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Footprints

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It's fundamentally an appallingly shallow book. A great disappointment. A missed opportunity. It does a good job of dealing with Wayne's personality.

So when is Michael Fitzgerald's Wayne Shorter biography coming out? I'm sure it will be mistake free. :w:rolleyes:

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Paul -- You know not (or not much) of whom you speak, though you would have if you'd been paying attention. Mike Fitzgerald's two middle names are "thoroughness" and "scrupulousness." I'd add "beyond the call of duty," but people like Mike quite rightly don't see it that way.

And yes, I see the smiley face, but I don't see how it fits what you wrote.

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Wait and see.

But apart from that, I think it's a nonsensical response to say, "Well, if you don't like it, you should do your own!" So unless someone writes his own book, pointing out flaws in an existing one is off-limits? Yeah, that's real productive.

Besides, *I'm* not the one who left out something like three-quarters of Shorter's pre-1970s output. Don't kill the messenger. (Helen More did that.)

Mike

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"I got scruples, too, you know! You know what scruples are?"

"No, I don't know what it is, but if you got 'em, you can sure bet they belong to somebody else!"

Mike (pondering the use of Michael T. S. Fitzgerald a la John R. T. Davies)

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Don't kill the messenger. (Helen More did that.)

I searched in vain (Whitehall, Montague and Story City too) for the appropriate smilie.

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no, high school was fine. just never felt the urge to beat anyone up-maybe the occasional hippie, but nothing that ever had to be acted upon

Really now <_< What kind of crap is that?

Edited by Leeway

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no, high school was fine. just never felt the urge to beat anyone up-maybe the occasional hippie, but nothing that ever had to be acted upon

Really now <_< What kind of crap is that?

nothing worse than this goodie from "youmustbe" :

"Also, Wayne has a sense of humor...Keith is a pretentious asshole, probably a Republican. "

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Wait and see.

But apart from that, I think it's a nonsensical response to say, "Well, if you don't like it, you should do your own!" So unless someone writes his own book, pointing out flaws in an existing one is off-limits? Yeah, that's real productive.

Besides, *I'm* not the one who left out something like three-quarters of Shorter's pre-1970s output. Don't kill the messenger. (Helen More did that.)

Mike

It's not "nonsensical", just how I feel. You obviously know an incredible amount about Shorter, discography-wise, especially. You have written a book already, so it only makes sense that you'd probably be doing more books in the future. That would be awesome if you did a book on Shorter.

However, I think just writing in a strictly factual sense somewhat leads to boring writing (see some of Bob Blumenthal's RVG series notes, for instance). Writing should have soul too.

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Paul -- You know not (or not much) of whom you speak, though you would have if you'd been paying attention. Mike Fitzgerald's two middle names are "thoroughness" and "scrupulousness." I'd add "beyond the call of duty," but people like Mike quite rightly don't see it that way.

And yes, I see the smiley face, but I don't see how it fits what you wrote.

I do know something about Mike, or as much as you can know by way of internet bulletin boards. I realize he's a great jazz scholar/educator/writer and he does want to get the facts right. I just think that sometimes he gets too caught up in getting the dates correct and leaves out the more personal aspect of things, which IMO is what really matters.

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no, high school was fine. just never felt the urge to beat anyone up-maybe the occasional hippie, but nothing that ever had to be acted upon

Really now <_< What kind of crap is that?

nothing worse than this goodie from "youmustbe" :

"Also, Wayne has a sense of humor...Keith is a pretentious asshole, probably a Republican. "

I doubt you could beat your way out of a paper bag <_<

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Paul -- I want the personal aspect too, if we can have it, but what reason is there in that to go South with the facts or to not even take much care with attending to them? Besides, what if some of the dramatically appealing/interesting "personal" stuff is invented or fudged, as was the case in James Gavin's Chet Baker bio, "Deep In a Dream" (right up to and including the nature of Baker's death)? No, Chet wasn't pushed from that window by anyone; he fell from it all by his lonesome. Better story the other way, though.

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P.S. for the facts, check out Jeroen de Valk's "Chet Baker: His Life and Music" (Berkeley Hills Books) -- published in 2003 in the U.S. (it was translated from the original Dutch) and apparently out of print here at the moment but available online used at decent prices.

