The highly-regarded jazz critic and historian, Ira Gitler, died on Saturday at the age of 90. While his last years were spent in a nursing home, Ira Gitler devoted a lifetime to jazz advocacy. Championing the music and capturing jazz history as it unfolded.
In 2017, Gitler was recognized as a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master designation. A recognition that honored his contributions to the art form of jazz during the past few decades. A special commemorative video was produced for this award and follows here:
Ira Gitler became well-known in the prodigious production of hundreds of liner notes for momentous jazz albums and artists. He became one of the most important jazz critics originating from the early bebop years of jazz. Advocating for the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and the arrival of bebop as profound to jazz.
Gitler’s career in writing spanned over a 60 year period. Writing and reviewing for Downbeat and JazzTimes. In 1954, Gitler began assisting leading jazz authority Leonard Feather in preparing TheEncyclopedia of Jazz, one of the first great jazz reference books. He became co-author starting with the 1970s edition and completed The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz in 1999 after Feather’s death in 1994.
Gitler also helped to produce concerts for George Wein and the Newport Jazz Festival in the 1980s and 1990s. Additionally, teaching at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
Gitler’s keen sensibility to history compelled him to write his first book Jazz Masters of the Forties (reissued as The Masters of Bebop in 2001), which chronicled insightfully the advent of bebop. The book profiled bebop pioneers Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Max Roach.
Due to Ira Gitler’s contributions, the story of jazz remains a powerful story to be told to generations to come.