Saturday, December 27, 2014

Stories from New Orleans – Parts 1 and 4: Making Friends

The drive from Madison Alabama to New Orleans Louisiana takes anywhere from six to eight hours, depending on how many stops and how long they are. Although the trip is almost 100% highway, portions of it are on decidedly neglected highways. In addition to beat up, old, poorly maintained roads where you take your life in your hands if you go over 60 miles per hour, the state of Mississippi pretty much figures you’re a hillbilly and will pee in the woods anyway, so there are not many rest stops once you enter the state and until you leave the state. That is to say, if you travel to New Orleans from Madison, you will almost certainly end up stopping at the first rest stop in Louisiana, which is the very comfy, cozy, coffee serving New Orleans Welcome Center on I-10.

After Mrs S and I had taken care of business, she started thumbing through the racks of brochures, which, again, is a given. We've done it on every previous trip to New Orleans. I was wandering around, seeing what would catch my eye and I heard one of the greeters say, “Can I help you find something?” I was about 20 feet from the desk, so I didn't think she was talking to me. Then I heard, “Would you sign our guest book?” So, I looked over and sure enough, she was talking to me and the other greeter was watching. “Um, no, and yes,” I said, counting the answers to two questions on my fingers. As I signed the book, the greeter and I were chatting and I happened to mention we were staying at The Monteleone. “Oh, my son is manager of the Carousel Bar there.” I said I’d be happy to say hello to him, as I knew I was going to be spending some time in the bar, and she said, his name is Michael D__. (You can probably Google his name, but I’ll redact it here for privacy.) I repeated his name and she said, “Oh you’re pronunciation is perfect.” (It’s not a hard name, but lazy, non-French people would tend to pronounce this French family name differently.)

Me and one of my drinks. The photo bomber is the bar manager, Michael (keep reading).
On the last day of the trip, following dinner in the hotel, we finally made our way to the bar. I was looking forward to meeting Michael and using the two free drink coupons I got when we checked into the hotel and I told them I was celebrating my birthday with them. Of course, on Christmas Eve, the Carousel Bar was packed and people were jumping on seats as soon as anybody stood up, so Mrs. S and I found two seats in the equally packed lounge adjacent.

Our waitress came over and when she brought our two free drinks, I asked if I Michael was working that night. She said, oh yes, and I said, well, I’m sure he’s quite busy and he doesn't know me, but if he could spare a moment, I’d like to talk to him for a minute. And she said, no problem, and he did come over and I did talk to him. Very nice guy. I told him the story about promising his mom to say hello. We talked about his mom and about the action in the bar, and how many times I’d been to New Orleans, and then I apologized and told him thanks for talking with me and allowing me to make good on my promise to his mom to say hello to him. He said it was his pleasure. So I sit back down and order another drink, and our waitress informs me it’s on the house and so is Mrs. S’s next one. I said, wow, great, and what’s your name and she says, “Tuna.” I look at her and raise an eyebrow, “Tuna?” She smiles and says, yes, just like the fish. Okay, well then let me get a picture with you. And we did.

Me and Tuna.
As it was getting close to midnight, Santa Claus showed up. I’m not sure if it was before his rounds or after his rounds, but I hadn't been all that naughty this year, so he let me take a picture with him. I should have bought him a drink. When we went to sit back down, Tuna was serving guests across from our seats, putting her right between me and Mrs. S. I told Mrs. S to wait a minute or we’d trap our waitress, and then Tuna says, “You’re making a Tuna sandwich!” Funny.

I drew the line on lap sitting, but I was okay with having a picture with Santa, even though it was the first time in years.
And I’m not sure why I didn't take a commemorative photo with Michael, but he photo bombed one of Mrs. S’s other photos anyway, so it all worked out. That’s not all the friends I made while in New Orleans, but those are the ones I made at the start and the finish of the trip.

Don’t worry, there’s more stories (and surprise friends) to come.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What I learned by watching the exact same Tony Bennett concert twice in two nights (Part 2)

If you missed part 1, here it is
Some other things I learned, kind of:

4) If you can sing a song in a four story performance hall that seats 1856 people, without a microphone and still fill the place with sound at the age of 88, you must be Tony Bennett
"Fly Me To The Moon", with guitar, without microphone. Unbelievable.
I don’t think anybody else 88 years or older anywhere can do that. It’s like a Guinness Book level feat, if you think about it.
5) The best seat in the house is the front row
This will be my space for the next two hours, thank you very much. Also, note the person with the black hair and white shirt at the very upper left. That was Mrs. S's seat on Friday night.
You can stretch out your legs (and arms, and hips, and anything else you want). You can walk right up to the stage and lean out over it and pretend you fell off the stage and are trying to climb back on. You can talk to the cello and violin players. You can hear the best. You can see the best. People think you’re important. People know you’re a patron. The ushers remember you and don’t bother you about anything. Pure and simple: If you are not in the front row, you might have good seats, but you don’t have the best seats. Period.
No, really, I'm with the band!
This is the view from our box on Friday night. Same price as front row, waaaayyyy different view.
6) The technology cannot be stopped and everyone has it in their pockets. Soon, there will be no attempt at preventing people from photographing at concerts.
View from front row on Thursday night. Yep, that's better
Note to performers everywhere, I have a high resolution camera, video recorder, and sound recorder. It’s right here, in my pocket. If you tell me I can’t take your picture, I won’t. I actually believe in the rules that keep our society livable. If you tell me I can take photos without flash, then don’t tell me I can only take photos when the house lights are up. And if you aren’t going to stop the people in the third balcony above the stage (who are actually using flash), then guess what? You’re screwed and I’m probably going to take your picture from the front row, regardless of announcements, warnings printed on tickets, or anything else. And anyway, Mrs. S is the concert photographer. I’m going to just sit here and enjoy the show. It’s her you have to worry about. (What I mean is, pretty soon, the entire planet is going to be continually photographed, for any or no reason. Performers need to embrace the technology and let their fans take photos. That’s it.)