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no, high school was fine. just never felt the urge to beat anyone up-maybe the occasional hippie, but nothing that ever had to be acted upon

Really now <_< What kind of crap is that?

nothing worse than this goodie from "youmustbe" :

"Also, Wayne has a sense of humor...Keith is a pretentious asshole, probably a Republican. "

I doubt you could beat your way out of a paper bag <_<

what does this have to do with the Shorter book? You really do have problems getting along with others, don't you? I read nothing but insults from you, and now what appears to be a childish challenge. Time for me to hit the "ignore" button!

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Have you read my book? What was your impression of "what really matters" there?

Facts are either right or they're wrong. Going way back in this thread, I said that getting the facts right was the STARTING point. You still seem to think that this is where I believe everything should stop. I've never said that, and I believe that my book and other writings don't support this interpretation of my outlook.

Now, I do discography work. It's *one* thing I do. Discography does NOT deal with "the personal aspect of things" - it's not supposed to. There are a lot of other things I do that *aren't* discography. Please don't compare apples and oranges. Besides, a judgment based on some posts to bulletin boards isn't going to be an accurate one. I'd bet that at least half my responses here ARE just answering factual inquiries. Doesn't prove anything.

I also think you trivialize factual accuracy by talking only about "getting the dates correct" - in this discussion, *the facts* are that Wayne Shorter made a lot of music before Weather Report and it is NOT addressed in this book. His contribution to music is *a fact* and it does not receive attention. If Wayne Shorter is such a wonderful musician and composer (and I think he is) - WHY? This is NOT answered in this book. Could it have been? Yes. Should it have been? Yes.

My position on critiquing jazz biographies is one of experience - I've done it. I know what it takes. That I haven't written one on EVERY single artist isn't relevant. I do know that it's not possible to be perfect. But it's possible - even *easy* - to do a better job than what some writers have given us (and this WS book is just one of many that falls very short of the mark). The basic thing is, it takes a lot of time and a lot of research BEFORE writing - and I just have a feeling that this WS book was done in a couple of years. How much did the author know before starting the project? Doesn't seem like much. I have a sad feeling that the author hasn't even listened to everything that WS has done. The grapevine tells me that important resources were offered to her and she didn't take advantage of these. Recipe for a bad book, in my view.

Oh, btw, going by *your* standard - please don't tell any of us that "writing should have soul" - what have YOU written lately? How do YOU rate on the soul-o-meter? See how that comes across?

Mike

P.S. - I would be interested to know what you thought of the Roland Kirk biography. Or the Clifford Brown one.

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P.S. - I would be interested to know what you thought of the Roland Kirk biography. Or the Clifford Brown one.

My God Mike, weren't those a couple of ureadable stinkers! Almost as bad as the Grant Green.

The point here is for the little insight that those above provide, it hadly is worth the effort to read much less the harm they do, by "muddying" the artists' personal and professional history. If biographies are to be written, they must be AT LEAST factual! Now, one writes from pure, personal point of view, it's another matter, insn't it?

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Have you read my book? What was your impression of "what really matters" there?

Facts are either right or they're wrong. Going way back in this thread, I said that getting the facts right was the STARTING point. You still seem to think that this is where I believe everything should stop. I've never said that, and I believe that my book and other writings don't support this interpretation of my outlook.

Now, I do discography work. It's *one* thing I do. Discography does NOT deal with "the personal aspect of things" - it's not supposed to. There are a lot of other things I do that *aren't* discography. Please don't compare apples and oranges. Besides, a judgment based on some posts to bulletin boards isn't going to be an accurate one. I'd bet that at least half my responses here ARE just answering factual inquiries. Doesn't prove anything.

I also think you trivialize factual accuracy by talking only about "getting the dates correct" - in this discussion, *the facts* are that Wayne Shorter made a lot of music before Weather Report and it is NOT addressed in this book. His contribution to music is *a fact* and it does not receive attention. If Wayne Shorter is such a wonderful musician and composer (and I think he is) - WHY? This is NOT answered in this book. Could it have been? Yes. Should it have been? Yes.

My position on critiquing jazz biographies is one of experience - I've done it. I know what it takes. That I haven't written one on EVERY single artist isn't relevant. I do know that it's not possible to be perfect. But it's possible - even *easy* - to do a better job than what some writers have given us (and this WS book is just one of many that falls very short of the mark). The basic thing is, it takes a lot of time and a lot of research BEFORE writing - and I just have a feeling that this WS book was done in a couple of years. How much did the author know before starting the project? Doesn't seem like much. I have a sad feeling that the author hasn't even listened to everything that WS has done. The grapevine tells me that important resources were offered to her and she didn't take advantage of these. Recipe for a bad book, in my view.

