mikeweil

Which jazz book are you reading right now?

231 posts in this topic

8 hours ago, JSngry said:

I've often wondered how much of the "sternness" is from the translation. I mean, I read Evolution & Essence pretty early on and found it joylessly accurate, which is one of those things that kind of leaves you feeling warned about going back there again. I've kept it, and my cheap paperback has fallen apart, but not from use, jsut from it being a cheap paperback in general.

But does he read like that in French? And has anybody ever hear him just conversing? If he was just a jovial, bubbly kind of effervescent kind of dude, then that's a whole other ballgame. But was he? I mean, I can see that going either way.

And who, by god, were his translates for his English releases?

I've read his "Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence" quite a long time ago and while I find it quite interesting his approach, like you say, just  appears very stiff and "stern". Like in some of his recording projects from that period, his classical background becomes overbearing at times - at least to me (maybe because I am not a musician?).
The translation of my copy is by one David Noakes (I've no idea if it was re-translated for other printings - I doubt it). I have yet to see and read the French original "Hommes et problèmes du jazz" (isn't there a hint at his approach in the title - "problems" of jazz???) but I've read quite a few of his contemporary features in Jazz Hot from the 50s and early 60s - and yes, they often are very, very dry and academic.

 

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On 8/6/2018 at 2:23 AM, Big Beat Steve said:

Any comments, opinions? What are your impressions of the book? ;)

The subject is an interesting and rewarding one, though it's been covered before and from many angles (paging Allen Lowe ... ;) , not to mention the writings by Nick Tosches, Jim Dawson & Steve Propes, Ed Ward a.o.). So i wonder if this one offers something SUBSTANTIALLY new or an original approach to the subject matter compared to other publications. The info on Amazon (including the reviews) unfortunately is mostly sales blurb and reads as if those commenters who are awestruck by the contents are part of those who are totally clueless about the subject.

that book is really garbage - full of the usual cliches, badly written, too packed with "facts" that ultimately add up to nothing. Worthless in my opinion. I hate to be so blunt but it has been praised by a lot of jazz people who don't know the subject. I actually read it initially for a U press and told them to send it back.

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6 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

I actually read it initially for a U press and told them to send it back.

Apparently they took your advice, since it was ultimately published by Scarecrow Press.

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6 hours ago, Captain Howdy said:

Apparently they took your advice, since it was ultimately published by Scarecrow Press.

Which invariably inflated the price. :D

Thanks for your input, both of you. I was a bit wary of whether this would add anything new but I think I'll give it a pass. The minstrel angle that seems to be dear to the author might have been interesting but maybe reading the liner booklet to this or that CD reissue from the Old Hat label will provide the key info anyway - in an in-depth way. And I do think I am rather familiar with a lot of the other angles of the pre-1954 "prehistory" of rock'n'roll anyway so won't gain many substantially new insights there. Particularly if it seems like the ONE book that pulls ALL the strings together still remains to be written. .

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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1 hour ago, Big Beat Steve said:

it seems like the ONE book that pulls ALL the strings together still remains to be written

Is that even possible? It seems to me to be as much a matter of opinion as anything else. The trend is to push ever further backward in time, ever further outward to encompass more genres. Soon they'll be tracing the pre-history of rock and roll to J.S. Bach.

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2 hours ago, Captain Howdy said:

Is that even possible? It seems to me to be as much a matter of opinion as anything else. The trend is to push ever further backward in time, ever further outward to encompass more genres. Soon they'll be tracing the pre-history of rock and roll to J.S. Bach.

Actually - no, I think it WOULD be quite possible. I am not even sure you need to go back to extended coverage of the deeper details of minstrel music  or to the prehistory of blues, for example, but if you do look closer at the "outliers" of jazz, blues, country, etc. from, say, the 20s onwards, you'd be able to see a lot of details that really point at "things to come". There are many examples of cross-pollination between the genres and of uncommonly uninhibited and unconventional artists (both black and white) who did in those early years what the more sedate "mainstream" set still found so shocking in 1954.

It's a highly interesting field to explore so this is why I was asking about this book.

