NIGHT CREATURE: A Journal of Jazz, 1975-1980 by Whitney Balliett

NIGHT CREATURE: A Journal of Jazz, 1975-1980

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Reviews of concerts, records, books; mini-profiles; eulogies; and a few essayistic musings--those are the sorts of things that turn up in Balliett's periodic New Yorker jazz journals. And though these short entries (mostly one or two pages) are usually too casual, occasional, or miniature-detailed to offer the pleasures of a long Balliett profile (cf., American Singers, Alec Wilder and His Friends), they do make for glorious browsing. Here and there, for instance, you'll find Balliett's sleight-of-hand mastery of adjectives: Ella Fitzgerald's voice is ""light, pure, boxy, emotionless""; pianist Dave McKenna is ""tall, secret, stooped, and big-boned."" His dry humor pops up splendidly--at Jimmy McPartland's 70th birthday party, at a series of avant-garde concerts (""The A.A.C.M. has a galactic sense of time. Its concerts begin forty to fifty minutes late, and intermissions last half an hour. The musicians wander on and off the stage in slow motion""). His descriptive/analytic finesse is often in grand form: Fred Astaire ""makes every song fresh and full-faced, as if each were important news."" And sometimes the journal form allows for ironic, dramatic effects--as when a long, pre-concert tribute to Benny Goodman is followed by a three-sentence entry beginning: ""The fortieth anniversary concert last night was a shambles."" Among the artists receiving expansive, or frequent, attention: Louis Armstrong (via recordings), George Shearing, Zoot Sims, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Rowles, Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett, and Dizzy Gillespie. Balliett's taste is eclectic, his judgments are sound, his elegance is unmatched--and an index (unseen but promised) should allow this skimmers' delight to double as a source of reference.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press