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Books

The latest words on jazz, evaluated by critics who understand the power of jazz writing.

Striders to Beboppers and Beyond: The Art of Jazz Piano by Leslie Gourse

Leslie Gourse is rapidly becoming the most prolific writer of jazz books. These two are in a series designed for young adults. Well produced, with a good choice of photographs, they should prove attractive invitations to their subjects. The main creative thrust of jazz piano is well outlined, although the author acknowledges that many more … Read More “Striders to Beboppers and Beyond: The Art of Jazz Piano by Leslie Gourse”

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As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir by Chet Baker

This scant memoir of barely 20,000 words, evidently taped around 1978, finds the trumpeter dwelling on his halcyon (pre-heroin) youth, 1948-1960. His preoccupation with boyhood girlfriends, cars and muscle assure the autobiographical authenticity, as do certain Chetian phrases and cadences. A friend’s Spider “went like hell-when it ran.” His dad’s “disappointment [in his trumpet playing] … Read More “As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir by Chet Baker”

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The B. B. King Companion: Five Decades of Commentary by Richard Kostelanetz

Ranging from two to 32 pages, these interviews, profiles and analyses give a rather complete portrait of the world’s best-known bluesman. It’s hard, though, to figure out for whom this book is written…and why, for, during the course of at least three of the seven interviews (which span the years 1967-95) King’s background, nickname, favorite … Read More “The B. B. King Companion: Five Decades of Commentary by Richard Kostelanetz”

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Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years by William Minor

This authorized history of the Monterey Jazz Festival, while telling the story of a great event, also traces how jazz has changed, for better or for worse, since the 1950s. An appendix listing festival performances and performers from 1958 to 1997 underlines the drama of that change. Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, … Read More “Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years by William Minor”

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Seeing Jazz: Artists and Writers on Jazz by Elizabeth Goldson

Published by Chronicle Books in association with the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service, this handsomely printed (in China) collection is visually appealing. For the most part, the artists are painters and photographers, and the writers musicians and such literati as Toni Morrison, Jean Rhys, James Baldwin, Albert Murray, Julio Cortazar, Ralph Ellison, F. Scott Fitzgerald and … Read More “Seeing Jazz: Artists and Writers on Jazz by Elizabeth Goldson”

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The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History by Scott DeVeaux

Recently several superb books about jazz have appeared-Paul Berliner’s Thinking in Jazz, Barry Kernfeld’s What to Listen for in Jazz, Fujioka’s collaborative Coltrane discography, and a few others. Scott DeVeaux’s newest book definitely belongs on that list. Though trained as a musician and music scholar, DeVeaux chooses here to discuss not only the musical features … Read More “The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History by Scott DeVeaux”

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What Jazz Is: An Insider’s Guide To Understanding and Listening To Jazz by Jonny King

Jazz seeks to proselytize beyond the converted, but seldom goes about it cannily. Pianist King is onto something in putting the callow listener on the piano stool, in the record session, choosing repertoire, and checking out solos at close range. While this brief “how to” guide may attract keen youth who want to be in … Read More “What Jazz Is: An Insider’s Guide To Understanding and Listening To Jazz by Jonny King”

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Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk by Leslie Gourse

“Beyond the music, what else is there?” So replied Nellie Monk when asked by writers for information about her famously reticent husband Thelonious. It’s a question all biographers of musicians have to confront. In the case of Monk, who spoke mainly in the language of tones, it requires gathering information from others who knew him. … Read More “Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk by Leslie Gourse”

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