P.S. Just as a hint at the direction research might take and referring to the quote you included in your above post, have you read "What Was The First Rock'n'Roll Record?" by Jim Dawson and Steve Propes? Written a bit tongue-in-cheek and actually mostly "food for thought" for further individual explorations starting from each recording discussed there, but one of the earliest recordings they list as candidates is in fact "Blues" feat. Illinois Jacquet from the 1944 JATP concert.

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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55 minutes ago, Big Beat Steve said:

you'd be able to see a lot of details that really point at "things to come".

But it's all just a matter of opinion. Allen Lowe has his opinion, Larry Birnbaum has his,  Jim Dawson and Steve Propes have theirs. 

58 minutes ago, Big Beat Steve said:

one of the earliest recordings they list as candidates is in fact "Blues" feat. Illinois Jacquet from the 1944 JATP concert

Haven't read that book but this doesn't surprise me, since Jacquet is credited with inventing the R&B saxophone, and all of R&B is now seen as but the pre-history of rock and roll. It's like writing English history only as the pre-history of U.S. history.

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18 minutes ago, Captain Howdy said:

But it's all just a matter of opinion. Allen Lowe has his opinion, Larry Birnbaum has his,  Jim Dawson and Steve Propes have theirs. 

Haven't read that book but this doesn't surprise me, since Jacquet is credited with inventing the R&B saxophone, and all of R&B is now seen as but the pre-history of rock and roll. It's like writing English history only as the pre-history of U.S. history.

and no Jacquet w/o Lester Young and Herschel Evans...or clarinet fingerings!

Music is language, and we all know how deep and wide linguistic development is,

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1 hour ago, Captain Howdy said:

But it's all just a matter of opinion. Allen Lowe has his opinion, Larry Birnbaum has his,  Jim Dawson and Steve Propes have theirs. 

Haven't read that book but this doesn't surprise me, since Jacquet is credited with inventing the R&B saxophone, and all of R&B is now seen as but the pre-history of rock and roll. It's like writing English history only as the pre-history of U.S. history.

There would be others (and others' opinions), of course, who've touched on the subject. Arnold Shaw - as mentioned by you. And then Florent Mazzoleni, Jean-Christophe Bertin - and no doubt others. But this ought to go well beyond simple opinions IMO but rather to assessing what there was and how it fit into the wider picture of the evolution. All in all I'm inclined to side with Allen Lowe, though, when it comes to assessing what or who provides new insights. (My my, if this goes on like that I'll have to grab a copy of the Birnbaum book after all just sto see what kind of clues for further exploring he actually provides after all ... :lol:)

As for ALL R&B being "but the pre-historiy of r'n'r" - well, that's oversimplifying things quite a bit and has almost become a cliché by itself by now. If you want to you can consider any black r'n'r just a continuation of R&B (in the same way you could consider soul the further continuation of R&B). But that's just part of the story. Where things get interesting is if you look at where the mutual interaction of black and white artists actually took place and what THIS yielded LONG before Elvis was around. That's some of the strings that need to be pulled together (and not just rattled off) IMHO by someone knowledgeable enough to cover the WHOLE field.

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I happen to think that  I did a better job than anyone else in my own history/prehistory of rock and roll. The key is to look not at blues and r&B but at hillbilly and country music (both black and white), also evangelical guitar players like Brother Claude Ely and Utah Smith. I think  r&B in particular is another animal. In it I wrote a long chapter on country music and its relationship to rock, and was quite happy to find that Tony Russell, to whom I sent it, approved and called the chapter "significant." Basically, I call it a white way of thinking about black music. And a very original way at that.

 

Edited by AllenLowe

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9 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

I happen to think that  I did a better job than anyone else in my own history/prehistory of rock and roll. The key is to look not at blues and r&B but at hillbilly and country music (both black and white), also evangelical guitar players like Brother Claude Ely and Utah Smith. I think  r&B in particular is another animal. In it I wrote a long chapter on country music and its relationship to rock, and was quite happy to find that Tony Russell, to whom I sent it, approved and called the chapter "significant." Basically, I call it a white way of thinking about black music. And a very original way at that.

 

So how do Fats Domino, Bo Diddley and Little Richard fit in?

Or are they something that isn't rock & roll?

MG

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26 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

I happen to think that  I did a better job than anyone else in my own history/prehistory of rock and roll.

