Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
mikeweil

"Bixing"

105 posts in this topic

In my opinion, one of the worst biographies ever written (as least in the jazz world).

Having said that, I'll take it for what little it's worth until the real thing comes along, but it's a painful read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been "Bixed" - check out the Radano book about Braxton.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been "Bixed" - check out the Radano book about Braxton.

I just looked - what's not accurate? In any case, your mentions are positive, or at least neutral.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Moving on through the Grant Green bio today, I was nonplussed by this, from p. 21:

"'Well that's it. Pain is universal, [Nat Hentoff] agrees. 'There have been white players with great inventiveness. One of my favorites is Stevie Russell."

Pee Wee Russell?

Well if you made it to page 24, Bob Porter is quoted as saying, "you could go and hear him play the funk all night long, and he'd simply sit back and play impressions of something and knock everybody on their ass". So probably it was meant to be, 'play Impressions or something' - or perhaps even - "play Impressions instead of Something" :g

So maybe it was hard to transcribe the interviews from one of those old hand held cassette tape recorders, and hard to hear Pee Wee Russell for Stevie, when you don't have the genre knowledge to fill in the gaps. I still think with regard to the wealth of information the biography contributes - to what was not presently in the public record - these oversights are like complaining about piffling minutia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But what complaining about piffling minutia.does is establish a Newtonian hierarchy based on what should be in order TO be. The decisions of the judges are final, unless nobody gives a fuck what they think, in which case there's great fun to be had by just being and not trying to be.. It drives them crazy when you do that, though, as their eminence is no longer even tangentially relevant. They will spend a day telling you what is wrong, but can't muster a few seconds to tell you why it's bad (because it's not bad, that's why, it just didn't go trough the White Filter to get here, and that's a bit forward, doncha know?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my opinion, one of the worst biographies ever written (as least in the jazz world).

Having said that, I'll take it for what little it's worth until the real thing comes along, but it's a painful read.

It would have been better with some photos of Grant Green gigging around NYC. Got any?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my review of Kelley’s Monk book (link) I said that I liked the bits that Freelancer’s Aged White Male biographer would likely not have included (BTW that’s a stereotype I’m not fond of, but it’s a stereotype for a reason I suppose).

The networks of community care and responsibility are delved into very deeply, and those things seem really valuable to me in telling Monk’s story. Not sure if Kelley concentrates on them because he’s African American or because he’s a social historian, a bit of both I imagine, but one way or the other he did. Neither am I sure that the AWM biographer would necessarily not look into them (I know he does sometimes!)

I think the main issue with the Sharony book is in the distinction between history and memory. The historian Pierre Nora wrote a lot about this and started off a school of writing on the subject. He describes history as an official, supposedly objective record and interpretation of events, whereas memory is an “unofficial” narrative that tries to keep a kind of lived experience alive, and usually has special (sometimes oppositional) meaning for a certain community.

She doesn’t use those terms, but Sharony explicitly frames her book as memory. I suppose Lewis Porter explicitly frames his Coltrane book(s) as history. Readers looking for one will always be disappointed with the other, but neither is just right or wrong, good or bad (that doesn't mean they can't be done well or badly of course...)

BTW, having workeded with it quite a lot, I’d say both the problem and the attractiveness of oral history is that it’s always somewhere between the two.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) there's no such thing as 'piffling minutia'; it is-- or should be-- all part of the architecture.

2) it is impressions lower case: Grant was a highly accomplished mimic and a genuine fan of contemporary comedy and offered friends and nightclub audiences superb deadpan versions of Lenny Bruce, Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Jonathan Winters, Redd Foxx (of course), Moms Mabley (who?), Allan Sherman, Godfrey Cambridge, Bill Cosby, Don Rickles, Richard Pryor-- even Woody Allen!!

3) ideally one can utilize various modes of historical research/writing and come up with a composite structure likely to contain more truths than lies or evasions; unfortunately, most journalists (or fan writers) and most historians are ill-equipped to achieve this though the recent exceptions like John Szwed and Robin D.G. Kelley are highly laudible.

But what complaining about piffling minutia.does is establish a Newtonian hierarchy based on what should be in order TO be. The decisions of the judges are final, unless nobody gives a fuck what they think, in which case there's great fun to be had by just being and not trying to be.. It drives them crazy when you do that, though, as their eminence is no longer even tangentially relevant. They will spend a day telling you what is wrong, but can't muster a few seconds to tell you why it's bad (because it's not bad, that's why, it just didn't go trough the White Filter to get here, and that's a bit forward, doncha know?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Moving on through the Grant Green bio today, I was nonplussed by this, from p. 21:

"'Well that's it. Pain is universal, [Nat Hentoff] agrees. 'There have been white players with great inventiveness. One of my favorites is Stevie Russell."

