Ira Gitler, Jazz Historian & Critic Who Chronicled The Rise of Bebop, Passes at 90
Ira Gitler at home. Photo by: Jacques Lowe.

Ira Gitler, Jazz Historian & Critic Who Chronicled The Rise of Bebop, Passes at 90

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MANHATTAN, NY (CelebrityAccess) – Ira Gitler, prolific music critic, magazine editor, record producer and jazz historian who documented the rise of bebop, passed away Saturday at a nursing home in Manhattan.

His death was confirmed by his son, Fitz Gitler. He was 90.

Born in Brooklyn in 1928, Gitler first began writing about jazz while still in high school.

Gitler’s criticism regularly appeared in publications such as DownBeat magazine (for which he served as one-time editor) and in JazzTimes. He was also a fixture at Prestige Records in the early 1950s, where he helped produce albums featuring the likes of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Along with Leonard Feather and Nat Hentoff, Gitler was known as one of the most prodigious writers of liner notes, annotating more than 700 albums in his lifetime.

Gitler wrote two books on jazz history including “Jazz Masters of the Forties,” which chronicled the genre’s rise through the lens of innovators like Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Monk, and “Swing to Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940s,” which compiled interviews with more than 60 musicians to describe how the dance-oriented swing music of the 1930s evolved into the more musically daring genre known as bebop. Additionally, he made significant contributions to the “Encyclopedia of Jazz.”

At various other points in his career, Gitler also served as a jazz concert producer and a professor at several colleges.

Interestingly, he was also a leading authority on ice hockey. Gitler wrote several books on the sport, frequently contributed articles to the New York Rangers program and was a co-author of a 1969 history, “Hockey! The Story of the World’s Fastest Sport.”

In 2017, Gitler was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the country’s most prestigious honor in jazz.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, artist Mary Jo Schwalbach; his son, Fitz Gitler; and two grandchildren.

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