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The Man Who Wrote The Book On JazzCopyright © 2000The Scotsman, 2000
Joachim-Ernst Berendt was the author of one of the best known and most admired general histories of jazz. The Jazz Book was originally published in 1953, but was frequently updated to take account of new developments in jazz in the ensuing decades, and remained an authoritative and reliable guide to the music for successive generations of jazz fans. It was translated into 18 languages, and sold more than one and half million copies worldwide.
Berendt, who was born in Berlin in 1922, was a passionate advocate for jazz throughout his life. He wrote 33 books in all, many of which dealt with jazz or music. His later work explored the philosophical and spiritual aspects of music in books like Nada Brahma: The World of Sound, The Third Ear: Listening to the World, and I Hear, Therefore I Exist, and he created a series of very successful tapes for use in meditation.
As well as writing about jazz, Berendt was involved in the music as a record producer and concert organiser. He produced over 250 albums for a variety of companies, including Columbia, World Pacific, and Atlantic, and built a highly respected catalogue under the auspices of his MPS label, which featured major European artists alongside the likes of George Russell and Oscar Peterson.
The founded the Berlin Jazz Days, an event which became a major European jazz festival, and arranged numerous concerts in Germany and elsewhere, including concerts linked to high-profile occasions like the Olympic Games in Munich, the World Expo in Osaka, Japan, and major events at the Lincoln Centre in New York. He co-founded a radio station, Suedwestrundfunk, in Baden-Baden in Germany in 1945, and made many thousands of broadcasts featuring the music to which he devoted so much of his time and energy.
Joachim-Ernst Berendt died in hospital in Hamburg on 4 February, 2000, after being struck by a car the previous day. At the time of the accident, he was on his way to an event promoting his latest book, an account of his experiences as an outdoor walker.