What I learned by watching the exact same Tony Bennett concert twice in two nights (Part 1)

It’s not much, but, here goes.
1) The program in the program may or may not be the actual program
My personal concert program always includes a cocktail and wine prior to the show.
The program for the Tony Bennett concert included four pieces by the Nashville Symphony, and those were correct. For Tony’s portion, it said “Selections will be called from the stage”, which is standard jazz lingo for, “We’ll tell you what we’ll play, just as soon as we decide.” The program also listed “Featuring special guest Antonia Bennett”, who is Tony’s up-and-coming daughter. When she wasn’t there on Thursday night, I was sure she’d be there Friday. But no. Friday’s show was the exact same as Thursday’s, mistakes and all. We thought about going to the box office, telling them we came to see Antonia, not Tony, and we want our money back. Then we decided we didn’t want anyone to laugh at us that much, and even more, we didn’t want anybody to think we like Antonia Bennett better than her dad.
2) If you don’t practice out the mistakes, the mistakes don’t go away
The man himself. If you think the crowd didn't go absolutely bananas when this octogenarian strode purposefully to center stage,  you obviously don't appreciate what it means to be in the same room with a living legend. And note the big video screen prompter tilted on the front speaker. That's the one he didn't pay any attention to.
First of all, I’m not bemoaning the fact that an 88-year old guy forgot a few words of a few lines of songs he doesn’t sing all that much. And to be fair, lots of singers much younger use prompts and earphones and whatnot to help their singing and lyrical comprehension. And let’s also be clear: Tony doesn’t need any help with the songs he’s been singing for 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years. He’s got those. But on Thursday night, when he sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with “..friends who are near to us, will be dear to us, once more”, you could see him looking at the prompter, trying to squint it out above the spotlight, and then look around to see if the audience caught the problem, and then (no doubt), he thought, (correctly) “they didn’t notice, and if they did, they didn’t care”. But when he made the exact same mistake on Friday, well folks, I’m sorry to call BS on a legend, but that’s just sloppy. 
3) It must be EXTREMELY hard to play the same exact set, night after night
One line that Tony Bennett can never use: "Stop me if you've heard this one before." He sings any song that made him a bajillion dollars at some point in his career, and that's like a bajillion songs.
And by extremely hard, I mean extremely easy, and by extremely easy I mean, it’s easy to hit the notes and cues and hard to make it sound interesting. If you’ve never heard it before (Thursday night), everything is fresh and lively. If you’ve heard it before (Friday night), it starts to sound flat and finished, almost artificial. It’s like the second time you watch a movie you liked and you notice the shadow of a boom mike on one of the characters in the background. From that day forward, every time you watch that movie, you’ll be waiting for the shadow of the microphone. (It also kind of explains why they didn’t practice “Have ... Christmas”, because, who wants to play from the set list when they’re practicing?)
"You're beautiful!"
There are a couple other things I learned, and some better photos coming in part 2.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How to swing Christmas

Add one freaking awesome singing group, one pair of front row tickets, and a two hour drive through a rainstorm (which was bad, but not quite the tornado level storm we drove through to see WyntonMarsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra). Then sit back and enjoy the show.
The somewhat dated (I thought) Manhattan Grinches on screen behind stage.
Manhattan Transfer has been doing this kind of show for years, but this is the first time I had the opportunity to see and hear it for myself. Despite the recent death of the group’s leader, they had a phenomenal back up who they've been singing with for years in different iterations of this group, and the harmonies were as tight as ever and the one hour forty five minute show just flew by. They sang all the Christmas standards you could want, from Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” to “Frosty the Snowman”. Plus they sang a bunch of their hits and a few New York themed Christmas things (which admittedly, fell dead on the Nashville crowd for the most part).

The set. They didn't even have a band, just what I would call a rhythm section. They were amazing.
Their musical director, Yaron Gershovsky, was pretty much the highlight of the show for me. Playing on a Steinway grand (a smallish one) and an occasional riff on a Korg, Kronos synth, he drove the rhythm section and could pretty much play any style and stylistic solo he had to.

