Sketches of jazz folk by The New Yorker's longtime resident jazz critic, author of Jelly Roll, Jabbo and Fats and a dozen other collections of his columns. The new collection is taken from columns written between 1971 and 1988. Seven have never been in book form, seven are reclaimed and revised from earlier volumes, and a sketch of clarinetist Buddy de Franco is new. Among the richest herein is that of eloquent trumpeter Ruby Braff, who goes on blowing lyrical jazz despite the passing fashions of be-hop and post-be-bop and ""has become a tradition unto himself."" Balliett analyzes the development and logical loopings of a typical Braff solo about as well as horn playing can be described on paper. Also rendered brilliantly in brief is a three-dimensional pottrait of Charlie ""Bird"" Parker that sits the alto saxophonist onto the reader's knee even more weightily than the three-hour film of Bird's life by Clint Eastwood--and seems marginally more honest. Outstanding is the piece on Benny Goodman, which focuses on the groundbreaking 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert and gives startling new views of the famed event (it was dullish, aside from Jess Stacy's Ravel-like angelwork on the piano). The book's centerpiece is about New York jazz nightclubs and three well-known owners, Max Gordon of the Village Vanguard, Barry Josephson of Cafe Society, and Bradley Cunningham of Bradley's, which adds up to delightfully eccentric nighttime cultural anthropology. Fingerpickin' good.