Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"In 1960, four years after the venerable Blue Note Records signed pianist Jutta Hipp to their label, she stopped performing music entirely. Back in her native Germany, Hipp’s swinging, percussive style had earned her the title of Europe’s First Lady of Jazz. When she’d moved to New York in 1955, she started working at a garment factory in Queens to supplement her recording and performing income. She played clubs around the City. She toured. Then, with six albums to her name and no official explanation, she quit. She never performed publicly again, and she told so few people about her life in music that most of her factory coworkers and friends only discovered it from her obituary. For the next forty-one years, Jutta patched garments for a living, painted, drew and took photos for pleasure, all while royalties accrued on Blue Note’s books. . ." - Longreads hosts an excerpt, "The Brief Career and Self-Imposed Exile of Jutta Hipp, Jazz Pianist"


This Is:
a playlist

Sonny Clark "Dancing in the Dark"
Hank Mobley "Remember"
Ahmad Jamal"Beat One Out"
Curtis Fuller "Five Spot After Dark"
John Coltrane "Time Was"
Dodo Marmarosa "Dary Departs"
Freddie Redd "O.D."
Lorraine Geller “Clash By Night”
Lee Morgan "The Lion and the Wolff"
Ike Quebec "Blue And Sentimental"
Donald Byrd "Here I Am"
Jutta Hipp "Cleopatra"

Art Farmer Quintet Featuring GiGi Gryce "Forecast"
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers "So Tired"
Miles Davis "Diane"
Mary Lou Williams "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea"
Cannonball Adderley "Grand Central"
Don Elliott "Dominick Seventh"
Kenny Burrell "You Turned the Tables on Me"
Wardell Grey "Southside"
Jimmy Smith "Come on Baby"
Don Bagley "The Bachelor"
And more Sonny Clark, "Cool Struttin'"


Aaron Gilbreath is an essayist and journalist whose work has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, Paris Review, Vice, The Morning News, Saveur, Tin House, The Believer, Oxford American, Kenyon Review, Slate, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Threepenny Review, and Brick. He is also the author of the essay collection Everything We Don’t Know (Curbside Splendor, 2016), which earned him inclusion on the 35 Over 35 list.




This Is: Essays On Jazz
Aaron Gilbreath
140 pages
$14.00 paperback ISBN 9781944853327
$9.99 ebook

August 2017

"Imagine a completely different version of one one of jazz’s most revered compositionssitting on a shelf in a Los Angeles office building for three decades without anyone knowing it."


"This music has a sense of authenticity and energy, that people made it because they felt something and had something to say. They hurt. They were oppressed."
















copyright 2016 OP19 Books LLC