Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Press Release

“Wisconsin Riffs” Compiles History of Our Jazz Musicians

This extensive, upbeat compilation of Wisconsin's jazz musicians features such iconic artists as Bunny Berigan, Woody Herman, Les Paul, and Al Jarreau as well as many other influential players, composers, and teachers.

By - Apr 12th, 2018 02:11 pm
Wisconsin Riffs: Jazz Profiles from the Heartland

Wisconsin Riffs: Jazz Profiles from the Heartland

New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are often considered the epicenters of American jazz, however Wisconsin Riffs: Jazz Profiles from the Heartland (Hardcover: $40.00, ISBN: 978-0-87020-853-9), by Kurt Dietrich, details Wisconsin’s rich association with Jazz since the inception of the genre in the early 1900s. This extensive, upbeat compilation of Wisconsin’s jazz musicians features such iconic artists as Bunny Berigan, Woody Herman, Les Paul, and Al Jarreau as well as many other influential players, composers, and teachers. This book features these musicians side-by-side-from the world-renowned to obscure regional artists–to portray a comprehensive history of jazz in Wisconsin.

Through meticulous research and more than a hundred interviews, author Kurt Dietrich has assembled a group of musicians who represent a wide range of backgrounds, ages, stylistic schools, and experiences-from leaders of swing-era big bands to legendary Wisconsin Conservatory instructors to today’s up-and-coming practitioners of contemporary jazz and jazz rock. For aspiring musicians, jazz enthusiasts, and fans of Wisconsin culture alike, Wisconsin Riffs presents a compelling, complex, and multi-layered concoction-just like jazz itself


Author Kurt Dietrich  is a professor of music and the Barbara Baldwin DeFrees Chair in the Performing Arts at Ripon College. He is the author of Duke’s Bones: Ellington’s Great Trombonists, as well as numerous articles for publications including Annual Review of Jazz Studies and
Black Music Research Journal. He is a longtime player of jazz and has performed on numerous recordings.


“The gifted music historian Kurt Dietrich has given us a fascinating account of jazz throughout Wisconsin. In this pioneering, one-of-a-kind book, he tells the stories of more than one hundred musicians, ranging from the big names of Bunny Berigan, Woody Herman, Les Paul, and Al Jarreau to the undeservedly obscure. What emerges is a sense of a rich musical culture that few know about, and an awareness that even more stories should be told. Wisconsin Riffs should inspire books about other states’ musical legacies.”

John Edward Hasse, Curator Emeritus of American Music, Smithsonian Institution

Monday, April 30, 2018 – Book Talk Event, featuring music by The Manty Ellis Trio

Time: 6 p.m.
Location: The Jazz Estate, 2423 N Murray Ave., Milwaukee, Wis., 53211. Cohosted by Boswell Book Company. A book signing will follow.

Thursday, June 6, 2018 – Wisconsin Riffs: An Isthmus Jazz Festival Book Talk
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Wisconsin Historical Museum, Madison, Wis. The event is cohosted by The Greater Madison Jazz Consortium as part of the Isthmus Jazz Festival

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 – Wisconsin Riffs Book Talk
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Caestecker Public Library, 518 Hill St., Green Lake, Wis. 54941.

Friday, July 6, 2018 – Wisconsin Riffs Jazz Event, featuring singer Gerri DMaggio
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Thrasher Opera House, 506 Mill St., Green Lake, Wis. 54941. A book signing will follow.

Discover more events throughout Wisconsin by visiting:


The Wisconsin Historical Society Press has been publishing the best of Wisconsin history and culture as part of the Wisconsin Historical Society since 1855

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