International Jazz Day is April 30. But we won’t need to go abroad to drink from a deep well of incredible music. We can hear it in person at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or by Festing in Place with WWOZ. There are a number of fine Louisiana books about local musicians and the music scene. Here are just a few.

The classic is “Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans.” Authored by Louis Armstrong, the book is a memoir of his early years in jazz. Armstrong gives names and places that provide nuggets for jazz historians’ research and gives context to young trumpeters trying to make a mark.

From the Louisiana Artists Biography Series at The Historic New Orleans Collection are two books for your collection: “Ernie K-Doe: The R & B Emperor of New Orleans. The title alone can make you smile if you recall his rollicking hits “Mother in Law,” ‘Tain’t it the Truth,” “Certain Girl,” or “Te-ta-Te-ta-ta.” I could wax poetic just on my love for that last tune. This biography by Ben Sandmel will provide the facts and story, however, that my homage cannot.

The other book that recalls a local legend is the autobiography “Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man” by Harold R. Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan. His reputation as an educator and creator is spread before us in letters and journals. (The Historic New Orleans Collection has his papers in the archives.) He founded the first Black-owned and operated record company in the United States — All For One (AFO) Records. He passed away in 2015, but maybe you heard him play. For sure, you’ve heard his music. This is a book that will enrich your memory and knowledge.


James Monroe Trotter (1842-1892) was one of my early heroes. Born into slavery in Mississippi, he became a teacher, soldier, activist, and editor. He worked for the postal service and wrote the wonderful “Music and Some Highly Musical People.” The book includes a section on New Orleans musicians. He referred to several who were members of the Société d’Economie et d’Assistance Mutuelle — the men who built Economy Hall.

I would be remiss in not telling you that my own book “Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood” is the story of the building from which the Jazz and Heritage Festival’s Economy Hall tent takes its name.

If you’re festing at home, read “Economy Hall” or listen to it on Audible to know more about the revolutionary social history that produced local jazz.

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Fatima Shaik is the author of seven books including "Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood," the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 2022 Book of the Year. She is a native of...