A fresh blend of scholarly musical analysis and provocative ideas about creativity and how composers create great art.




A convincing case that some of the greatest music in history was not the work of one brilliant mind but rather a result of the commingling of ideas that happens when two complementary artists team up.

In the first half of the book, Brothers (Music/Duke Univ.; Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, 2014, etc.) focuses on Duke Ellington and his many collaborators, most notably the composer Billy Strayhorn. Many compositions that were the work of two or more musicians were credited solely to Ellington; according to Brothers, this has led to misunderstandings about the way much of his music was composed. The author’s portrait of Ellington pulls no punches but remains sympathetic. The Beatles were another story: John Lennon and Paul McCartney were open about their creative codependency from the start, signing all compositions “Lennon/McCartney” no matter who wrote what or how much in a given song. Brothers insists that the oft-repeated saw that the Beatles rarely collaborated after the release of “Revolver” is false. Rather, he claims that some of the greatest achievements of their late period were the result of intense collaboration. Ellington embraced the myth of the solitary genius that the musical establishment saddled him with and benefited from the resulting obfuscation, while Lennon and McCartney situated themselves squarely within the ganglike nature of rock-’n’-roll groups, an egalitarian approach to music-making that had its roots in the African-American vernacular tradition from which jazz also emerged. Some of the music jargon may fly over the heads of nonmusician readers, but for the most part, Brothers frames his analysis in smooth, relatable prose that anyone familiar with the music of Ellington and the Beatles can understand. Along the way, the author provides a sweeping history of 20th-century popular music, the rich backdrop against which the incredible music of Ellington and the Beatles was composed—music that is incredible primarily because of the cooperative spirit that brought it to life.

A fresh blend of scholarly musical analysis and provocative ideas about creativity and how composers create great art.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-24623-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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