Correspondence: Frishberg on Sudhalter

Frishberg.jpgDave Frishberg’s friendship and collaborations with Dick Sudhalter go back more than three decades. He sent this appreciation.

I want to say something about Dick Sudhalter and the sadness of his passing . I’m staggered by Sudhalter’s contributions to jazz literature and criticism. There are plenty of good writers who write about the music, but for my money Sudhalter and Benny Green stand out as the enduring literary giants of the genre. Both of them were involved with “classic” jazz and swing music, both of them were excellent professional musicians, and both of them could, with authority and elegance, write critically about the heart of music . They were widely informed and narrow-minded — requisites of good criticism, as I see it. My favorite jazz literature: Green’s The Reluctant Art and Sudhalter’s Lost Chords. I find myself going back again and again to those books and never failing to enjoy them.

You find Sudhalter’s writing in the unlikeliest places. In the series of large spiral-bound piano albums published by Reader’s Digest in 1980s , e.g. Treasury of Best Loved Songs, and Popular Songs That Will Live Forever, I found the annotations to be sophisticated and beautifully written. Sure enough–turned out to be by Sudhalter. (Incidentally, the piano arrangements in this series are all by Dan Fox, and they are easy to play and very hip.) Sudhalter also annotated a lot of the Mosaic reissue packages, and his comments are essential to the enjoyment of those collections. Richard wrote with power, grace, and precision; his literary style just sang right out as if it were music. He sure will be missed.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. John Johansen says

    Dick Sudhalter and Benny Green immediately come to my mind as the authors of the most memorable liner notes as well, and often because of their many asides. Roasted honey nut peanut butter for instance is indelibly linked in my mind with Sudhalter, years after reading his liner notes for Armstrong’s Heart Full of Rhythm. I’t’s till stuck in my mind (but not the roof of my mouth!).

  2. Joshua Sorel says

    Very sad, I grieve with his family. Perhaps they
    will have memorial for him at the late Rev.
    Gensel’s church on 53rd street & Lexington.
    His sister, Carol Sudhalter, is a sax/flute player