CATS OF ANY COLOR by Gene Lees

CATS OF ANY COLOR

Jazz, Black and White
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Another sterling collection of essays by one of our best jazz critics, drawn from his superb newsletter, Jazzletter. Lees (Waiting for Dizzy, 1991, etc.) is back with more of the elegant writing and insightful thought that has made him such a highly praised music critic. Tying this collection together are some sharp observations--both by Lees and by the musicians he profiles--about the ethnic and racial roots of jazz and the ways in which they reflect the tensions that afflict American society. In the opening essay, he writes movingly about growing up in Canada as a young jazz buff and about his encounters with racism both as an adolescent and as a young journalist. Elsewhere in the book, he offers profiles of Dave Brubeck, who is part Native American; musicologist Dominique de Lerma, who discourses on the multiplicity of cultures that have fed into jazz music; bassist Red Mitchell, who offers some mordant comments on the decay of American democracy; singer Ernie Andrews, who talks about the effects of racism in Los Angeles both in the '40s and today. Finally, in one of the longest pieces in any of his collections, he takes on the anti-white bias of many black musicians and writers, and fires a convincing broadside at the monumental and hollow edifice that is trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. This last piece is not calculated to endear him to anyone of a black nationalist bent, nor will its equally fiery attacks on white racism win him any friends among neoconservatives. But Lees has long been one of those handful of social and arts critics who say what needs to be said. Essential reading for any serious jazz fan or student of American culture.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-19-508448-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1994