Synopses & Reviews
Seattle is a music town with rich, deep roots that have influenced the culture and identity of its civic life for decades. In a society that appreciates music but is ambivalent toward the profession of making it, the importance and contribution of Seattle's musicians have been routinely overlooked in historical accounts of the city. Kurt Armbruster fills that gap in this far-reaching and entertaining panorama of Seattle music from the 1890s to the 1960s, "before Seattle rocked."
For this once-remote city, music forged links as real as those created by railroads and steamships. Classical music embodied the middle-class aspirations for gentility and cosmopolitan stature; jazz and blues gave Seattle's small African American community a vehicle for affirmation and economic advancement; ethnic music helped immigrants adjust to a new home; songs and drumming kept the memories of the Duwamish alive in a changing world. Before Seattle Rocked is enlivened by personal anecdotes and memories from many of Seattle's most beloved musicians and is enriched by historic photos of the changing music scene.
Kurt E. Armbruster is a Seattle native, historian, professional bassist, and singer-songwriter. He has played music of many genres and has written numerous historical articles and three books, including Orphan Road. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Cedar, and is a proud card-carrying member of the Musicians' Union of Seattle Local 76-493.
"Kurt Armbruster's well-researched book is a rich resource, packed with history, personalities, and great stories. This multi-layered look at Seattle's musical beginnings will delight anyone interested in the sources that fed the region's unique cultural identity. Seattle's rich music scene is both indigenous and cross-pollinated, and Armbruster explores all its aspects, bringing the whole thing together in a high-momentum, conversational style. A fun and absorbing read!" -Maxine Frost, Seattle's 98.1 Classical KING FM
"Seattle is a remarkable place culturally. It has done so much in the world of music, of all types. Kurt Armbruster's book has done an extraordinary job in honoring the remarkable musicians that have made this city such an innovative place for popular music. Seattle is a place that is known for its arts, and Mr. Armbruster has made a very clear case for this remarkable community and the great artistic life that it has historically, up until the present. A remarkable book, about some remarkable people." -Gerard Schwarz, Music Director, Seattle Symphony
"This unusual book is chock-full of marvelous anecdotes about Seattle's musical history, from folk to country to opera to jazz." -Paul de Barros, Seattle Times jazz critic and author of Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle
"Armbruster spins an informative narrative thread. . . . Before Seattle Rocked recalls how this connective tissue [music] binds all of the city's inhabitants and reconstructs the musical skeletons overlooked or under cooked by previous local history books." -Steve Griggs, Examiner, February 2012
"This book is an excellent contribution to the history of music cultures in the Pacific Northwest and is a laudable example of a civil history based on a cultural form that impacts daily life but often remains invisible." -Sarah Dougher, Oregon Historical Quarterly
"Armbruster's book effectively analyzes Seattle's professional music scene and provides a solid overview of the city's classical, jazz, and blues cultures. The author's attention to subsets of Seattle music previously underrepresented in the scholarly literature provides a refreshing deception of a rich pre-rock musical culture." -Alexandria Waltz, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Winter 2013