Leonard Feather

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Leonard Geoffrey Feather (born September 13, 1914 in London , † September 22, 1994 in Encino , California ) was a British jazz musician, jazz journalist and critic, composer, producer and jazz historian, who worked for the jazz magazine Down Beat wrote and who is known from numerous jazz books.

Live and act

Feather came from an upper-middle-class Jewish family. His father owned a chain of clothing stores and later was in the real estate business. Feather grew up in London, but did not attend high school - but his parents financed him longer stays in France and Germany. He had been writing about film and jazz since his late teens. He played the piano and clarinet (some recordings with him have been released) and later composed himself ( interpreted by Mel Tormé and BB King , among others ). After visiting the USA for the first time in 1935 and working alternately there and in England as a record producer and arranger (including for Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong , in England for Benny Carter , with whom he was friends and who encouraged him to write), In 1939 he moved entirely to New York. Here he produced Lester Young and Charlie Parker as well as the first records of Dinah Washington , George Shearing and Sarah Vaughan . In the 1940s he organized the concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York and was press agent for Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, which he gave up in 1943 in favor of journalism.

From 1943 Feather was editor at Esquire Magazine (where he initiated the Esquire Jazz Award with Robert Goffin ) and a columnist for the magazines Metronome , Down Beat , Playboy (from 1959 he was their jazz editor), the Los Angeles Times (whose jazz critic he was) and the Jazz Times . The blindfold test he introduced at Metronome in 1946 was well known , in which jazz musicians are played music in interviews, which they are supposed to assign to the correct authors in a “blind test”. His blindfold tests have appeared regularly on Down Beat since 1951. In 1960 he moved to Los Angeles . 1972–1974 he was a lecturer at the University of Loyola , 1987–1988 at the University of California in Los Angeles and he taught at the University of California, Riverside and California State University, Northridge . For years he announced the Music USA program for the Voice of America on the radio .

Leonard Feather wrote the accompanying texts ( liner notes ) for thousands of jazz albums and has long been the leading jazz critic. After he was co-producer of Jazz Scene USA in 1962 , he presented the television program Feather on Jazz from 1967 , which was shown for a while on German television in the first program of the ARD . He is also known as the author of numerous jazz books and especially his jazz encyclopedia, for the creation of which he regularly sent questionnaires to musicians. In the last years of his life he was still working on a new edition with Ira Gitler . He was one of the early supporters of bebop in the 1940s and wrote a book about it in 1949 ( Inside Bebop ).

He composed and arranged, among others Evil Gal Blues and Blowtop Blues for Dinah Washington and How Blue Can You Get? which was recorded by Louis Jordan and BB King , among others . In the late 1950s he founded the short-lived sub-label MetroJazz Records at MGM Records .

Feather was married to Jane Leslie Larrabee since 1945, with whom he had a daughter Lorraine Feather (* 1948), who became a jazz singer and songwriter.

Most recently he lived in Sherman Oaks , California.

Prizes and awards

In 1964 Feather received a Grammy for the accompanying texts to The Ellington Years , the first Grammy for liner notes. In 1971 he was nominated for an Emmy for his The Jazz Show at KNBC in Los Angeles. In 1983 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Down Beat Critics Poll ; In 1984 he received an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music . In 1986 he received the National Association of Jazz Educators Award for 50 years of career as a jazz journalist and jazz writer.


  • Inside bebop. 1949, new as Inside Jazz. Da Capo, 1977, ISBN 0-306-80076-4 .
  • The book of Jazz - a guide to the entire field. New York 1957, 1961, 1976, Horizon 1988.
  • Passion for jazz. Da Capo.
  • Pleasures of Jazz. Delacorte 1977, ISBN 0-385-28786-0 .
  • From Satchmo to Miles. 1973, new Da Capo 1987, ISBN 1-4176-1892-2 .
  • The Jazz Years: Earwitness to an Era. Da Capo 1987.
  • with John Tracy: Laughter from the Hip. Horizon 1963.
  • Encyclopedia of Jazz. 1955, Horizon 1960 (as New Encyclopedia of Jazz ). new 1984 with Gitler.
  • Encyclopedia of Jazz in the 60s. 1966, 1986 (updated material on the 1960 Encyclopedia of Jazz ).
  • with Ira Gitler: The encyclopedia of Jazz in the 70s. Horizon Press 1976, 1987 (Updated material on the Encyclopedia of Jazz from 1960 and Encyclopedia of Jazz in the 60s , 1966).
  • this. Biographical encyclopedia of Jazz. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press 1999, ISBN 0-19-507418-1 (biographies of around 3,300 jazz musicians).
  • The Encyclopedia Yearbook of Jazz. Horizon 1956, reprinted by Da Capo 1993, ISBN 0-306-80529-4 .
  • Robert Goffin , Walter E. Schaap , Leonard Feather: Jazz, from the Congo to the Metropolitan . New York: Da Capo Press, 1975
  • Joachim-Ernst Berendt Story of Jazz. rororo 1997, Articles Armstrong and Ellington. Bebop, cool jazz and hard bop.


Feather played with Louis Armstrong, Barney Bigard , the Marsala Band and Sarah Vaughan , among others . His own bands were called Ye olde english swynge band , Esquire all americans and Playboy Jazz All Stars .

  • 1937–1945: Leonard Feather 1937–1945 (Classics)
  • 1951: Leonard Feather's Swingin 'Swedes (Prestige)
  • 1954: Dixieland Vs. Birdland (MGM)
  • 1954: Cats Vs. Chicks (MGM)
  • 1954: Winter Sequence (MGM)
  • 1956: West Coast Vs. East Coast (MGM)
  • 1956: Swingin 'on the Vibories (MGM)
  • 1957: Hi-Fi Suite (MGM)
  • 1957: 52nd Street (VSOP)
  • 1957: Leonard Feather Presents BOP (Polydor)
  • 1958: Swingin 'Seasons (MGM)
  • 1959: Jazz from Two Sides (Concept)
  • 1971: Night Blooming Jazzmen (Mainstream)
  • 1971: Freedom Jazz Dance (mainstream)
  • 1971/1972: Night Blooming (Mainstream)
  • 1972: All-Stars (mainstream)
  • 1997: Presents Bop (Tofrec)

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