An exemplary work of jazz biography.

THREE CHORDS FOR BEAUTY’S SAKE

THE LIFE OF ARTIE SHAW

Nolan (Ross Macdonald: A Biography, 1999) reconsiders the swing clarinetist-bandleader in a beautifully measured, unforgiving account.

Born Avraham Arshawsky to Jewish immigrant parents, Artie Shaw (1910–2004) taught himself saxophone and clarinet as a boy, dropping out of school at age 15 to pursue music professionally. After apprenticeship with pianist Willie “The Lion” Smith in Harlem’s clubs, network radio work and leadership of a failed big band with strings, Shaw rocketed to the top in 1938 with his version of Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.” That hit and others—“Frenesi,” “Star Dust”—established him as chief rival to “King of Swing” Benny Goodman. Shaw also courageously broke the Swing Era’s rigid race barriers by featuring vocalist Billie Holiday and trumpeter Roy Eldridge. However, the ambivalent bandleader almost immediately began to flee the limelight. He publicly condemned his fans as “morons” and broke up his band at the height of its wild popularity in the first of several professional withdrawals. His incident-rich life encompassed eight marriages—his wives included Hollywood goddesses Lana Turner and Ava Gardner—and many affairs, a wartime tour leading a Navy band in Pacific hot spots and an appearance before HUAC during the Red Scare. He abandoned playing for good in 1954, and lived another 50 years, concentrating mainly on writing. Nolan, who interviewed Shaw and many of his band mates and intimates, appraises his difficult subject with a cool eye. His briskly written work lauds the musician’s instrumental virtuosity and ambitious conceptions, but the author cuts Shaw no slack about his many personal failings—his arrogance, anger, selfishness, egocentricity and his horrific relationships with parents, wives and children. It’s a multidimensional portrait of a brilliant yet self-absorbed autodidact who could never find happiness or satisfaction, even when his greatest fantasies of fame and success were realized.

An exemplary work of jazz biography.

Pub Date: May 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06201-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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