“Pierre Briançon had the brilliant idea of investigating an unknown moment in American music”—Livres Hebdo
“While Johnny Cash may have put San Quentin on the musical map when he performed there in 1969, the prison’s role in shaping jazz history is a relatively undocumented phenomenon.”—WWDscoop
The San Quentin state prison, notorious for its gas chambers, was nonetheless fairly progressive as prisons went in the 1960s. Perhaps because of this, in 1962 this oldest jailhouse in California witnessed the birth of modern jazz. Every Saturday, during a show organized by the director of the prison, jazz musicians, mostly doing time for drug offenses, performed for the guards and fellow inmates.
This book introduces Art Pepper, the only white man in the band, an alto saxophonist and former star with Stan Kenton, who had just recorded the famous Smack Up record; Dupree Bolton, the trumpet player, who used to play with Benny Carter; the pianist, Jimmy Miller; the bass player, Franck Washington; and the drummer, Whalee Williams.
Briançon went to the prison to research this extraordinary story and met with the surviving witnesses.