OUTCATS: Jazz Composers, Instrumentalists, and Singers by Francis Davis

OUTCATS: Jazz Composers, Instrumentalists, and Singers

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Second collection of outstanding jazz essays (In the Moment, 1986) by a jazz critic whose work appears in The Atlantic, 7 Days and The Village Voice. When not embarked on historical overview. Davis often inhabits his jazz subjects something like Robert de Niro slipping into a role as an outcat altoist, all the while being entirely himself, a man of frank wit and spinal musical intelligence. (""An outcat is on outcast and a far-out cat combined,"" says outcat pianist Paul Knopf.) He writes about mainstream jazz folk such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and even Bobble Darin--and opens up for us jazz musicians or singers who may be fresh on the scene, such as 21-year-old Harry Connick, Jr., or rather distant and unexplored, such as Sun Ra, saxophonist and longtime convict Frank Morgan, jazz orchestrator Gil Evans, or that noble octogenarian of the trumpet, Doc Cheatham, who--incredibly--blows better than ever and has manned a Sunday gig for the past ten years at Sweet Basil's in the Village. Davis often ties his writing in with recordings and leads us to each figure's outstanding discs. He compliments young Wynton Marsalis for bringing new audiences to jazz. ""Still, it gives me pause to consider that all of the most intrepid jazz experimentalists are now in their forties or older, while the leading musicians under thirty see themselves as craftsmen making small refinements on a time-tested art."" He also dismantles Clint Eastwood's Bird--""a jazz fan's movie in the worst possible sense--a movie with the blues, a Birdland, Man Amour that wants to shout 'Bird Lives!' but winds up whispering 'Jazz is dead.' "" He's especially inviting on late Billie Holiday and washes out our ears for the Holiday/Ben Webster double-album Embraceable You (Verve). Top-flight jazz writing, never academic or sociological.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press