A CALL TO ASSEMBLY

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A MUSICAL STORYTELLER

Compellingly well-told life and musical education of a jazz bassist/French-horn player who rose from rural Alabama poverty to being a world traveler, player with great jazz orchestras, and teacher at Yale. As a boy, Ruff lived midway between W.C. Handy's house and Helen Keller's, sang, played the piano and drums, and was inspired by a visit to his school by the great composer of ``St. Louis Blues.'' Ruff's mother taught him early not to let Jim Crow demean him. At 14, he lied about his age and joined the Army for the musical education it assured him on the G.I. Bill. In the Army, he met black career men who were musicians, and one, Pete Lewis, who taught him French horn. Lewis also awakened in him a lifelong love of black soldiers, who fought for this country from its beginnings and about whom Ruff turned up some ennobling but neglected research. Before the Army's desegregation policy was announced, he served at the all-black Lockbourne, Ohio, military post and there got into symphonic music and advanced horn-playing. Later, in 1949, he studied under Paul Hindemith at Yale, but decided against being a classical player and switched to jazz as a career, along with teaching. He played with Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, and Count Basie, and recorded with Miles Davis, who suggested he voice his French horn like a singer. Notably, he toured China, Russia, and Africa, played solo in St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, and had the gift of a complex horn piece written for him by Duke Ellington's composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn in his last year. Ruff displays an affecting sense of mission in passing along his own education, and a lovely ear for jive talk. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-670-83800-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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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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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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