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Hot Jazz From Harlem to Storyville by David Griffiths

This exemplary book is composed of life stories of various musicians from interviews or correspondence with the author. Most of these accounts were printed as articles in Storyville, the English publication devoted to classic and swing jazz. The subjects range from little-known to marginal, and from New Orleans veterans with second-hand accounts of Bolden to Charles Williams, the excellent mainstream alto player associated with Frank Foster in the ’80s. There are some familiar New Orleans figures, like Kid Thomas, Kid Sheik, and Lizzie Miles. There are also several accounts by third alto-caliber musicians, not that their stories are necessarily less interesting. A few of the shorter articles amount to little more than listings of bands and jobs, a gold mine for researchers, perhaps, but a little thick as general reading. The longer interviews include more anecdotes and local color, and many of the subjects are great storytellers. When they happen to be dealing with aspects of history not often covered, like Walter Bishop Sr.’s reminiscences about the songwriting business, the results are compelling. This book is a natural for older fans who have a taste for the hard history of the earlier era; for younger folks it is a great way to soak up some day-to-day detail. This fine tribute to some of the forgotten men and women of jazz is invaluable as research and uplifting as documentary.

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