Disappointing and exasperating: a magazine article with acres of hot air blown into it.

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THE MAKING OF KIND OF BLUE

MILES DAVIS AND HIS MASTERPIECE

Jazz biographer Nisenson (Blue, 1997) traces the history of a pivotal jazz recording.

Kind of Blue, the biggest-selling jazz album ever (and the only jazz recording ever to go double-platinum) featured Miles Davis and John Coltrane. In its focus on modal tunes, drawing on the under-appreciated theories of composer George Russell, the recording opened up new possibilities of freedom for jazz in the post-bebop era. Musicians were no longer strapped into the potential straitjacket of a song’s chord progressions. And, since it was released in 1959, Kind of Blue not only came on the cusp of a revolution in jazz, it reflected and anticipated the rising tide of the civil-rights movement in the black community. Unfortunately, Nisenson dances around this story, offering little concrete analysis of the music on the album or of the musical development of its participants. Instead we get canned sociology and the sort of subjective emotional statements that disfigure too much music criticism. The chapters on Davis, Coltrane, and pianist Bill Evans add little to the growing mountain of literature on each of these three. The chapters on Russell and Cannonball Adderly are rather more useful, however, as neither of these men has received his due between hardcovers. And the chapter on the actual recording of the music is certainly interesting in that chatty, gossipy way that contemporary celebrity journalism can be at times. Sloppy editing lets more than a few howlers through (“No one is quite certain who in the band introduced him to the drug, but it was almost certainly Philly Joe Jones”) and adds to the aggravation.

Disappointing and exasperating: a magazine article with acres of hot air blown into it.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-26617-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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