IN THE MOMENT: Jazz in the 1980s by Francis Davis

IN THE MOMENT: Jazz in the 1980s

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sound, opinionated look at contemporary goings-on in jazz and related music. This collection assembles articles written with a steady hand on several different occasions. There is an internal cohesiveness in these pieces which show great sympathy with musicians, and disdain towards public taste. A highlight is an extended portrait of composer Anthony Davis, who has succeeded in being both popular and artistically valid. Davis (no relation to the composer) makes the reader eager to hear the gifted composer's upcoming opera based on the career of Malcolm X. Among the more negative pieces are some in which trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is scolded for relentless conservatism. To him, ""classical"" music itself stopped in the 18th century; he has no interest in playing or commissioning new works for his instrument. Davis seems altogether more charmed by Wynton's older brother Branford, who reveals a fine wit in an interview here. Such pieces as an overview of Ornette Coleman's life are steeped in jazz history. Other articles offer insights into famous artists, like Don Cherry, and those of whom few have heard, like Sumi Tonooka, a Japanese-American pianist just beginning her career. The world portrayed here can seem at times too hermetic and self-referential; the only metaphors used are those of players and performance. If so, it is not the fault of the author, but rather the nature of jazz itself, an all-absorbing, all-consuming activity. A fine collection of observations on the current scene of jazz; a must for serious collectors and listeners.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1986
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press