Sudhalter, Richard M. 1938-2008 (Art Napoleon, Dick Sudhalter, Richard Merrill Sudhalter)

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Sudhalter, Richard M. 1938-2008 (Art Napoleon, Dick Sudhalter, Richard Merrill Sudhalter)


See index for CA sketch: Born December 28, 1938, in Boston, MA; died of pneumonia, September 19, 2008, in New York, NY. Jazz musician, bandleader, concert producer, recording artist, broadcaster, artistic director, journalist and correspondent, critic, music historian, and writer. When Sudhalter chronicled the age of jazz, he wrote from the perspective of an insider. He began his career as a European correspondent for United Press International in the 1960s and took advantage of his post to perform as a musician throughout West Germany. Later, he played his trumpet with the Classic Jazz Quartet and organized the New Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Sudhalter recorded more than a dozen albums as Dick Sudhalter and wrote Grammy Award-winning album notes. He was an artistic director for jazz at the Vineyard Theater in New York and a producer of the North Fork Jazz Festival. He produced and hosted a jazz series, Vintage Jazz at the Vineyard, for Public Radio International, and he was an occasional speaker at American universities. Sudhalter was a music critic for the New York Post and a contributor to many other magazines, including Down Beat and Jazz Journal, sometimes using the pen name Art Napoleon. It was not out of character for him to add to his portfolio the role of jazz historian. Two of Sudhalter's books were tributes to musicians he admired: Bix: Man and Legend (1974) and Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael (2002). Both books were well received as early examples of jazz studies that reflected a serious, scholarly approach to the subject. Sudhalter's third book stirred a substantial amount of controversy. Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915-1945 (1999) was a weighty tome, a scholarly attempt, according to Sudhalter, to give credit where it was due to talented musicians like Bix Biederbecke, Artie Shaw, the Dorsey brothers, and others. Critics denounced Sudhalter for daring to imply that white contributions to jazz deserved as much attention as those of black musicians, while Sudhalter claimed that he was only trying to balance the historical record, which so often neglected white musicians altogether. Sudhalter continued to perform concerts until 2003, when a diagnosis of multiple system atrophy ended his professional career. Sudhalter defended his history of white jazz musicians repeatedly for as long as he was able to speak, but his critics were never appeased.



Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2008, p. B6.

New York Times, September 30, 2008, p. B10.