THE VIEW FROM WITHIN: Jazz Writings, 1948-1987 by Orrin Keepnews

THE VIEW FROM WITHIN: Jazz Writings, 1948-1987

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A mixed-bag collection of Keepnews' jazz writings, culled from four decades Of his work as coeditor of Record Changer and cofounder of Riverside Records, a leading jazz reissue label for the 1920's jazz that preceded the more modern era of such musicians as Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins, West Montgomery, and Bill Evans--all of whom are discussed here. Keepnews exerts much effort in criticizing jazz writing in general while managing to hold the reader's interest in his own writing. Critiquing a jazz novel, he writes: ""The problem is once again. . .that those who choose to write fiction about jazz don't really know the first thing about the music and those who live with and by it."" Elsewhere, he rails against ""pseudo-knowledgeable novels that falsify the jazz life in purple prose."" We learn here of the intellectual leanings of Artie Shaw: ""Whenever it was time for his solo, someone had to poke him. He kept copies of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on his music stand, and was always reading them, even during numbers."" In other snippets, he is critical not only of jazz writers, but of jazz fans, whom he accuses of lacking a sense of humor, and of jazz record producers of his era, many of whom were corporate bureaucrats not well-enough versed in the ins-and-outs of jazz to even recognize the bootlegged nature of some works they were producing. Writing in 1952, Keepnews demonstrated a certain prescience by observing that while ""jazz is still very much of a social step-child in America. . .there are impressive signs of progress. In would seem that more people are at least being given the opportunity to understand jazz and the peculiar half-world it inhabits."" Despite Keepnews' own opinion that ""jazz criticism is a bad idea, poorly executed,"" he manages to put the lie to that belief with a combination of enthusiasm and eloquence of expression that makes even 40-year-old essays seem vital.

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