You're talking about "God Didn't Like It", right? I'll have to re-read it, I guess. ;)

@MG: This is not a matter of doing a "Lost Chords" book on early r'n'r. The way I understood, it, it just is that the white part of this pre-history has been overlooked a lot more than the black part (which Is covered in Allen Lowe's book too, BTW). The "white" angle indeed loks important because rock'n'roll was mainly a phenomenon of WHITE U.S. society from c.1954 onwards. R&B acts just kept on doing what they had been doing before (Fats Domino is a clasic example of this), adapting to new trends and fads and evolving their music in the second half of the 50s too. And it is interesting to see (and merits investigation) that there WERE white artists too who had been doing things that pointed directly towards Elvis. I cannot quote names right now but listening to quite a few pre-r'n'r hillbilly bop/western swing reissues in recent months I remember several instances of liner note writers pointing this out specifically, as if still in bewilderment that such pre-Elvises actually existed. It's this kind of details that goes into providing the FULL picture.

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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9 minutes ago, Big Beat Steve said:

You're talking about "God Didn't Like It", right? I'll have to re-read it, I guess. ;)

@MG: This is not a matter of doing a "Lost Chords" book on early r'n'r. The way I understood, it, it just is that the white part of this pre-history has been overlooked a lot more than the black part (which Is covered in Allen Lowe's book too, BTW). The "white" angle indeed loks important because rock'n'roll was mainly a phenomenon of WHITE U.S. society from c.1954 onwards. R&B acts just kept on doing what they had been doing before (Fats Domino is a clasic example of this), adapting to new trends and fads and evolving their music in the second half of the 50s too. And it is interesting to see (and merits investigation) that there WERE white artists too who had been doing things that pointed directly towards Elvis. I cannot quote names right now but listening to quite a few pre-r'n'r hillbilly bop/western swing reissues in recent months I remember several instances of liner note writers pointing this out specifically, as if still in bewilderment that such pre-Elvises actually existed. It's this kind of details that goes into providing the FULL picture.

Harmonica Frank for example.   To whom, both Griel Marcus and Allen Lowe give credit.   And speaking of "God Didn't Like it": Allen, did you ever release or post the "soundtrack" to it?  

And I agree that "What Was the First Rock and Roll Record" is a great read. And "Blues part 2" from the first JATP concert is the first and earliest record they list.  (Though I believe it wasn't released till  several years after the concert took place.)  

Edited by medjuck

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40 minutes ago, Big Beat Steve said:

You're talking about "God Didn't Like It", right? I'll have to re-read it, I guess. ;)

@MG: This is not a matter of doing a "Lost Chords" book on early r'n'r. The way I understood, it, it just is that the white part of this pre-history has been overlooked a lot more than the black part (which Is covered in Allen Lowe's book too, BTW). The "white" angle indeed loks important because rock'n'roll was mainly a phenomenon of WHITE U.S. society from c.1954 onwards. R&B acts just kept on doing what they had been doing before (Fats Domino is a clasic example of this), adapting to new trends and fads and evolving their music in the second half of the 50s too. And it is interesting to see (and merits investigation) that there WERE white artists too who had been doing things that pointed directly towards Elvis. I cannot quote names right now but listening to quite a few pre-r'n'r hillbilly bop/western swing reissues in recent months I remember several instances of liner note writers pointing this out specifically, as if still in bewilderment that such pre-Elvises actually existed. It's this kind of details that goes into providing the FULL picture.

Gotcha!

MG

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Then and now, Elvis only exists for people who need him to.

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4 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Then and now, Elvis only exists for people who need him to.

Yeah, I heard Fats Domino before I heard Presley.

MG

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4 hours ago, JSngry said:

Then and now, Elvis only exists for people who need him to.

And this on the 41st anniversary of his death! :D

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6 hours ago, The Magnificent Goldberg said:

So how do Fats Domino, Bo Diddley and Little Richard fit in?

Or are they something that isn't rock & roll?

