A patchwork oral memoir by the great African-American dancer/choreographer. Born in 1931 in rural Texas, Ailey never knew his father. His mother roamed from town to town in search of employment, relocating to Los Angeles when her son was 12. Thanks to his prowess as a gymnast and a chance meeting with high school classmate Carmen de Lavallade, Ailey began studying dance at the studio of Lester Horton, an eclectic modern choreographer who led one of the period's few multiethnic dance companies. After Horton's death in the early '50s, Ailey was invited to perform on Broadway with de Lavallade in House of Flowers; he gave his first solo concert in the late '50s. Although his own company wasn't officially founded until 1964, Ailey had been touring for years with a group of dancers performing two of his earliest, and still best-known, dances: Blues Suite (1958) and the spiritual-based Revelations (1960). The company continued to grow in size and stature through the '60s and '70s, and Ailey adopted the fast-paced lifestyle of a star. Dependency on cocaine led to a much-publicized breakdown in 1980, followed by a short stay in a mental institution. Never quite returning to full health or to his original creative form, he died in 1989 of a blood disease. Cobbled together from 15 hours of interviews with Ailey conducted just before his death by journalist Bailey (who by his own admission has no particular knowledge of dance), this book gives little insight into Ailey's creative process. It is further marred by repetitions, mistakes in chronology, and Ailey's own platitudies. On rare occasion, however, the choreographer reveals an important element of his artistic philosophy: ``I look for dancers who have an oozy quality in their movement...I like personalities, not cookie cutter dancers.'' The definitive biography of this important figure remains to be written. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)