No, we did not take surreptitious pictures during the show. But this is pretty much exactly what they looked like, except Janis was wearing her contacts.
I guess after all is said and done, Janis Siegel is still my favorite. Her solo bits were edgier and more complete than her band mates’, and she at least put on makeup and had her hair done before the show. (Cheryl Bentyne looked like somebody woke her up from a nap just in time for the show.) Anyway, it was a good time, and definitely worth the drive through the pouring rain to hear this legendary group while they are still together and performing.
This was Janis at the Blue Note, again highlighting a Christmas show, when we were in New York three years ago.
Next up is Tony Bennett, which Mrs S this morning informed me will be a two hour (or so) show with an intermission and Tony only singing during the second half of the show. She thought I would be disappointed, but it is pretty much what I expected. The guy’s 88, so if he gives us a good half hour and four or five of his hits, that will work for me.
As close to being on stage at the Schermerhorn as I am likely to get.
Damn, I just realized: I could have put something in the seats next to mine and played some kind of joke on whoever sits there Thursday night. Maybe. Oh well. Better to be inconspicuous down front anyway.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November’s over. Here comes my month!

Although I am not particularly looking forward to turning 51 in a couple of weeks (something about being exactly a half century old that I like), I have a lot to look forward to this month. Thanks to a quirk in the calendar, not only do I have five piano lessons this month, I get paid three times, too. As the year is winding down, I’m taking off more time to use up vacation, and of course, working in automotive means year end shutdown from December 23 through January 4. (January 5 will suck, but that's next month.) That’s not all though.

What I’ll be doing with some of those days off is spending a lot of time in Nashville, starting Friday December 5 to see Manhattan Transfer. The founder of the group may have passed away, but the show must go on. I’m looking forward to seeing this renowned group for the first time. Less than a week after that will be Tony Bennett, and we are going to catch both his shows. For the second show on December 12, we’ll be up in a loge box (right above the stage) for the first time. That will be a good experience because by comparing the two shows, I’ll get to learn a little about performance nuances from one of the greatest performers of our time.

That's front row center, front row center, stage side loge front row. It pays to be a patron of the arts!
October was a nasty month, but November was better. Now comes the best month of the year. I’m so damn happy I might even put up some Christmas lights, just for the heck of it. We can certainly decorate the inside of the house because then, I can listen to my big band Christmas CD’s while doing it.

Haul out the holly, it’s going to be a jazzy December (as always).

Sunday, November 9, 2014

As the Crow flies through jazz: a review of a great book about a jazz life

It's hard to find good books about jazz. This isn't because people who write about jazz are not decent writers, it's because there just aren't a lot of books about jazz is all. One that I came across thanks to Mrs. S recommending it on the strength of her favorite author, Haruki Murakami, writing about it, was From Birdland to Broadway by Bill Crow. It's an unexpected joy. Here's what I wrote about it in my review of the book on Amazon:

A glimpse at the time when jazz came of age 
 Bill Crow is one of those rare musicians who spent the better part of forty years skating through the background of the jazz music industry. A workman like musician who played everything from a Jew’s harp to a valve trombone to a double bass to a Fender bass to a tuba, he also played with luminaries ranging from Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk to Marian McPartland, Zoot Sims, Benny Goodman, Terry Gibbs and a small army of other famous jazz musicians. He approached his music the way he approached life: with his eyes open for opportunity, excitement, and the thrill of something new at any chance he could get. And the best part of it is, he took notes so that he could write up some of the stories and produce a wonderful book like this. 
 I’d never heard of Bill Crow until my wife told me about him after she read a Haruki Murakami book that mentioned Bill Crow’s book. I love reading about jazz and although I’d never heard of Bill Crow, Murakami’s mention is a helluva recommendation. So, I bought this book. Crow’s writing is straightforward and conversational. He doesn't have to set up the scenes other than to explain what he observed, what happened and what he thought, because the characters and situations he writes about are all actual people and highly entertaining situations. (They were, after all, working in the entertainment industry.) Crow’s sense of humor is also impeccable and if you know anything about jazz musicians from the 1940’s to 1980’s, you know that there were more than a few unique characters with more than a few unique outlooks on music in particular and life in general. And to his credit, Crow does not flinch away from some of the seedier and less mass-appealing aspects of the jazz business (like manipulative club owners and rampant drug abuse), but he keeps everything in context so that the reader can really see and feel what making jazz was like once upon a time. 
 I learned a lot reading this book, including that my CD collection includes quite a few works that Mr. Crow played on. (Maybe it’s time I read all my CD liner notes and lineups again.) More to the point, I really enjoyed this book and often would lose track of time as I moved from one story to another. This book was light but informative reading, entertaining, and illuminating. It didn't romanticize those years that are gone and will never come again, but Crow puts enough in this book to allow the reader to romanticize if they want. It’s a great book that is well worth five stars.
Mr. Crow has one or two other books out, so I'll probably pick them up one of these days and read those, too. One thing's for sure, this book makes me want to read more books about jazz, and so, I'm going to do that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Because you can’t play jazz all the time