Oh, btw, going by *your* standard - please don't tell any of us that "writing should have soul" - what have YOU written lately? How do YOU rate on the soul-o-meter? See how that comes across?

Mike

P.S. - I would be interested to know what you thought of the Roland Kirk biography. Or the Clifford Brown one.

Sorry, Mike, I don't want you to hate me or anything like that and I'm not doing this just to argue for arguments sake. Your contributions here are welcome by everyone and I realize that the respect you garner is greatly deserved. You have "paid your dues", obviously.

I'm hearing what you are saying for most of this post, but the last couple of parts I'm not too cool with. For one thing, I have been writing quite a bit lately. I contribute regularly to the University of Winnipeg's student newspaper. I wrote a piece on Chuck Nessa's label, which will go in this week's issue. Chuck was gracious enough to chat with me on the phone for about half an hour this past week. And I am also helping out in many respects with a local jazz publication that was started recently by my good friend Steve Kirby. My first article for that will go in the next issue; it is about the avant-garde/free jazz. And I am going to begin writing cd review for another local arts magazine, called Uptown. I could post some of my stuff if you like.

I know the Brownie bio is supposed to be not that well-researched, but I read it before I knew much about jazz. I got a lot out of it, myself. Haven't read the Kirk one.

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Don't you get it? The last part is what YOU say - "if you have problems with it, why don't you do it yourself" - I don't need to see your writings. I'm not making that point. That was YOUR point. Now, of course, it's great that you're writing and I wouldn't mind seeing your stuff at all. But I'm not going to lay any kind of ultimatum on you - "you can't say anything negative because I haven't seen YOUR version of whatever (Wayne Shorter biography, etc.)".

If it interests me, I'm going to comment on whatever and it's going to come from my perspective. You can give that whatever credence you wish. I'm not out to sell you anything. No skin off my back if you don't agree. You're going to comment on whatever and it's going to come from your perspective. That's all swell. The problem I have is when you start making assumptions about my perspective and implying that I should keep my mouth shut unless I've got something better than whatever I'm critiquing.

Mike

P.S. - If you got a lot out of the Brown bio, I would be very careful. What you got might be totally wrong. And that's where everyone's opinion *isn't* equal. You could say it's a great book, but your perspective going into reading it wasn't informed enough to know. You are entitled to your opinion, but I'm glad that I know that when you "got a lot out of it" you didn't know much about jazz. That gives me insight as to the relative value of your opinion on the subject of that book.

P.P.S. - No, I don't hate you.

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I might take that Brownie book out of the library again. It would be interesting to see the holes or flaws or whatever that are in it. Could you give me a couple of examples of what to look for if and when I re-read it?

BTW, you did ask, "what have YOU written lately". Seems like you wanted some examples. Hence my response.

Sorry about the making assumptions thing, but I think everyone assumes things to a certain degree. I wasn't attacking you personally.

I admit I haven't read your book, but would like to someday. Can't say I'm the biggest Gigi Gryce fan, but I'm still very interested to read about his life.

BUT, still I think bashing books to the extent that you and Bertrand did in this thread was a bit over the top. Sure, you have the "credentials" to do so, but does that mean that you should?

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Pryan: "...This thread was a bit over the top. Sure you have the "credentials" to do so, but does that mean that you should?"

What a clear defense of mediocrity you make, Paul. You might just as well stick with your student newspaper, where nobody likely knows or cares about music analysis of any serious depth.

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It's pointing out the flaws that are *in the book* - most of which were the kind of thing that could have been caught by a competent editor, or by a reader with a reasonable knowledge of the subject. With a good book I don't need to pick out all those problems while reading. But with a bad one it's just one thing after another. But they are *in the book* - I'm not making them up. Again, don't kill the messenger.

I would have LOVED to have read a wonderful, well-researched, thorough book on the life and works of Wayne Shorter. I started reading it with nothing but optimism. But anyone who's paid any attention to WS for any length of time ought to know his basic output. That forms the framework for the discussion - the historical artifacts that have been left for us. Then there's the biography, then there's reflection on the life and works, then there's the people that are involved and how the interactions worked. So much of this stuff was missing.