MG

In my opinion, of those 3, only Bo Diddley (the exception that proves the rule, like Chuck Berry) is a true rock and roller; has to do with basic instrumentation (a quartet, string band format, close to the Delta set up); and because he is basically a country musician at heart. Most down-home rock and roller in history.  I find Little Richard to be closer to R&B, and Fats....well, worst performer with a good reputation. Basically a good songwriter, terrible singer and mediocre pianist (I have expressed this opinion before and it usually generates a bit of hate mail). Stylistically he is a hybrid, that N.O. R&B thing, lots of Latin tinge. Personally I find Prof. Longhair to be more significant a musician.

5 hours ago, medjuck said:

Harmonica Frank for example.   To whom, both Griel Marcus and Allen Lowe give credit.   And speaking of "God Didn't Like it": Allen, did you ever release or post the "soundtrack" to it?  

And I agree that "What Was the First Rock and Roll Record" is a great read. And "Blues part 2" from the first JATP concert is the first and earliest record they list.  (Though I believe it wasn't released till  several years after the concert took place.)  

getting closer, only about 10 years behind - hoping to start work on my country music history, Joe, which will essentially do just that. As for Harmonica Frank, he, along with evangelical guitarists like Utah Smith and Claude Ely, may be the Rosetta Stone of rock and roll's pre-history.

Edited by AllenLowe

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10 hours ago, medjuck said:

And "Blues part 2" from the first JATP concert is the first and earliest record they list.  (Though I believe it wasn't released till  several years after the concert took place.)  

Nice little history of "The Blues" here http://jopiepopie.blogspot.com/2012/10/blues-pt-1-3.html

I ain't no musicologist, but Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" feels like rock and roll to me, and that was 1937.

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5 hours ago, Captain Howdy said:

I ain't no musicologist, but Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" feels like rock and roll to me, and that was 1937.

I am no musicologist either (which may be for the better in such discussions, you know ...;)) but considering the excitement, feel and rhythm of the music, the build-up of a climax, and the frenzy it generated this might well be considered a forerunner. I am sure many later bands consciously or unconsciously built their crowd pleasers on the Sing Sing Sing structure.

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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On 16/08/2018 at 4:52 PM, John Tapscott said:

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That one I read a while ago and I liked it very much.

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While searching for exact dates of the Monterey Jazz Festival I stepped over this and after having a look at its contents, immediately odered a copy from amazon. Magnificent book, Jim Marshall's photos are fantastic! At merely $ 30 it's a steal.

51IwGIiRC5L.jpg

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1909526320/ref=s9_acsd_simh_bw_cr_x__a_w?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-3&pf_rd_r=3YBAYXD5DJXFCAJQ4CHW&pf_rd_r=3YBAYXD5DJXFCAJQ4CHW&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=fe185ec9-c8f5-44c0-897e-4c0bde93268c&pf_rd_p=fe185ec9-c8f5-44c0-897e-4c0bde93268c&pf_rd_i=283155

Edited by mikeweil

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59 minutes ago, mikeweil said:

While seraching for exact dates of the Monterey Jazz Festival I stepped over this and after having a look at its contents, immediately odered a copy from amazon. Magnificent book, Jim Marshall's photos are fantastic! At merely $ 30 it's a steal.

51IwGIiRC5L.jpg

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1909526320/ref=s9_acsd_simh_bw_cr_x__a_w?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-3&pf_rd_r=3YBAYXD5DJXFCAJQ4CHW&pf_rd_r=3YBAYXD5DJXFCAJQ4CHW&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=fe185ec9-c8f5-44c0-897e-4c0bde93268c&pf_rd_p=fe185ec9-c8f5-44c0-897e-4c0bde93268c&pf_rd_i=283155

Yes!  Though he's most famous for some of his shots of rock musicians (he took the one of Johnny Cash giving the finger) Marshall took some great photos of  jazz musicians . His book entitled "Jazz" has one of  Gil Evans I've never seen elsewhere.  I was planning to buy a print from him as a present to myself but he died before I did so.  (A friend of his had given me the book as a catalogue when he heard I collected photos of jazz musicians. ) 

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9780472035632.jpg

Scholarly, painstakingly researched study. A major contribution to the literature of jazz IMHO.

It's fascinating tracking down, via Spotify, early Dameron arrangements for the likes of Harlan Leonard, Lunceford and Auld, but why have I never heard The Lost Session of 1961?

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