Not long ago, I happened across the works of Frederic Burgmuller. I was looking for some piano pieces that would provide me with some direction as far as improving my chops, but I didn’t want anything that would be too much work because I didn't want to spend a lot of time playing something that wasn't jazz. I’m not sure how I “discovered” Burgmuller, but it was exactly what I looking for. Here’s what I said for the benefit of people shopping on Amazon:

Deceptively easy and enjoyable way to improve piano skills

I don’t remember what it was that first led me to discover these pieces. All I remember is, I had downloaded the sheet music to “L’Arabesque” and after about thirty minutes, I was playing it start to finish, not at tempo, but with very few mistakes and a reasonable amount of musicality. (So you know where I’m coming from, I've been playing organ and electronic keyboards since I was twelve (I’m 50 now), but have only been studying piano seriously for seven years, playing mostly jazz.) I took the sheet music to my regular lesson and played it, and my instructor said, that’s excellent, here’s all the stuff you’re doing wrong, and he proceeded to set me straight on playing these classical period etudes. We decided these could be beneficial to my playing, so I bought this book and then began in earnest to learn the pieces. Since then, I've learned about one piece a week. I’m finding them incredibly valuable in filling in a number of gaps in my piano technique that were created in my rush to abandon the organ, flee from church music and dive headlong into piano and jazz.
Sure you can download the lot for free, somewhere, in a goofy font, without correct fingerings, and you'll have to bind it, somehow, after you research the correct order, then pencil in the correct fingerings, then start learning the pieces. Or, you can buy this for five bucks then start learning the pieces. (It was an easy choice for me.)
What makes these pieces so useful is that they are approachable and relatively easy, but they still require diligence and proper attention to execute well. Most of them are played at tempos which I consider to be borderline preposterous, but even at slower tempos, they are musical enough that they can be enjoyed at a slower pace as well. They are all also different from each other in mood and tonality, so the skill sets required to perform any given song is slightly different from piece to piece. Although they are pretty easy, I think most serious students will want to  work on these under the guidance of a piano instructor, because the tendency will always be that because they sound pretty and pretty “complete”, you will think you have it down, but I've found that my instructor can always find one or two things that can be done better or more easily or efficiently, and often enough, he will also find something I’m playing out-and-out incorrectly. Once I've looked at a piece, had my instructor listen and instruct, then spent another week on it, I pretty much have the piece down. I must say that, especially for me (the king of piano books), actually working through a book page by page and being able to play the pieces has been tremendously satisfying. They also provide a good break from playing jazz all the time, and correspondingly, my usual jazz tunes and exercises are better attenuated to my ears after I've played these classical style pieces for a while.

If you are an advanced pianist, I would venture to guess that you've already been through your share of Burgmuller pieces at some point in your learning. If you are, however, a beginner or intermediate player who hasn't yet set about practicing and playing these pieces, I recommend you give them a try and it’s worth five bucks to pick up this book rather than scrounge for them on the Internet. (Internet downloads often do not include the proper fingering, whereas Schirmer’s nearly always does.) The pieces are fun, highly musical, very instructive, and eminently learn-able, and playing these pieces has been one of my best musical experiences in seven years of learning piano. That’s why I give it five stars.

The best thing about these pieces is that they are all self-contained, but if you work through them, they develop different skills that every pianist needs. The other thing is what I mentioned in my review: they function well as nifty little songs and they dispel boredom, unlike drills and some other etudes. My playing has noticeably improved since I started working with Burgmuller, and I enjoy the twenty or thirty minutes I spend every day playing these song. For five bucks, this book is a bargain at twice the price.

Next: A look at another book on jazz in general, From Birdland to Broadway.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The review you won't see on Amazon

I wrote this review of Gordon Goodwin's latest work a while back, when I was in the middle of enthusiastic throes for this phenomenal work. Somehow, the review got set aside and I'd lost track of it. Today, I pulled it out and reread it, and while I still like it and I still think it encompasses my true feelings about the work, I don't think Amazon buyers will get what I am saying. So, I'm going to put this review up here exclusively on Late to Jazz, and write something else for Amazon. I might even post that, too, eventually. We'll see. Here it is:


It took me a while to get around to listening to this with full attention and seriousness, because I got distracted by the Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga recording. Now that I’ve spent a good while absorbing Gordon Goodwin’s latest work, I’m ready to weigh in. To my ears, the music written, played and produced over the years by Gordon Goodwin and his band has never been anything but swinging, shouting, hand-clapping, heart stopping, dance-inducing joy, and I wish I could say that Life in the Bubble continues Goodwin’s and BPB’s trend, but I have to say, it does not.
Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band's latest, and, dare we say it, best!
Because this recording is way better than all that.