Good jazz biographies take a *very* long time. They cannot be done properly in a couple of years. Just can't. Crappy writers *can* put a book together very quickly. It's like an assignment. They don't have anything really invested in the subject, they just slap together some quotes, regurgitate what has been published elsewhere in various sources, and - wham - there it is. Another Leslie Gourse fast food monstrosity. On the other hand, quality biographies are cultivated, they stem from a long-standing familiarity with the subject. Every avenue is explored, you dig into every nook and cranny. Sources are interviewed and re-interviewed, conflicting stories are heard, considered, and evaluated; conventional wisdom is challenged with hard evidence; all the recordings are gathered and listened to, over and over. All the interviews, all the photos, every reference - it all goes into the mix. After this long process starts to wind down, then the writing begins (and the research still goes on in my experience). But first and foremost, it's got to be a subject that you love, that you have a passion for, that you are not only willing to learn *everything* about, but that you feel you *must* learn everything about. The bad books are the ones where I as a reader go in knowing *something* about the subject and then I realize that - uh oh - I know more than the author. That shouldn't be......

Which brings up another reason why I'm not even considering writing a book about each and every jazz musician I'm interested in - it's too much damn work! Even if I might be more qualified than some others, might be more competent than some others - I just don't have the time and energy!

Regarding the Brown book, I'm not going to tell you what to look for - instead, see how much your knowledge has grown since the first time reading it. Hopefully you will notice quite a few things.

Mike

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Well, this last post of yours was very good Michael. It explained things to the neophyte(me). How many of us here, or more importantly, how many average WS fans, have one tenth the knowledge you do? I believe you know more about some things regarding WS than the author. I think it's good that you can keep the author 'honest', and am glad you are doing so.

I'm putting myself in the average/neophyte WS fan category. Will I be lied to in reading the book? Is it a good read for an everyday fan?

All I know about WS is he is an incredible writer/ arranger and his wife died in a plane crash, and I have 30 albums he plays on.

I can understand how the errors must pain you. Your criticisms are not over the top or unimportant.

Is the book somewhat worthy or just a crock of shit?

If I enjoyed the the Burn's "Jazz' series will I enjoy this book?

BTW, I've just watched the Burn's series again. IMHO it stunk visually, but I enjoyed what Wynton brought to the table :) . It should have been a radio show.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, we are not all experts or in the trade. We appreciate your patience towards us.

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I'll throw in a couple of points to this discussion which might help clear up my point of view a little bit. I also want to make clear that I have not read the book cover to cover yet, so I do not have an overall picture of the thing. My wariness as to the quality of this work stems from a) my own quick run through the book, and b) the errors, omissions and general shallowness described by Mike.

There are many researchers I have met that have spent years on their biographies (Tadd Dameron and Bud Powell spring immediately to mind). As Mike said, they are exploring every nook and cranny, and not slopping things together in two years.

It is entirely possible that a future serious biographer of Wayne's might slip in some errors, but these will exist DESPITE the author's best efforts to check all the facts and errors perpetuated over the years, and they will most likely be incredibly subtle. Something as gross as identifying Jymie Merritt as a pianist (obviously based on the accompanying photo, which has him sitting at the piano), or getting the caption wrong on the photo lifted from the Jazz At The Opera House LP, which has the correct caption, could have been easily corrected by the editor, or anyone reviewing the manuscript. The thing about Merritt can be solved without any research whatsoever - just read the personnel on the CD case!

Also, as Mike stated in an earlier post, Mercer did not avail herself of a lot of information which was offered to her. She contacted many researchers, then did not follow up with any of them. Is there any reference to a 2003 PhD dissertation on Shorter's music at the University of Maryland? Since this is really the 'first book' on Shorter written (although it is not for the layman, since it is mostly music theory), I would hope it would be at least briefly touched upon.

I have made some criticisms of this book so far in this thread. But if you read again, they are based on my disappointment at the shallowness of the book as described by Mike (and the gross errors). His Blue Note output needs some serious analysis - these are the records that many critics state as his most lasting work (a point that would need some serious discussion in any forum - I stayed away from the silly 'Atlantis is a stinker' thread from a few weeks ago). I have not had time to read the book in detail yet (just thumbed through it a bit), so I may very well find some positive things things to say. There are obviously some facts about Shorter's life I was not aware of (or did not have all the details), and I want to learn more. But the point is this: anything I do learn from this book, I will take with a huge grain of salt, based on the inaccuracies that Mike found quickly. If there is an event or a key date in the chronology that I was not aware of, can I be sure it is accurate without further research on my part? No, and that's what bothers me to no end. I should be able to trust the author enough. If not, than I will have to wait for someone else to write a proper book, and this one will just sit on my shelf gathering dust.

