Jazz Greats Speak: Interviews with Master Musicians by Roland Baggenaes

Baggenaes is a Danish writer whose interviews with seventeen musicians between 1972 and 1987 have now been collected and published in book form. Baggenaes’ questioning is good. Many of Bagganaes’ subjects are European musicians or musicians who spent a substantial amount of time on the continent and many of the musicians’ responses are well worth the reader’s time. The book contains the best interviews with Dexter Gordon and Warne Marsh that I recall and the interviews with Mary Lou Williams, Red Rodney, and Jackie McLean are particularly valuable. The book dates itself by the inclusion of interviews with Howard King, Marie-Ange Martin, and Marc Levin, none of whom would probably be have been chosen as a subject after the late 1970s.

Both of these books barely weigh in at book length and are somewhat European centric. The value of the contribution of Europeans to jazz will probably be debated throughout all of our lives. While these books make a case for the contribution of financing of music on the continent and the quality of some Europeans’ musical output, most of their content will be only of great interest to those with very specialized taste or curiosity. Carr’s book might generate interest in some good musicians of a particular time and place whose work is now not easily heard. The best of Baggenaes’ interviews could interest any jazz fan, but like Carr’s book, much of the content will best function as a reference source in a well stocked university library.