These are some of the best sounding, hard swinging, jazzy, soulful, bluesy, big band tracks that have been recorded, not just in the last ten years (say), but, possibly ever. Sure Maria Schneider continues to be inventive and productive, and the only thing that stopped Bob Brookmeyer from continuing to make truly great modern jazz big band recordings was his unforunate death. There are a few jazz collectives making wonderful big band recordings, and of course, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra raise the bar every time they play, but then came Goodwin’s Bubble. This recording is just spectacular. There is so much going on, so much inventiveness, and the push of swing, sound, and clever, inspired solos is relentless from start to finish. This is one of those CD’s that after you’ve listened to it once through, you sort of feel like it isn’t even over when it’s over. It keeps cycling through your mind. Then, when you listen a second time (and third, and fourth), you wonder how you missed those hard hitting horn shouts, or the subtle stylistic shift on piano or sax, or the weaving bass line that came out of nowhere. A detailed song-by-song explanation of the exciting and inspiring music that waits here would take a lifetime to write poetically and accurately, so all I’ll say is, this is a Phat-tastic CD and if you love jazz and big band music, this is a must buy. It’s phenomenal.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jazz music buyer meets very strong algorithms

Over the years, I've purchased a bunch of CD’s on Amazon, including a few box sets and such from Tony Bennett. Right around the time we bought tickets to see Tony Bennett in concert in Nashville this December, Amazon started flashing me with a Tony Bennett Lady Gaga duets album pop-up. It was relentless. They really wanted me to pre-order this record, but, having never listened to Lady Gaga and not being all the enamored of a young woman who never shows her own face and wears meat dresses, I told myself that no matter how much I liked Tony Bennett, his recording with Lady G was one I was going to pass on.

Still the popups came. It didn't matter if I was shopping for books, music, salt shakers, saxophone reeds, cheesecloth, pineapple corers, sheet music, silver polish, a hand ax, Roomba parts, super glue, or protein powder. As sure as I was going to check the box for “checkout”, Tony and Lady were going to bounce up to tell me, “Eric, new for you!” It wasn't new. And frankly, an 88-year old guy with makeup by himself is not disconcerting, and a 28-year old pop star with a curly black wig and makeup is not disturbing, but together, staring at you, calling you by name, it is disconcerting, disturbing, and downright scary. For months, this went on, but as the sale date of the recording approached, Amazon figured they had given it their best shot, and eventually, the popups stopped.
Sometimes they just send me an email. You know, maybe I missed the popup or something.
Then came a Wall Street Journal article about the recording, together with an interview with Lady Gaga. It talked about how it came to be that Lady Gaga sings jazz, not only with Tony Bennett, but also that she wants to release at least one solo jazz album every year “forever”. It talked about the odd pairing of the two, how Tony ended up wearing different performance outfits, and how Lady Gaga was able to tap into some previously unheard part of herself, thanks entirely to Tony Bennett’s encouragement. Suddenly, everything made sense. I shared the article with Mrs. S who just asked, “So, are you going to buy the CD?” Of course, the answer was ‘yes’. I pre-ordered the CD. Amazon knew exactly what I wanted before I even knew I wanted it. In fact, they knew I wanted it, before I even really understood what it was. Some would say that is scarier than the faces on the popups. I, however, am oddly relieved to know a company can generate a computer program that knows me and my intentions better than I do. I’m almost happy about it. No, I AM happy about it!

From now on, if I have any question about anything in my life, I think I will just ask Amazon.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Something new for a change

Because of my position as an influential (?) writer about jazz, I occasionally get promotional materials and notices from jazz musicians, agents and music companies asking me to let my readers know about their latest musician, song, band, or whatever. When I first started blogging, I was very accommodating and was generally quite diligent about writing up what they let me know about. For some reason, however, at some point, I got away from doing that with any regularity.

Well, now I’m getting back to it, starting with Marcus Goldhaber.

Photo courtesy of Marcus Goldhaber and Randex Communications
Truth be told, I've had my eye on this guy for about two years now, as he was performing in New York close to when I visited there and I had a bunch of jazz clubs on my radar. I've always liked his voice and he usually has a great set of musicians behind him, sometimes some really big names. Of course, he’s also a composer and the musicality of his original tunes is as good as anybody in jazz right now. But what’s really appealing about Mr. Goldhaber’s latest offering, “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening”, is that he mixes in five original songs with seven standards that are not performed as often as they should be. The mix is dynamic and gives Mr. Goldhaber ample opportunity to display his chops. Is just as pleasant a listening experience as male vocal jazz gets.

That said, what really puts this recording over the top for me is the backing musicians, and especially, the pianist. (Yes, I’m a pianist, so I’m biased.) Jon Davis (who co-arranged with Mr. Goldhaber) has a light touch on the piano, with a quick turn of phrase or chord voicing to relieve or boost the sentimentality, whichever and whenever needed. Mr. Davis also has a critical role in bringing cohesiveness with two different bassists and drummers. Even so, he’s always able to hint at relaxation without becoming lounge-ified. This is exemplified in the middle tracks of “No Moon At All”, where the piano takes second stage to the bass, but pushes the song right back to a bluesy stroll when he gets his solo, which is then followed by the Irving Berlin classic “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails”, taken at a mellow pace with the piano right out front. I’m in awe of Mr. Davis, but I applaud Mr. Goldhaber for picking him to work on these tracks. It all just works.

