JAZZ CHANGES by Martin Williams


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 Catchall of earlier (late 50's on) pieces by Williams (Jazz in its Time, 1989, etc.), some unpublished except as record-jacket copy, some from Down Beat, Saturday Review, etc. The longest piece here--a historical and musical commentary on the massive Library of Congress Folklore Archives set of Jelly Roll Morton disks recorded by Alan Lomax--is the richest. Discussing the growth of Morton's style, Williams is especially good on the musical layout of ``The Pearls,'' a neglected Morton work that is among his most lovely, and ``the Spanish tinge'' in Morton's jazz tango ``Mama `Nita,'' a piece warm with delight. The author's most affecting piece is ``Billie Holiday: Anatomy of a Tragedy,'' which in its brief span works up much feeling. His best interview is with trumpeter Ruby Braff, who is outspoken about record producer John Hammond's buckling under to Columbia's commercial needs. An interview with Ross Russell, founder of Dial Records and first to record Charlie Parker at length, straightens out some misconceptions about Russell's ties with Bird. A piece on a reissue of the first recordings of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, featuring Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelly, gives an uplifting overview of this imperious group of jazz swingers. A set of Ellington reissues prompts new thoughts about Ellington's earliest periods, and a commentary on Parker Gillespie's The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever (in Toronto) makes clear that Charlie Mingus indeed did rerecord his bass line for the record issue while Billy Taylor ``did a bit of ghosting on the Bud Powell performances as well.'' Meanwhile, Williams deflates four pianists he finds overrated: Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, George Shearing, and Martial Solal. Jazz riches for the serious fan.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-19-505847-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1991