MEET ME AT JIM AND ANDY'S: Jazz Musicians and Their World by Gene Lees

MEET ME AT JIM AND ANDY'S: Jazz Musicians and Their World

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Lees' excellent Singers and the Song (1987) extolled the tradition of American song-writing; now he has gathered together another collection of his occasional writings, this time on jazz and its proponents and practictioners. Jim and Andy's was a postwar bar on Manhattan's West 48th Street that was one of the major haunts of jazz musicians. ""For almost every musician I knew, it was a home-away-from-home, restaurant, watering-hole, telephone answering service, informal savings (and loan) bank, and storage place for musical instruments."" Many of Jim and Andy's clientele--musicians such as Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Billy Taylor, and Paul Desmond--are limned here in loving strokes. But this isn't just puffy nostalgia. There are important insights that peer through the reminiscences. In one article, Lees debunks the myth, propagated by such writers as Nat Hentoff, that ""poor, uneducated black folks invented [jazz] out of inspiration and thin air"" and that a ""WASP establishment has ever since kept [them] on the outside looking in. . ."" Lees disputes this, pointing to over 30,000 jazz bands in the US, to Dave Baker's position as head of jazz studies at Indiana University, to Mary Lou Williams' appointment as artist-in-residence at Duke University, to the large number of honorary doctorates held by jazz musicians. Lees also debunks as elitist the idea that jazz was created by uneducated people. He describes many of the jazz performers as ""superior musicians who mastered the craft the only way it can be done, by education, formal or otherwise, and hard work."" Or, as Harry ""Sweets"" Edison put it: ""Jazz is no folk music. It's too hard to play."" Jim and Andy's has long since given way to the glass-and-steel monoliths of Sixth Avenue. But Lees ensures that the great tradition of which he writes will not be so easily forgotten.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press