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Grover Sales, 84; Jazz Historian, Author

March 01, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Grover Sales, a jazz historian and author of "Jazz: America's Classical Music", died Feb. 14 of kidney failure at a hospital in Tiburon, Calif. He was 84.

Sales also wrote about jazz for many publications, including book reviews for the Los Angeles Times. He lectured on jazz at Stanford University, San Francisco State University and elsewhere.

Of his book, Los Angeles Times Reviewer Robert Dawidoff wrote that Sales "suggests a story, the endlessly rich and fabulous story that lives in the music and its players."

"In the end, Sales may not be able to sustain his claim that jazz is to America what classical music is to Europe," Dawidoff wrote. "In this book, however, that notion does no harm and may do some good."

Born Oct. 26, 1919, in Louisville, Ky., Sales fell in love with the music of Benny Goodman's band (with drummer Gene Krupa) and Duke Ellington's recording of "Black and Tan Fantasy."

He told's Robert Tate that hearing Goodman's band "was a religious experience -- I'd never heard anything like it. I went to bed and had a high fever. My mother had to rub my chest with Musterol, and I've never been the same since. It took over my life."

After serving in the Army Air Forces in World War II and earning a bachelor's degree at UC Berkeley, Sales began writing about jazz. In the late 1950s and 1960s, he handled the publicity for the Monterey Jazz Festival. He also did publicity for jazz clubs and artists, including the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

The outspoken Sales also was often quoted by famed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen.

Sales wrote two other books: a biography of John Maher, founder of the Delancey Street rehabilitation center, and "The Clay-Pot Cookbook," co-written with his wife, Georgia.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter and two stepsons.

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