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Friends Along the Way: A Journey Through Jazz by Gene Lees

Gene Lees’ eighth collection of profiles does pretty much what the previous seven did: allow disparate figures from the music world to relate their own stories. The form may offer few surprises, but Lees-now that Whitney Balliett seems to have all but retired-reigns as the master of the genre. As attuned to the underrecongnized as he is to A-list artists, this stalwart writer-lyricist has a special affinity for music’s indispensable foot soldiers and behind-the-scenes craftspeople. While giving space to such major artists as Ray Brown, arranger Claus Ogermann and saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, Lees also focuses attention on such less-trumpeted figures as trombonist Milt Bernhart, pianists Junior Mance, John Bunch and Lou Levy and multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson. Casting a wide net, Lees finds room for jazz radio personality Willis Conover, the classical violinist Yue Deng, and Hollywood composer and orchestrater Hugo Friedhofer.

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