Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mount TBR #2

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2017. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

From Satchmo to Miles – Leonard Feather

The author was the most respected jazz critic and chronicler after WWII. This book collects magazine profiles of jazz musicians that appeared in monthlies (between the pictorials) such as Playboy and Nugget in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Covered are the greats:

Louis Armstrong
Duke Ellington
Billie Holiday
Ella Fitzgerald
Count Basie
Lester Young
Charlie Parker
Norman Granz (impresario)
Oscar Peterson
Ray Charles
Don Ellis
Miles Davis

As they are articles written at different times, probably under various circumstances, the material is rather uneven. On one hand, before it was a cool stance to take, he rehabilitated Louis Armstrong’s output in the Forties and Fifties, making the fair point that it is rare when a performing artist profoundly influences more than two generations of succeeding artists. He also provides insights on the jazz genius of Holiday, Young, and Parker. But the stories about Ellington and Fitzgerald feel like puff pieces written for an in-flight magazine.

“These are portraits of human beings first, analyses of musicians or musical history only peripherally if at all,” says Feather in the foreword. He admits that he does not have the musical knowledge to pick up on the really daring things a jazz musicians would be experimenting with, but he balances this by telling interesting stories.

I’d give this a qualified recommendation for a reader who was interested in a general history of post-WWII jazz music.It's written for a general audience, not experts or musicians.

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