LOUIS' CHILDREN: American Jazz Singers by Leslie Gourse

LOUIS' CHILDREN: American Jazz Singers

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Spotty, uneven, occasionally useful material about 50-some American jazz singers--in a chaotic mixture of interviews (first-hand, second-hand, borrowed), memoir excerpts, and critical comments (some quoted, some Gourse's own). In an introductory chapter, Gourse reasonably credits Louis Armstrong with the invention of modern jazz singing; she also recycles many of the Armstrong legends so convincingly disproved in James Lincoln Collier's recent landmark biography (which is far better on musical matters too). Then come anecdotes about Ethel Waters, foolishly sketchy pages on Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, a few paragraphs about a little-known young singer named Bobby McFerrin, a ho-hum interview with Cab Calloway. And so it goes through the rest of this disorganized book, with arbitrary groupings and no apparent point or plan. A few of the longer, horse's-mouth interviews do provide color and detail: Mel TormÉ talks about ""pompous"" Richard Rodgers' reaction to jazz renditions of his songs; Joe Williams is eloquent about the human voice as instrument; Betty Carter tirades about racism and sexism; Jon Hendricks muses on enunciation. But, more often, Course talks to minor players: Nat ""King"" Cole's younger brother, Dinah Washington's ex-husband. Trivia and gossip are often more in evidence than solid musical information. And when Gourse attempts to evoke or analyze the vocal artists at hand, the results are frequently banal (""The nearly tone-deaf can carry [Billie Holiday's] Sound in their memories long after the music has stopped""), never fresh or striking. So, though jazz buffs may want to browse or pick up on a few of the lesser-known names here, anyone wanting full profiles or real jazz-singing appreciation will turn elsewhere--to Whitney Balliett, Henry Pleasants, and others.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1983
ISBN: 0815411146
Publisher: Morrow