BEBOP AND NOTHINGNESS

JAZZ AND POP AT THE END OF THE CENTURY

The latest collection of essays by Davis (Outcats, 1990; The History of the Blues, 1995; etc.) finds this gifted jazz critic singing some blues of his own. The problem is not, Davis says in his introduction, the usual one, that jazz is a marginalized art form that doesn't get any respect. In fact, he observes, the music is enjoying its greatest popularity since the big-band era. But ``keeping up has ceased to be fun,'' he writes pointedly. The music has fallen into the hands of musical neoconservatives like Wynton Marsalis who, despite their obvious gifts, have a narrow vision of jazz history. As this collection amply testifies, Davis is still drawn to the ``outcats,'' the marginal figures within jazz itself. These essays represent his continued search for ``audible individuality'' as embodied by sounds as dissimilar as the corruscating free jazz of saxophonist Charles Gayle and the melody-driven romanticism of trumpeter Ruby Braff. At the same time, Davis's profiles are exemplary in their reproduction of diverse voices ranging from Braff's witty crankiness to Anthony Braxton's knowing eccentricity, from the mischievous giddiness of Don Byron, a black clarinetist of surpassing skill who moves easily between jazz and Jewish klezmer, to the warm motherliness of Rosemary Clooney. At the heart of the book, though, is a single theme that unites all of these disparate figures: Despite the success of a handful of younger artists, it is as difficult to be a jazz musician today as it has ever been. If anything, the essays that take Davis outside the world of jazz- -pieces on rap, Michael Jackson, and a couple of highly intelligent ruminations on the Broadway musical—serve primarily to underscore that sad truth. Davis remains one of our most engaging music critics, thoughtful and erudite, funny and self-aware. Highly recommended.

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-02-870471-1

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1996

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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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