JAZZ SINGING: America's Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and Beyond by Will Friedwald
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JAZZ SINGING: America's Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and Beyond

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Zesty, swinging, in-depth look at--or listen to--jazz singing that takes you into unexpected places (Tony Bennett, a jazz singer?) and refreshens the familiar. Friedwald, who covers music for The Village Voice and writes recordliner notes, here does a nearly encyclopedic critical survey that is ever alive and finger-snapping with its subjects while remaining rich with technical details. Friedwald also comes up with striking overviews of each singer's career, pointing out the stages along the way that led into his or her greatest flowering. The author's father once told him that a man's ""true wealth isn't measured in money but in Louis Armstrong records."" Among the talents here getting Friedwald's largest number of pages are Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. One cannot come away from Friedwald's entries on these artists without being revived by a tremendous rainbow of genius that rises over the landscape of American singing. For Friedwald, the secret of all jazz is rhythm: ""Keeping in time, in jazz, is even more important than keeping in tune. . .The way a singer or player hears the beat, more than anything else, determines the way they interpret a piece of music."" Armstrong and the incredibly bouncy early Crosby are the twin sources who changed American singing forever. Billie Holiday deflowered the pop song of its innocence so that it was no longer a bit of harmless escapism. Then Sinatra forswore Crosby's style, allowed inflection and nuance to count for more than actual vocal quality, and came up with the mood album, such as Only the Lonely, in which all the songs mine a single feeling held from opening groove to last. The heart laid bare.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Scribners