An invaluable life narrative of a key jazz stylist that raises disturbing questions about the shabby treatment accorded...



The moving, startling tale of a near-forgotten jazz master’s return from oblivion.

Veteran music biographer Ritz (Aretha, not reviewed, etc.) is attuned to the complicated life of Cleveland-born Jimmy Scott. An unusual, Candide-like figure, Scott was traumatized early by his mother’s death, his exploitative father’s dissolution of the family, and by Kallman’s Syndrome, a condition that essentially halted his physiological development in puberty. Yet Scott, a perpetual optimist, gravitated toward the thriving Cleveland jazz scene. By the late 1940s, he’d made his name as vocalist in Lionel Hampton’s band, known for his hypnotic phrasing and a haunted alto singing voice that seemed to transcend gender. Although few of Scott’s vocals charted, he became a signal influence among his peers; friends and supporters included Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Dinah Washington, and Ray Charles. Like many African-American musicians of the time, Scott signed an ill-advised recording deal that paid tiny advances and kept him contractually bound for years. The villain here was Savoy Records’ notoriously cheap executive, Herman Lubinsky, who refused to record Scott after the 1950s yet twice scuttled releases (including one with Charles) that would have revived his career. Instead, Scott spent the next several decades in obscurity, holding service jobs in Newark and Cleveland. Ironically, his performance at the 1991 funeral of songwriter Doc Pomus, another of his stalwart supporters, reintroduced him to a fickle industry and resulted in a new record deal. Ritz writes smartly about Scott’s recordings and unique musical qualities, but his unadorned style cannot match the dark drama of his subject’s travails. That comes across most vividly in the extensive quotes from Scott himself, who offers a humorously unvarnished account of his life, including his misadventures with touring, women, and drink. His recollections provide a rare, engrossing first-person account of the African-American musical scene of the 1940s and ’50s.

An invaluable life narrative of a key jazz stylist that raises disturbing questions about the shabby treatment accorded Scott’s musical generation.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2002

ISBN: 0-306-81088-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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