|TWO BOOKS TO CHERISH|
& BLUES BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus
Two remarkable books
crossed my desk recently and it's a pleasure to
A NEW HISTORY OF
JAZZ by BBC presenter and London Times jazz critic
Shipton's canvas may be large but he fills it with telling and precise details, the fruit of his many years of painstaking research. He delves into all aspects of jazz, from its Congo Square origins to boogie-woogie, big bands and bebop. Impressive as the narrative sweep is, it isn't as important as the critical analysis Shipton brings to the project. He believes that the history of jazz is more subtle and complicated than previous writers and scholars have indicated and that most popular approaches to the subject--especially that of TV documentarian Ken Burns--have missed the big picture.
Remarkably, Shipton is able to write history and criticism in a readable and accessible way. His sketches of such jazz greats as Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington bring them to three-dimensional life, and he is equally adept at painting portraits of the likes of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Cassandra Wilson. He's also good at describing the clubs, bars and music halls where so much jazz has been played over the years.
Perhaps because he's
British, Shipton devotes more-than-usual space to the international development
of jazz and comes up with insights about musicians from England, West
& East Europe, Russia, Africa and the
Tony Russell's THE
BLUES --FROM ROBERT JOHNSON TO ROBERT CRAY also describes the evolution
of the blues in historical fashion, but it
Russell kicks things off with a pungently written introduction: "There have been times when pop and blues have been bedfellows. The deeply American rock of the early Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds or the Animals was chiselled out of a stratum of pure blues. At their gigs the Stones not only played wall-to-wall cover versions of obscure American blues but told the audience what labels the originals could be found on. Heavy metal began as a kind of simplified but vastly overblown blues--bomp and circumstance....That old bulldog blues has been yapping at the heels of popular music for most of the century."
Russell breaks down
the 20th century into chapters and picks out the
THE BLUES has a design
and layout that make for eye-pleasing skimming.