Pee Wee Russell?

Well if you made it to page 24, Bob Porter is quoted as saying, "you could go and hear him play the funk all night long, and he'd simply sit back and play impressions of something and knock everybody on their ass". So probably it was meant to be, 'play Impressions or something' - or perhaps even - "play Impressions instead of Something" :g

So maybe it was hard to transcribe the interviews from one of those old hand held cassette tape recorders, and hard to hear Pee Wee Russell for Stevie, when you don't have the genre knowledge to fill in the gaps. I still think with regard to the wealth of information the biography contributes - to what was not presently in the public record - these oversights are like complaining about piffling minutia.

Freelancer -- You are in effect protected from the author's errors and gaps in knowledge because you yourself by and large possess the knowledge she does not, thus you notice most of the errors and gaps, and usually are able to make the right corrections. But how is this a good thing, and how necessarily (as you and Jim seem to imply) is it related to the book's soulful virtues?

About the "is this a good thing?" part, imagine that the author is writing about a subject in which you don't have much of a background (say, the invasion of Normandy in WW II or the history of the space program) but are interested in. If the author of such a book proceeded as the author of this one did, and you yourself didn't have the background to notice errors and fill in gaps, you'd be seriously screwed, as would anyone else in your shoes who took what the author said as reliable. Backtracking a bit -- that's the virtue of scholarship when it deserves the name; no, it's not laboratory science, a world of repeatable, verifiable experiments, but it's a discipline/method that asks that would-be "facts" be tested and verified insofar as that's possible and aspires not to be half-assed when getting the whole fish in the boat is something that almost certainly can be accomplished. And I don't see why getting the whole fish in the boat would do damage to the author's "soulfulness."

BTW, in case you think this is a black writer versus white writer problem, check out Nick Catalano's execrable bio of Clifford Brown (Oxford U. Press, 2000). Mike Fitzgerald, no less, compiled a list of its gross errors of fact and emphasis that ran about 10 pages. And yet there the book sits on the shelves of how many libraries, filling the minds of those who don't/can't know any better with cornucopias of misinformation.

Finaliy, about the "impresssions" thing. Good catch, and it's funny too, but that's one of the side effects of reading an unnecessarily half-assed book -- you notice the things that leap out at you (as "Stevie Russell" did for me) and don't notice other goofs that probably you would have noticed otherwise. Again, I'm not saying that the Green book doesn't have some genuinely soulful virtues; I just don't see why those virtues require that one sit still for or even celebrate its sloppiness. It's not like we're asking Don Cherry to be Adolph Herseth, or worse, assuming that Don Cherry's art was something that he just picked off a tree and didn't work at like a M.F.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) there's no such thing as 'piffling minutia'; it is-- or should be-- all part of the architecture.

2) it is impressions lower case: Grant was a highly accomplished mimic and a genuine fan of contemporary comedy and offered friends and nightclub audiences superb deadpan versions of Lenny Bruce, Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Jonathan Winters, Redd Foxx (of course), Moms Mabley (who?), Allan Sherman, Godfrey Cambridge, Bill Cosby, Don Rickles, Richard Pryor-- even Woody Allen!!

3) ideally one can utilize various modes of historical research/writing and come up with a composite structure likely to contain more truths than lies or evasions; unfortunately, most journalists (or fan writers) and most historians are ill-equipped to achieve this though the recent exceptions like John Szwed and Robin D.G. Kelley are highly laudible.

But what complaining about piffling minutia.does is establish a Newtonian hierarchy based on what should be in order TO be. The decisions of the judges are final, unless nobody gives a fuck what they think, in which case there's great fun to be had by just being and not trying to be.. It drives them crazy when you do that, though, as their eminence is no longer even tangentially relevant. They will spend a day telling you what is wrong, but can't muster a few seconds to tell you why it's bad (because it's not bad, that's why, it just didn't go trough the White Filter to get here, and that's a bit forward, doncha know?

This is a very poor post coming from you Ms. Mobley. Not very witty (or pithy) at all. You should post more to get your touch back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the main issue with the Sharony book is in the distinction between history and memory. The historian Pierre Nora wrote a lot about this and started off a school of writing on the subject. He describes history as an official, supposedly objective record and interpretation of events, whereas memory is an "unofficial" narrative that tries to keep a kind of lived experience alive, and usually has special (sometimes oppositional) meaning for a certain community.

She doesn't use those terms, but Sharony explicitly frames her book as memory. I suppose Lewis Porter explicitly frames his Coltrane book(s) as history. Readers looking for one will always be disappointed with the other, but neither is just right or wrong, good or bad (that doesn't mean they can't be done well or badly of course...)

This is my story, this is my song. Thank you for singing it loudly and clearly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) there's no such thing as 'piffling minutia'; it is-- or should be-- all part of the architecture.

2) it is impressions lower case: Grant was a highly accomplished mimic and a genuine fan of contemporary comedy and offered friends and nightclub audiences superb deadpan versions of Lenny Bruce, Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Jonathan Winters, Redd Foxx (of course), Moms Mabley (who?), Allan Sherman, Godfrey Cambridge, Bill Cosby, Don Rickles, Richard Pryor-- even Woody Allen!!

3) ideally one can utilize various modes of historical research/writing and come up with a composite structure likely to contain more truths than lies or evasions; unfortunately, most journalists (or fan writers) and most historians are ill-equipped to achieve this though the recent exceptions like John Szwed and Robin D.G. Kelley are highly laudible.

But what complaining about piffling minutia.does is establish a Newtonian hierarchy based on what should be in order TO be. The decisions of the judges are final, unless nobody gives a fuck what they think, in which case there's great fun to be had by just being and not trying to be.. It drives them crazy when you do that, though, as their eminence is no longer even tangentially relevant. They will spend a day telling you what is wrong, but can't muster a few seconds to tell you why it's bad (because it's not bad, that's why, it just didn't go trough the White Filter to get here, and that's a bit forward, doncha know?

This is a very poor post coming from you Ms. Mobley. Not very witty (or pithy) at all. You should post more to get your touch back.

I actually liked Moms post. :shrug[1]:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not saying that the Green book doesn't have some genuinely soulful virtues; I just don't see why those virtues require that one sit still for or even celebrate its sloppiness

It "requires" neither, Larry, just as it is not "required" to get all scoldy about the weirdnesses.

If I'm in a business meeting or a classroom learning situation, I expect to be corrected at every appropriate juncture. If I'm standing out in the front yard listening to my neighbor tell me stories about their summer vacation, I don't really give a damn if they think the Grand Canyon was in New Mexico, I can still get the gist of the matter from their tone and the overall coherency of the narrative.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

well, than, we can understand American history from listening to Tea Party members -

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

well, than, we can understand American history from listening to Tea Party members -

Yes, because a calll to national political action and a "told story" of discovering a family member's life story are exactly the same thing.

Yet more proof...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not saying that the Green book doesn't have some genuinely soulful virtues; I just don't see why those virtues require that one sit still for or even celebrate its sloppiness

It "requires" neither, Larry, just as it is not "required" to get all scoldy about the weirdnesses.

If I'm in a business meeting or a classroom learning situation, I expect to be corrected at every appropriate juncture. If I'm standing out in the front yard listening to my neighbor tell me stories about their summer vacation, I don't really give a damn if they think the Grand Canyon was in New Mexico, I can still get the gist of the matter from their tone and the overall coherency of the narrative.

If the author of the Green bio were telling me stories about her summer vacation, I'd have no problem with the book. But it may be the only Green bio were going to get, and it does sit there on the shelves of libraries, where people who aren't as hip to what's up with Green and jazz in general as you and Freelancer are will or may take it for the simple truth. Again if I feel, as I get further into the book, that it's soulfulness and its sloppiness are inseparable, then so be it -- life can be like that. But I'm saying, again, that you and Freelancer are protected against its sloppiness/weirdnesses because of what you already know; that one of the reasons, or so it seems to me, to get "all scoldy" about such matters is that are lots of other readers without such knowledge who will be confused or misled; and, finally, that it just ain't that hard to get the whole fish in the boat if you take the trouble to try.

P.S. I very vaguely recall some of the stuff that Chuck was referring to in the Radano book about Braxton. A different sort of case but really insidious because where do you go to get a piece of your life back when it's down in the books backwards, upside down or even not at all when it damn well should be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not saying that the Green book doesn't have some genuinely soulful virtues; I just don't see why those virtues require that one sit still for or even celebrate its sloppiness

It "requires" neither, Larry, just as it is not "required" to get all scoldy about the weirdnesses.

If I'm in a business meeting or a classroom learning situation, I expect to be corrected at every appropriate juncture. If I'm standing out in the front yard listening to my neighbor tell me stories about their summer vacation, I don't really give a damn if they think the Grand Canyon was in New Mexico, I can still get the gist of the matter from their tone and the overall coherency of the narrative.

If the author of the Green bio were telling me stories about her summer vacation, I'd have no problem with the book. But it may be the only Green bio were going to get, and it does sit there on the shelves of libraries, where people who aren't as hip to what's up with Green and jazz in general as you and Freelancer are will or may take it for the simple truth. Again if I feel, as I get further into the book, that it's soulfulness and its sloppiness are inseparable, then so be it -- life can be like that. But I'm saying, again, that you and Freelancer are protected against its sloppiness/weirdnesses because of what you already know; that one of the reasons, or so it seems to me, to get "all scoldy" about such matters is that are lots of other readers without such knowledge who will be confused or misled; and, finally, that it just ain't that hard to get the whole fish in the boat if you take the trouble to try.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda, yeah yeah yeah, blah blah blah, oh well. It is what it is. I hear people moaning about how it's the WORST JAZZ BOOK EVER WRITTEN, never mind that in spite of all its "technical shortcomings" when all is said and done, you get a pretty damn vivid picture of what kind of a person Grant Green was and what kind of life he led, so how is it THE WORST? That sounds like Pissybitch Problems to me.

Besides - where is it written that if you're going to write what is probably going to be the only biography of a jazz figure that we're going to get that you should submit your efforts to some Executive Jazz Expert Review Committee For Final Approval. That notion right there makes me want to vomit up every Martin Williams article I've ever read.

The purpose of the book, the author of the book, the result that is the book itself, none of these things seem to really be involved in, aware of, or concerned about Conventional Jazz Critical Orthodoxy. I can live with a lot of Stevie Russells and doing impressions off in the corner if it gets me a portrait of Grant Green that rings truer than one that the Conventional Jazz Critical Orthodoxy would get me, and frankly, I think it's a no-brainer that this book does that much, even if there's plenty of other things that it doesn't do.

In the end, Grant Green was a neighborhood kind of guy who liked getting high, making records, and playing club dates in the hood. If there's a book that could convey that better than this one, bring it on. And if there's a book that could get all the facts right and miss out on that essential truth, it's just a matter of time before it gets written (and likely lauded by The Usual Suspects).

Edited by JSngry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Again if I feel, as I get further into the book, that it's soulfulness and its sloppiness are inseparable, then so be it -- life can be like that.

Facts are empirical, feelings are not. It is entirely possible to have a warm emotion in spite of some sloppy facts. That's why "truth" and "facts" don't always go hand-in-hand all the way down the aisle (thank god!).

I know that bugs the hell out of die-hard Newtonians, but life itself is only partially Newtonian.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All I can say is that I never thought it was the WORST JAZZ BOOK EVAH but that it would have been so much better without the appalling factual errors. A writer who says she knows squat about jazz ought to be moreconcerned about accuracy and if a competent editor isn't provided then she should have sought one out.

Imagine the reviews: "Vivid personal remembrance of an unjustly under-recognized guitarist, and hardly any bone-headed factual errors from a jazz neophyte."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Jim on this one.

Think of how the whole world we live in has been shaped by information, misinformation and emotion. For good or bad, it's the human condition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Jim on this one.

Think of how the whole world we live in has been shaped by information, misinformation and emotion. For good or bad, it's the human condition.

I'm with him, too, until my car breaks down in the desert. Then I want some of that shaped by information stuff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Jim on this one.

Think of how the whole world we live in has been shaped by information, misinformation and emotion. For good or bad, it's the human condition.

But there is no need to perpetuate factual errors (to the point where these errors become "facts" just because they have been repeated ad nauseam often enough for them to appear to be "engraved in stone" forevermore). Has happened often enough and is totally senseless.

Like Dan Gould suggested, would some discreet straightening out of those glaring errors (that, judging from what all of you say, seem to abound) by knowledgeable editors (without interfering with the narrative as such) really have lessened or "falsified" the impact of oral histories and personal reminiscences such as this and made them less "authentic"? I don't think so.

So IMHO Larry has nailed it in every respect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not opposed to corrections or the best efforts being made. But jeez, even editors don't know enough about things to catch these things, and this stuff percolates through everything, everywhere. And I'm not losing sleep over it, or throwing the book babes out with the book bathwater.

That's all, that's how it is for me, life is too short. I watched the only grandfather I ever got to know drive himself and everyone around him crazy with perfectionism and attempts to control everything. I squelch those tendencies in my own nature, and veered off elsewhere. I can find the enjoyment in the Green book and just go past the errors. We are the posterity of the pasts's factual errors and we'll leave a posterity as flawed, and it all goes on.

Edited by jazzbo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.