The recording comes out on October 14. If you’re looking for some good male vocal jazz that sounds original both in compositions and performance, put  “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening” on your shopping list. It’s worth the price of admission.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A look at Ralph Ellison looking at jazz

I’m not sure how I could have gotten through an upright American Catholic high school, and then have spent 21 years in seven different schools getting a bachelor’s degree in business and never have read one of America’s greatest writers of the 20th century, Ralph Waldo Ellison. I’m sure some sort of black white thing played into it, but whatever, you can just put him in the pile of things, along with jazz, that took me forty or more years to discover, but aren’t we glad I finally did.

What led me to Ellison was the Ken Burns documentary on jazz, which excerpted some of his essays on the subject of America’s music. No surprise to learn also that Ellison stopped focusing on music to start focusing on writing. That, too, has many parallels, as an ear for language certainly can and often does breed an ear for music, and vice versa.
Ellison wrote A LOT. This 860 page anthology is just a "small" sampling of his work.
Having gotten through the first part of the anthology, where the antiquated word “Negro” appears about seven thousand times in 200 pages, I’m now in the heart of a chunk of essays about music, musicians, singers, and jazz. I’m enjoying it much more than the Negro bits. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read, and I’m learning a lot about black American culture in the 1940’s and 50’s. It’s just tiring to me. (Maybe that’s why they don’t teach it in high school?)

Ellison is a fascinating and incredibly insightful writer, and he has a turn of phrase about him that is unique, as if he developed it and practiced it, just like some technique on a sax or trumpet. Here’s a small sample:
I tell you this to point out that although there were no incentives to write, there was ample opportunity to receive an artistic discipline. Indeed, once one picked up an instrument it was difficult to escape. If you chafed at the many rehearsals of the school band or orchestra and were drawn to the small jazz groups, you were likely to discover that the jazzmen were apt to rehearse far more than the school band; it was only that they seemed to enjoy themselves more, and to possess a freedom of imagination which we were denied at school.
Labor Day is a godsend to me. I shall spend the day playing the piano and reading Ellison. I think those two activities will make me feel pretty good about not working today.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back to facing the music

 I'm still working on the listening guides in Jazz Styles, a book that (except for the listening guides) I just finished reading recently. I've also added a bunch of interesting chunks of musical history to my collection, that I thought I would brag, er, write about.

I like the early pictures of Duke, because he doesn't show all the weariness of 50 years in the music business that his later pictures do. Just a happy, confident musician.
The top of that heap is the 3 CD set of Early Ellington: The Original Decca Recordings. This is an increasingly rare set that could be had on Amazon and E-bay forever, but almost always at ridiculous prices. So, when I happened to be surfing around and found one for less than $20, I was all over it. I really consider it a cornerstone of my collection, even though I've only had it for a few days. Of course, Mrs. S put it on for me the other night as our dinner background music, and she quickly thanked me when I walked right over to the iPad and put something else on. "I thought you wanted to listen to it," she said. I told her simply, that's music to study while listening to it, not to eat dinner. She said, "Well, thank God." Which is not to say there's anything wrong with the music, just, it's old, and it really takes a lot of focus and energy for a person living in the 21st century to listen to.

A subdued and simple piece of cover art, oddly compelling, that requires a second look, and then a third, just like Haig's music. 
Next is Al Haig's Will-O-The-Wisp, a collection of four ten-inch LP's from the '50's. This can actually be played during dinner to no great detriment, but it too is music I bought to study. I didn't know it, but Al Haig really is the grandfather of post-bop piano (Bud Powell fans: please give me a break on that one), and because of his work with the bop masters, he really laid the groundwork for a lot of the great pianists that were to come, like McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, Ramsey Lewis, Ahmad Jamal and others. I find Haig's simple statements quite attractive because they are approachable to untalented players of little skill, like myself, making a decent sound not only attainable, but manageable.

How do you take a tax-deductible trip to France: Record your latest CD while you're there!
Then, speaking of Ahmad Jamal and getting some music we could listen to, we picked up the latest by "armadillo", as he's known in our house. ("Ahmad Jamal" in spoken Japanese sounds remarkably like "armadillo".) As I've indicated in my side bar: "It’s scary to think that Ahmad Jamal has been playing jazz piano for something like 20 years longer than I’ve even been alive. Maybe that’s why he sounds as good as he does. His original compositions also have a way of sneaking into your head for long periods of time, which means the best solution is to just put him on the iPad and leave him on." His music is just a joy.

Ah, it feels good to write about music again. I must do more of this in the very near future.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Some jazz reading

Lately, I've been reading a lot about jazz. Today I finished what turned out to be one of the best books about jazz that I've ever read, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis. It looks at the history of jazz through the styles and performers down through the years, which when you get right down to it, really is what has defined jazz. As it gets closer to modern times, things start to get blurry and the lines dividing jazz from other types of music that are called “jazz” start to break down. I suppose that part of it has to do with we are still defining those styles so we don’t quite have a handle on whether it really is part of a category we tend to lump it into in the moment.
Actual scan of my actual copy. Notice the dog eared edges.
The other great thing about this book is it comes with a set of CD’s to illustrate the styles and musicians. They were hard to track down used and they are too expensive to buy new, as is this book, but I still managed to find a set for under $20. And, because the book is a textbook, if you pick up an older edition (like mine, the ninth, two editions older than current), you save a ton of money and sacrifice almost no content. (I mean, seriously, what historic jazz has happened in the last five years? That’s right. Nothing.)

My sole complaint about the book is I found it a little superficial in exploring the musicians’ lives and lifestyles. True that you can illustrate jazz history through jazz styles without getting into where the musicians were born, or what influenced their life outlook to make them as great as they were, or why they died so young, or all that, but personally, I wanted to know a little more. Still, I guess we should applaud the author for knowing what to include and what to leave out. I mean, he managed to write a book about jazz history without using the word “heroin”.

Not sure if I’m going to read Ralph Ellison or another history book next, but the education continues.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Your brain on jazz: a not so sudden realization

I was driving to work the other day and some dumb-ass pulled out in front of me and proceeded to make a right turn about 400 feet up the road, keeping me at about 20 m.p.h. on a 55 speed limit road, all when there was nobody behind me for at least a mile (because that’s how far you can see down this particular road that I drive on every morning). A few years ago, a stunt like that would have made me give you the finger, probably a honk of the horn, and maybe even a flash of the brights. This particular day, I didn't even react, other than to note that I was not reacting to something that would normally have badly pissed me off.

Last year, when we were putting up new blinds and installing hardwood floors throughout the house, I was nervous that things wouldn't turn out well, but I consoled myself with the thought that, if anything didn't work out, we could always buy another solution. Maybe it would be a waste of money, but if it was, so what? It’s just money. So, when one of the new blinds ended up being not quite right, did I storm back to the store and demand a refund? Nope. I just put it up, fixed it as best I could and left it, and will wait for a better solution at some point in the future. It doesn't bother me a bit.

At work, some of the staff have been decorating the office with cheesy pictures, plastic plants and new modular furniture, all in anticipation of the boss’s arrival for a visit this Thursday. In the past, I would rant, make comments, and generally try to undermine their efforts. I would lecture them about how we are running a business, this isn't your house, and quit wasting the company’s money on that junk. Now, I actually helped them hang a bunch of pictures and I assembled their furniture for them. Yes, I made a few comments about my potential bonus being wasted, but nothing biting or acerbic.

As all this has been happening, I stopped and asked myself: What gives? What happened to the driven, obsessive, get-it-right-at-all-costs me that I was so used to? Why am I so calm and why is my short temper now so long (if it exists at all)? In short, what happened to the real me?

I look different, but feel the same.
I think certainly age figures into it. At 50, you begin to see how much closer you are to your mortality as opposed to your nativity. Small things fade away to nothing, big things fade to small things, and life is much easier. But I don’t think that’s all there is to it. I honestly think that listening to jazz and playing the piano with a mind to play jazz music has rewired me. Since taking up jazz seven years ago, I realize that I get excited playing the piano. I’m happy just looking at my baby grand. I’m fascinated by pieces of music I haven’t heard before, or subtleties and nuances in songs I’m well familiar with that I didn't notice before. I don’t just think “cool”, I feel “cool”. Putting on one of my hats makes me look jazzy, and that makes me feel, I don't know. Free, maybe? Music has released me from the tedium of working in a factory and gives me a specific thing to look forward to at the end of each day, whether I’m going to a concert, going to a piano lesson, or just going home to dinner with Wynton Marsalis or Bill Evans playing in the background. Pull out in front of me and slow me down, that’s a few more minutes to explore Milestones or Maiden Voyage. Set me up with some appliance to install or a garage to clean or a bookshelf to build, the iPad and speakers will be Blowin’ the Blues Away, unless I need to Take Five. Decorate the office with some plastic bamboo, and I will forget all about it when I’m looking at the clarinet I’m going to hang on my wall at home. I’m the new Alfred Neuman: What, me worry?

I really believe that jazz has completely changed my brain and the way it works, which in turn has changed my life. If you don’t want to sweat the small stuff, try some Ellington or Basie. Like the guy on that commercial says, “It worked for me!”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

At the tender age of 50, my first ever song request played on the radio

 A couple of days ago, I took off work in order to escort Mrs. S to a concert in Nashville. Any day I don’t go to work is a good day, and any day I don’t go to work for a reason related to music is even better. Which is to say, I wasn't excited about driving four hours round trip to hear Il Volo, three young Italian guys sing “Memory” with a Placido Domingo take, but, I was looking to make the best of it and enjoy myself anyway. On the way up to Nashville, we were listening to Real Jazz on Sirius XM, and the DJ Mark Ruffin said he was going to play something from Roy Hargrove. Here’s where my story begins.

Il Volo: European suits, big hair, Italian shoes, and they can sing. What's not to like? Photo © Mrs. S.
When the song came on, the radio displayed “My Shining Hour” and “Roy Hargrove”. The song, however, was Milestones. Even Mrs. S, who is not all that good with the names of jazz songs but who likes “Milestones” looked at the radio with a quizzical look. “That’s Milestones”, I said. She said, yeah, what’s going on? Now, the song that was on the radio was really hot. It had some of the best solos I’d ever heard on Miles’ modal tune, and the piano work was fan-freaking-tastic. I told Mrs. S I had to have it, she agreed, and said it should be easy to find on Amazon or Google.

