CELEBRATING THE DUKE: And Louis, Bessie, Billie, Bird, Carmen, Miles, Dizzy and Other Heroes by Ralph J. Gleason

CELEBRATING THE DUKE: And Louis, Bessie, Billie, Bird, Carmen, Miles, Dizzy and Other Heroes

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A highly informal, loving tribute to the Black genius of jazz and its vibrant kings, queens and dukes from the birth of the blues to its present explosion as jazz-rock, jazz-mantra, and the concurrent flowering of old-timey Dixieland, The late Ralph Gleason says that if the white musicians who gave their all to jazz were to be wiped from memory, the story of jazz and what it is today would not be altered one jot. Jazz, simply, is Black. Which is not to put down the incomparable tones of Bix and Bunny and Big Tea (garden), since Louis himself admitted to tears of admiration when digging Bix's pure sound. Celebrating is more or less chronological compilation, with some rewrites, of Gleason's articles in down beat, Rolling Stone, and his columns over the years as staff jazz historian for the San Francisco Chronicle. As ever, he has too much and too little to say, his overflowing sympathetic ganglia attached to familiar anecdotes which may be fresh for younger readers but for older fans will not have much bite. And his pious apologia for the nobility of Black artists rising above their dope deaths (""Billie traveled it all for us. We owe her a great deal"") is more than naive--Billie was a doper for Billie, not for humanity. He's his best on Duke Ellington and there are memorable images of the regal lion, especially one of him being visisted in his dressing room while wearing shorts and a bandana: ""The Duke smiled beatifically and said, 'I only take my clothes off with the people I love.' "" Mainly mellow in an amber haze.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1975
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown