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Strollin’: A Jazz Life Through John Levy’s Personal Lens by Devra Hall Levy

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Self-publishing has its merits. It can be a remarkable font of first-person or primary source material and it can allow worthy subjects heretofore ignored by large publishing houses to have their day in the sun. The downside is that certain professional standards may not be met. Both sides of the coin are evident here.

This large soft-cover book is basically a photo scrapbook devoted to the life of John Levy, jazz musician-turned-manager, who turned 97 in April last year. Yes, 97. Looking through this book is very much like looking through Levy’s personal scrapbook of photos and memories. Although the book suffers from highly uneven quality of images and reproduction, there are many images that leave an indelible impression. For example, the chapter chronicling a trip by American jazz and soul musicians to Ghana in 1971 is filled with vivid images not just of performers like Roberta Flack, Wilson Pickett and Eddie Harris, but also of artists such as Les McCann and Ike & Tina Turner mingling with local villagers. There are lots of concert photos, as well as candid in-the-studio shots, and plenty of downright snapshots. Photos come from Levy himself, a notorious shutterbug, as well as from the author and Leroy Hamilton.

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