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Jazz: America's Gift

FROM ITS BIRTH TO GEORGE GERSHWIN'S RHAPSODY IN BLUE & BEYOND

A lively, if not thorough, overview of jazz’s origins.

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A debut book that examines American jazz’s early history, focusing mainly on legendary composer George Gershwin.

A cursory look at this book’s title may make readers assume that it’s an all-encompassing history of jazz music. In reality, it only covers the genre’s origins, from the birth of American song during the 18th century through the life and career of Gershwin in the early 20th century. That said, this book at least could serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with jazz. Rather than taking a dry, academic approach to the subject, Gerber, a musician and natural foods entrepreneur, writes in a conversational, lively, and witty style, although some of the personal tangents and jokes fall flat at times: “When European high-society muckety-muck, Lady Mountbatten (no relation to Lady Gaga) heard Gershwin play….” Using a variety of bibliographical sources, Gerber paints a vivid picture of jazz’s roots in slaves’ spirituals and minstrel shows; the music’s popularity in the Storyville section of New Orleans; and the emergence of Louis Armstrong. He unearths some interesting facts, such as shared cultural experiences of African-Americans and Jews: he notes that African-American singers such as Billie Holliday and Alberta Hunter recorded Jewish songs and that Louis Armstrong so admired Jewish people that he wore a Star of David around his neck. The last two-thirds of the book, though, focuses on Gershwin, including the creation of his immortal work, “Rhapsody in Blue”—even going so far as to include a section on the famous clarinet glissando that opens the piece. It’s interesting to learn that Gershwin’s folk opera, Porgy and Bess, was initially a financial failure, and Gerber also delves into other aspects of Gershwin’s life, including his dietary habits, his relationships with women, and his love for fine art. He makes a strong, enthusiastic case for Gershwin’s contributions to jazz, something that many jazz historians, according to the author, don’t often acknowledge (“As far as George Gershwin goes—jazz can’t live with him and jazz can’t live without him!”). In addition, Covarrubias’ vibrant illustrations really enhance the text. This title shouldn’t be the first stop for those seeking an exhaustive, well-rounded survey of either jazz or Gershwin. Still, it’s an accessible overview for novices that could point them toward more comprehensive studies.

A lively, if not thorough, overview of jazz’s origins. 

Pub Date: May 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-44553-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Gerber's Miracle Publishers LLC

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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