Big Beat Steve

Your opinions on various jazz books old and recent please

10 posts in this topic

The recent book sales ad by Pete B where many forumists gave their recommendations on specific books prompts me to launch this topic as I have come across a few books recently that I have either sprung for or am very much tempted but have not found too many evaluations. So your opinions are welcome (not many reviews out there on the web and wading through countless sites for "buying all the books by XXX" with always the same sales blurb is not much fun).

Sooo ...

Firstly, I recently bought a copy of the original 1971 printing of Dicky Wells' "The Night People" at a relatively good price, I think. While I am still waiting for its arrival, your comments on it are welcomed. I seem to remember having heard good things about it but cannot put my finger on them.

Secondly, are any of you familiar with this book which was released not that long ago?

"A Golden Age of Jazz Revisited 1939-1942" by Hazen Schmacher and John Stevens.

As this period falls squarely into one of my preferred periods of jazz I am tempted getting the paperback edition through amazon (I can do without the 2 CDs of the hardcover edition as the price gap is pretty huge and I must have about 99% of teh tracks listed in my collection anyway).

Any comments and opinions on it? Are the discussions of the tunes and that particular jazz era insightful and stimulating enough even to advanced collectors so they can get a new angle from it? Or is this strictly newbie fare?

Thanks a lot in advance.

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"Jazz In Search Of Itself" by Larry Kart is available on Kindle (Amazon) and Nook (Barnes & Noble) - see http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=larry%20kart%20jazz%20in%20search and also see http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/larry-kart-jazz-in-search-of-itself?store=allproducts&keyword=larry+kart+jazz+in+search+of+itself

I haven't seen this information yet, so here it is. Kart's book is a wonderful, clear-eyed view of how and what jazz communicates and why the music can be so very moving. Nowadays no other writers get to the heart of the music so unerringly.

How does one start a new thread on organissimo.org? The resumed availability of "Jazz In Search Of Itself" really belongs in its own thread.

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How does one start a new thread on organissimo.org? The resumed availability of "Jazz In Search Of Itself" really belongs in its own thread.

click on forum name (e.g. Jazz In Print - Periodicals, Books, Newspapers, etc...) Then at the bottom of the page on your right hand you have a button "Add new topic"

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I have yet to complete reading Larry Kart's book but from what I have read so far, I can second the recommendations.

Getting back to your post, John, AFAIK you are a person of fine credentials in the jazz world and "have been around" no doubt - do you have any opinion on the books I mentioned?

And anybody else with any thoughts on the books I mentioned? ;)

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1) I think NIght People is one of the essential jazz books; a must-read.

2) Larry is one of a handful of great jazz critics (as is Litweiler, Max Harrison, Francis Davis); his book is also essential.

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"Jazz In Search Of Itself" by Larry Kart is available on Kindle (Amazon) and Nook (Barnes & Noble) - see http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=larry%20kart%20jazz%20in%20search and also see http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/larry-kart-jazz-in-search-of-itself?store=allproducts&keyword=larry+kart+jazz+in+search+of+itself

I haven't seen this information yet, so here it is. Kart's book is a wonderful, clear-eyed view of how and what jazz communicates and why the music can be so very moving. Nowadays no other writers get to the heart of the music so unerringly.

How does one start a new thread on organissimo.org? The resumed availability of "Jazz In Search Of Itself" really belongs in its own thread.

Wow. Thanks.

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I have yet to complete reading Larry Kart's book but from what I have read so far, I can second the recommendations.

Getting back to your post, John, AFAIK you are a person of fine credentials in the jazz world and "have been around" no doubt - do you have any opinion on the books I mentioned?

And anybody else with any thoughts on the books I mentioned? ;)

Thanks for the kind words, Steve, I only just saw them today. Wells is one of my favorite trombonists and I remember enjoying his book when it appeared years ago (lost it then). I'm curious about that Golden Age book. 1939-42 included Hawkins "Body & Soul," 2 years of Prez w/Basie, Ellington's last Columbias and his Blanton-Webster band, BG w/Christian, Armstrong w/Catlett, Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," and the births of Roscoe Mitchell and Lester Bowie, to name things that first come to mind.

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Look for Marshall Royal's autobiography. Helluva good read, and the "voice" in the book matches that of the horn damn near exactly.

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Max Harrison's 'A Jazz Retrospective' is worth digging out, if you can find it.

I'm a fan also of Philip Larkin's book of jazz reviews for the Daily Telegraph. Good entertainment value.

Also agree that Larry K's book is very good.

Edited by sidewinder

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Oopps, had half forgotten about this thread.

Thanks for the pointers to other books (some of them I have, some of them I have heard of and might be tempted), but what I was SPECIFICALLY aiming at was to get some feedback about the two books I mentioned in my opening post.

So ... to bring things up to date, I have since bought both of them.

The Dicky Wells "Night People" book is a nice read as far as I have advanced (maybe one third, it was one of my holiday beach reads but due to circumstances it has since been shelved again, to be picked up later). I like the way he tells things, and I must say I find the book a more enjoyable read than Count Basie's autobigraphy (with Albert Murray), for example, where I feel the principle of leaving the words "as said by the man himself" has been a bit overdone and the "authenticity" and "casual" tone at times turns into a bit of aimless rambling that can get on your nerve if you read the book in huge bits (which I did, due to HUGE interest in the subject matter). Not that I would expect each and everybody who writes his autobiogrpahy to be as witty and articulate as Terry Gibbs, for example, but still ... Dicky Wells strikes the perfect middle ground for authenticity and readability IMO.

About the "A Golden Age of Jazz Revisited 1939-42" book - weeellll .... I did buy the book (minus the 2 CDs as I have about 90% of the music anyway and the price gap between the book with and without CDs was a bit steep, at least with Amazon.de). I am part way through the book and the jazz events of the time and the social backgrund are presented clearly, insightfully and very much to the point. I.e. the book gathers together quite a bit of information in one place that otherwise would have to be gleaned from a lot of different sources. I am a bit less impressed by the record reviews - they are OK and do provide useful information to complement the tracks but to those (like probably most of us forumists here) who've been around the block a lot with that music, quite a bit of it reads like "stating the obvious". Also, some of the (uncaptioned) musician photos used to illustrate listsings of "landmark" events in jazz in the introductory sections to each chapter are odd, to put it mildly. The layout looks like the photos and the texts correlate - but they dont't (though they could have if a bit more common sense had prevailed in the selection of the photos). A minor point but something I find unnecessary and irritating.

I like the book for what it is but it clearly is a book aimed at those who are not yet diehard colectors of jazz from that period but want a to get a solid introduction. It is not a book that I can't resist devouring from cover to cover in one go but one I will gladly pick it up again when I feel like it.

I had half expected (or should I say "feared?" ;)) this book to be one that does not break much new ground (wishful thinking that somebody might unearth truly NEW information on the swing era and make a compelling book of it ...?) so this was one reason why I would have been interested in reading the views of others here (who have their own considerable experience with and knowledge of jazz history) about that book ... ;)

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