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Souljazz: The Heart of the Music by Michael Brewin

This is a general interest book by a guitarist, composer and educator born in England who now lives in Portland, Ore. The title leads one to expect a study of jazz organ groups and R&B-rooted saxophone players and their kin. But Brewin means “soul” as “heartfelt” and thus applicable to more than a particular style of jazz.

The book is organized strangely, with interview stories alternating among instrumental and stylistic history and musical and jazz fundamentals. It appears that Brewin wrote the book around interviews he had conducted over a period of years. While the conversations with the musicians often prove interesting, the instrumental and stylistic rundowns consist largely of lists of names and descriptions–a survey more than in-depth analysis. One exception is the chapter entitled “How Technology Electrified Jazz,” which illuminates a topic that has previously escaped comprehensive discussion. And a chapter on Latin music fills in some of the missing links for rhythm-challenged fans.

It is evident that Brewin admires his interviewees. The list includes Joshua Redman, Ray Brown, Alan Broadbent, John and Jeff Clayton, Shirley Horn, Bobby Hutcherson, Charlie Haden, Joe Lovano, Larry Carlton, Leroy Vinnegar and others. Few controversial subjects surface in their conversations.

For students looking for a quick reference to major names and their descendants in jazz history, this book could be a starting point. But the book is broader than it is deep.

Originally Published