Priestley, Brian 1946-

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Priestley, Brian 1946-


Born July 10, 1946, in Manchester, England; son of Walter Vernon (a sales representative) and Yolande Priestley; married first wife, Sigrun, September 21, 1971 (divorced, 1979); married Anne-Marie Raederscheidt (a researcher), August 30, 1979 (divorced, 1989). Education: University of Leeds, B.A., 1968, Diploma in Education, 1969.


Home—London, England.


Writer and pianist; Robert Maxwell and Co., Oxford, England, book salesman, 1969-71; B.H. Blackwell Ltd., Oxford, department manager, 1971-74; Dillon's Ltd., London, England, assistant to the chief executive, 1974-79; performing jazz musician, educator, and writer, beginning 1979. Music presenter on radio programs.


Mingus: A Critical Biography, Quartet Books (London, England), 1982, DaCapo, 1983.

Charlie Parker, Hippocrene (New York, NY), 1984, revised and expanded as Chasin' the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

John Coltrane, Apollo (York, England), 1987.

(With Ian Carr and Digby Fairweather) Jazz: The Essential Companion, Grafton [England], 1987.

Jazz on Record: A History, Hamilton (Lanham, MD), 1988.

(With Ian Carr and Digby Fairweather) Jazz: The Rough Guide, Penguin Group (New York, NY), 1995, published as The Rough Guide to Jazz, Rough Guides (New York, NY), 2004.

Columnist for Jazz Express; contributor to Grove's Dictionary of Music in America; also contributor to periodicals, including down beat and Wire.


Writer and musician Brian Priestley is the author of a number of books that reflect his love for all things related to jazz music. He has written several biographies of prominent musicians, including famed musicians Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. In addition, he is the author of several general guides to jazz, including histories of the musical genre. Chasin' the Bird: The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker, published in 2006, is a revised and expanded version of a slim biography that Priestley wrote of the saxophonist in 1984, titled simply Charlie Parker. The updated version allows for the author's greater maturity and familiarity with the musician's work, and is divided between a general recounting of his life, an analysis of his style, and how he has been represented in both print and on film since his premature death in 1955. Anna Harwell Celenza, in a review of the new version for Notes, remarked: "Priestley deserves praise for his ability to find in Parker's recordings the shadows of a musical career. He has been successful in catching glimpses of Parker's inner life that have previously eluded other scholars."

Among Priestley's books on jazz music in general is The Rough Guide to Jazz, part of the "Rough Guides" series, which he coauthored with Ian Carr and Digby Fairweather. Formatted as an encyclopedia including short biographies of the world's great jazz musicians, the book also includes a glossary of terms particular to the genre. Priestley and his coauthors offer information on a vast number of lesser known artists who are commonly neglected in many books on the subject. Billboard contributor Drew Wheeler wrote: "Enthusiastic readers would probably want more exhaustive recommended-album lists, but they should remember that brevity is the soul of the Rough Guide."

Brian Priestley told CA: "My desire is that jazz and jazz-influenced popular music should be valued at their true worth, even by people who don't care for jazz. It would be even better if more listeners, and younger listeners, had easier access to this music and could grow to love it as well as respect it."



Billboard, January 27, 1996, Drew Wheeler, review of The Rough Guide to Jazz, p. 107.

Notes, March, 2007, Anna Harwell Celenza, review of Chasin' the Bird: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker, p. 637.

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Priestley, Brian 1946-

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