Smitten with jazz at an early age, John Hammond recounts with wry good humor his divergence from the family's Protestant and patrician rectitude. The wayward music that led him to the Alhambra and to Small's Palace to catch the best of Harlem jazz launched a career as record producer and talent scout that reached a fitting climax with last year's televised World of John Hammond. It's the early Depression years that excel here, and Hammond's casual assemblage of all-star groups--he helped put together the first Benny Goodman band, recorded some of the earliest Fletcher Henderson discs, and touted Count Basie out of obscurity. Jazz--Hammond likes his unbuttoned and freewheeling--led him to race relations and politics and a long string of civil rights cases that began with lobbying for the Scottsboro boys and ended with a critique of the NAACP's less-than-militant Roy Wilkins (Hammond was a board member for more than 30 years). Hammond mingles his jazz tales with family history--he's more amused than impressed by his Vanderbilt relations--that extends from the Fifth Avenue townhouse (now the Russian consulate) where he grew up to the transformation of his eldest son into a successful 1960s longhaired blues singer. Hammond writes with the economy and directness he admires in good musicians and while this isn't the kind of autobiography that sets off a flurry of trumpets, it will be read by anyone who cares about the music and how it became available to us all.