Hotter Than That

The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture

By Krin Gabbard
(Faber & Faber, Hardcover, 9780571211999, 272pp.)

Publication Date: October 28, 2008

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A swinging cultural history of the instrument that in many ways defined a century The twentieth century was barely under way when the grandson of a slave picked up a trumpet and transformed American culture. Before that moment, the trumpet had been a regimental staple in marching bands, a ceremonial accessory for royalty, and an occasional diva at the symphony. Because it could make more noise than just about anything, the trumpet had been much more declarative than musical for most of its history. Around 1900, however, Buddy Bolden made the trumpet declare in brand-new ways. He may even have invented jazz, or something very much like it. And as an African American, he found a vital new way to assert himself as a man.

Hotter Than That is a cultural history of the trumpet from its origins in ancient Egypt to its role in royal courts and on battlefields, and ultimately to its stunning appropriation by great jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Wynton Marsalis. The book also looks at how trumpets have been manufactured over the centuries and at the price that artists have paid for devoting their bodies and souls to this most demanding of instruments. In the course of tracing the trumpet’s evolution both as an instrument and as the primary vehicle for jazz in America, Krin Gabbard also meditates on its importance for black male sexuality and its continuing reappropriation by white culture.  

About the Author

Krin Gabbard is professor of comparative literature and English at Stony Brook University and an amateur trumpet player. He is the author of three previous books.

Praise For Hotter Than That

“The trumpet is the quintessentially all-American musical instrument--the one whose clarion tones proclaim our national character--and Krin Gabbard's Hotter Than That, an engagingly written, admirably concise study of its place in American popular culture, goes a long way toward explaining why the trumpet and its best-known players have set down such deep roots in our collective imagination." —Terry Teachout

“Krin Gabbard's thoroughly absorbing and original account of the trumpet in jazz and American life--written with a disarmingly anecdotal ease that should be the envy of any writer--argues that this ancient brass instrument didn't achieve its true potential until it was taken up by African American musicians in the early years of the twentieth century. His argument is as entertaining as it is unassailable. I learned something from every page.”  —Gary Giddins

“What makes Hotter than That such an enjoyable read is that the author does many things very well in a comparatively short space. Hotter than That is a concise contemplation of the jazz trumpet from every angle: technological, cultural, historical, musical, artistic - and even psychological.  For the first time we have a highly-readable survey of the horn by an author who is both a superior researcher and a player himself, who knows the trumpet from the inside out.  Along the way he finds the time to profile the three most notable exponents of the jazz trumpet - Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis - at length, and to offer autobiographical insight from his own experiences with the horn. It's a fast-paced and rewarding read.”  —Will Friedwald, jazz critic for The New York Sun

“Krin Gabbard’s love of music, his passion for history, and his keen raconteur’s voice and ear all combine to create an extraordinary brass fantasia.  In Hotter Than That, Gabbard writes through jazz toward the wonder and complexity of human achievement, and with wit and grace, reminds us that through music, we can discover love, and through love, we discover the world.” —George E. Lewis,Case Professor of American Music, Columbia University

“This is the smartest book about a single musical instrument that I've ever read. Like Miles Davis, who attended Juilliard and apprenticed with Charlie Parker, Krin Gabbard turns his immense learning into lines that are quick, witty, and irresistibly alluring. How did the trumpet emerge as the first-chair instrument in jazz history? What is this beautiful horn's significance as an instrument of desire and romance? A triumph of the new jazz studies, Hotter than That is for all who play music (especially for all trumpeters), and for all who are yearning for an enriched understanding of what and how the music called jazz means.” —Robert G. O'Meally, author of Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday and founder of The Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University

"Would jazz exist without the trumpet?  The instrument defines the art, as Krin Gabbard demonstrates in this revelatory book.  His instrument is an uncommonly keen, probing mind, and, with it, Gabbard redefines the art of jazz."—David Hajdu

“As he has done before, Krin Gabbard has written a book with a vision that is neither mine nor anyone elses's. It is more than unique or exotic. There is always substance to his overview and that substance brings authority, whether you agree with his point of view or not. We can say that of only a few of our writers: those who take actual chances.”—Stanley Crouch “Amateur trumpet player Gabbard tells the story of how the trumpet came to be the alpha-male instrument of jazz. . . . Gabbard also delves into sexism in the jazz world. . . . this engaging and informative book goes well beyond a who’s who of jazz trumpet with thought-provoking discussions of jazz trumpet playing as an expression of freedom for African American musicians and as an expression of sexuality.” —Library Journal “A witty history of the trumpet and the many meanings of its sound. . . . Gabbard isn’t afraid of touching on their less-than-attractive sides in order to demonstrate that when we fail to acknowledge jazz’s unsavory and gritty ingredients, we sacrifice appreciation of its full flavor. . . . Gabbard tells the history of his adopted instrument with a historian’s rigor and a comedian’s wit, scattering plenty of juicy anecdotes throughout.” —Kirkus Reviews “A pleasing celebration of the “most difficult of instruments . . . and thought provoking in its insights and random chatter.” —Publishers Weekly

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