Bertrand.

Edited by bertrand

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OK - read through the whole thread to make sure I am not repeating myself too much :)

One thing that was mentioned was Andrew Hill suggesting to go see Wayne (at Slugs' with McCoy).

All right, there's something I'd like to know more about. Hill and Shorter are two of the greatest living jazz composers. They overlapped on the same label in the sixties, with many of the same sidemen (Joe Chambers, Lee Morgan, Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard). Yet this is the first time I have ever read anything that alludes that Hill was aware of and interested in Shorter's music (beyond the obvious - of course, Andrew knows who Wayne is). I always wondered if they each existed in their own universe, but of course the NYC jazz community is tightly knight and always has been, so at some point in time they must have been in touch to some degree.

But I want to know more - are they good friends, did they ever jam or practice together, have they ever discussed music or composition together? Both are highly elliptical people (but Wayne is NOT borderline mentally ill, for Christ's sake) who think 'outside the box' (to use a lame business cliche) - I wonder what their conversations would be like.

I talked to Andrew briefly after a concert in Baltimore yesterday, but somehow asking him 'so, tell me about you and Wayne' seemed inappropriate. Wayne's name did come up in another conversation with Andrew a year or so ago, but it not meet with any particular reaction - I can't remember why I mentioned him at all.

Bertrand.

Edited by bertrand

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Footprints does not purport to be a musical biography, nor does it claim to be a definitive one. Its title seems to refer as much to Shorter's spiritual work as to his musical output. For example, this comes near the end of Mercer's introduction, when she's discussing what makes Wayne exceptional: "It's not just his legacy in music, though he is a living link to the last fifty years of jazz history . . . what makes Wayne truly extraordinary is his ability to find hilarity or profundity in almost every moment, often both at the same time."

There are small errors in the book, for sure, which are likely the work of some overeager proofreader. However the misidentification of a couple folks in photos or one wrong date does not discredit the entire book for me. Clearly Mercer did consult Mr. Fitzgerald's fine chronology and made every effort to get the facts straight.

The more serious charge here is Mercer's dismissal of Shorter's Blue Note period. Yes, those records have great stature today, but Mercer wrote the book to reflect Shorter's experience; his artistic development and creative process. She actually took the time to get to know him, so that she could write from his perspective. "Blue Note was like going to the bank for us," Wayne said. Though this is hard for fans to believe, Shorter didn't care about his Blue Note records half as much as his work with Miles Davis, and Mercer explains that quite clearly. And then she gets into the working method of the Miles Quintet in some depth, especially the musical interplay in the group. For me, her quick summary of the Blue Note period and focus on the dynamics of the Miles Quintet is a sign of just how well she got to know Wayne. His tenure in Miles's group had far more impact on the rest of his life and career than the Blue Note recordings did, because, as Shorter said of Van Gelder's studio: "There was nothing developmental as a band. A recording was just one movie, and then the next was another movie, in a kind of dream away from Miles." Mercer's reasoning on this matter is quite clear in the book.

Surely there will be many more books written about Wayne's music. I can't wait to read them. He's worthy of them. (Though even if another biographer does also have Wayne's cooperation, as Mercer did, he'll be hard-pressed to pry any more musical discussion from Wayne. As we've seen in interview after interview, he just doesn't like to discuss it.)

As Mr. Fitzgerald pointed out she's done an astute job with Shorter's personality, and has written a book that future studies can build from with confidence. From the L.A. Times review of the book, which is on the money: "More academic overviews of Shorter's career will be written, but it's impossible to imagine a book that would give any better understanding of this enigmatic man." Like this reviewer, I just accept Mercer's book for what it is, rather than focusing on what it isn't.

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I think we're ganging up a bit here on Youmustbe; personally I find his comments interesting (and come on fellas, he was joking about beating up hippies - I think) - he points to a common problem with writing a bio about a living person, while having that person's cooperation - how much can you reveal about personal foibles? The problem is not just cooperation but the friendship that develops. I know that two musicians I got to know briefly - Art Pepper and Bill Evans - revealed personal shortcomings that I could NEVER write about at the time - even now I hesitate to reveal certain things, but than I realize that these shortcomings are extremeley relevant, not for prurient reasons, but because they cast so many other aspects of the life is much clearer light. I'd like to know, however, who youmust be is by name, because I think his anonymity is a cowardly mask -

Edited by AllenLowe

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