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June 1999

In Paper, Briefly

Black Music by Leroi Jones (221 pp., Da Capo, $14.95) was first published in 1968. Thirty years later the book still has an immediacy from the fact that its author was listening to the “new music” in clubs and talking to the musicians. The severe opening chapter is devoted to “Jazz and the White Critic” and plenty of argument ensues. But on page 187 one reads: “Avant garde, finally, is a bad term because it also means a lot of quacks and quackers, too.” What exactly did he mean by that?

The Devil's Music: A History of the Blues by Giles Oakley (311 pp., Da Capo, $14.95) is, as critic Francis Davis rightly noted, “one of the essential books on the blues.” Well written and researched, it is loaded with valuable insights.

Satchmo by Gary Giddins (240 pp., Da Capo, $19.95) remains an outstanding tribute to Louis Armstrong, one worthy of both musician and writer. Lavishly illustrated and handsomely produced, it is a real bargain in this edition.

Such Melodious Racket: The Lost History of Jazz in Canada by Mark Miller (288 pp., Mercury Press, $19.95 Canadian) begins with the 1914 visit of The Original Creole Orchestra from New Orleans. Music and musicians from below the border are inevitably a strongly influential part of this compact chronicle.

Anthony Barnett, whose praiseworthy campaign to advance the name and fame of Stuff Smith resulted in Desert Sands (1995) has now published a supplement, Up Jumped the Devil: An Annotated Discography and Biographical Source Book (96 pp., Allardyce Publishing, 14 Mount Standard., Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1HU, England, $30.00). It contains many new photographs and much new data.

Last but not least, the indefatigable Andrew White has collected up his Essays Nos. 59 to 70 in Out of the Blues (120 pp., 4830 S. Dakota Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017, $11.00). A varied lot, they range from his clash with a religious group to a memorial for his dear friend, Julius Hemphill, to money-saving hopes with soap and floss.

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