The next morning, I tried mightily to find a Roy Hargrove version of Milestones, but what I could find was not that song. (By the way, on my way to work, Real Jazz played “My Shining Hour” by John Roney – another coincidence.) I told Mrs. S of my travails, and she tried to work her Internet magic, but in the end, she couldn't find it either. I told her I was going to call Sirius and talk to the DJ and sort it out, because I figured they had made a mistake and would be able to direct me to the recording.

So, I waited until about 20 minutes into Mark Ruffin’s time slot, then gave the request line a ring. A human answered the phone: “Real Jazz”. I was momentarily stunned. “Real Jazz,” he said again. I sputtered something about making a request. He said, “Sure. Watcha wanna hear?” I told him I wasn't sure but it was a song Mark Ruffin had played the day before, it said Roy Hargrove My Shining Hour, but it was Milestones, definitely Milestones, and I really wanted to hear it again, but I also wanted to know who played on the track. “Okay. Hold on.” I waited about twenty seconds and when the guy came back on, he told me what he knew about that track. By this time,  I could tell it actually was Mark Ruffin, as he started to sound like himself and my shock had tapered off. I asked if he was Mark and he said, yeah. And I said, I didn't think you would answer your own phones, and he said, I do everything, man. I said, well thanks for the info, but you know, that song is Milestones. He said, hold on. Came back, said, You know, the record company f***ed up, because, the track says My Shining Hour, but you’re right, it’s Milestones, so yeah, the record company f***ed up. (I love talking with jazz people. We all talk normally, and the same language, literally.) I thanked him for the information and asked that if he could play my request, to play it between 5:30 and 6:00, because that’s when I’d be in the car. I told him I was calling from Madison Alabama, and he said, okay man, thanks, and I said thank you.

So, I’m driving to my piano lesson, and Mark’s playing one Horace Silver song after another. Uh-oh. Something going on, either it’s Horace’s birthday or he died, or something. Sure enough, it gets to seven minutes before Mark goes off and he comes on the air and says, as close as I can remember it, “It’s a sad day today in the jazz world, as the great Horace Silver has passed away. You just heard a few of Horace’s greatest songs, and Les Davis is up at the top of the hour and he’s going to play a lot more of Horace Silver’s music for you, as we've had a number of requests, but before I go, I have one more request that I can’t ignore from a listener in Madison Alabama. I had a great conversation with this guy, and he wanted to hear some Roy Hargrove, so here it is. Swing safely, this Wednesday.” And, he did, in fact, play Milestones by Roy Hargrove, although it was different from the version I was talking about and was just called “Miles”. But still, it was what I asked for.

I don't know the exact song, but something from this album woke us this morning, the day after Mr. Silver's death. 
And this morning, our alarm clock that plays from an iPod with most of our jazz collection loaded on it went off at 5AM on the dot with – wait for it – a song by Horace Silver.

It couldn't be clearer to me: I need to put jazz and music at the center of my life from now on.

And the day we lost Horace Silver, was, indeed, a sad day, even if I did get my request played. Thanks, Mark and thank you, Sirius XM. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How long does it take me to learn a song? (Part two: Reset and an announcement)

So, for those of you who've been waiting to hear me stumble my way through "The Jitterbug Waltz" again, I have an announcement:

Forget that.

Oh, yes, I can play the song much better than the video I posted almost two months ago, I promise you that, but, I can't play it all the way through at performance level. Add to that, if I were to play it on video with my digital piano, you'd hear more of the clunking of the keys than the sound of the piano anyway. So, I'm going to remedy that. To do so, I bought this:

My Yamaha C1X, still in the piano professor's office at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Yes. Two weeks shy of four years after I started my quest to buy a "real" piano, I have purchased one. It's a Yamaha C1X, less than a year old, which means it is sold as new and warranted for ten years. It's a slight downgrade in model from what I wanted (C1 instead of C3), but it's a slight upgrade in line (Conservatory 'X' series instead of just Conservatory). It will be delivered on Thursday. 

On Thursday night, my life will begin to change.

And after I get my piano, I will pick another piece, start from scratch, and then we'll see for real, how long it takes me to learn a song.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How long does it take me to learn a song? (Part one)

So, I decided to expose myself. Not that way. I'm going to record myself learning to play a song. It won't be easy, but it might just be some motivation for me to not take forever and a day to learn a simple tune. Today, March 30, is day one. Here's a video of me having a look at The Jitterbug Waltz, by Thomas "Fats" Waller. Turn up your sound, because my video shooting is even worse than my piano playing.

Like I said, we've got a long way to go.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Francoise Sagan, Frank Zappa, Bart Simpson, and other great philosophers' quotes on jazz

Here's a rehash of my October 28, 2009 blog entry. It's worth putting up again, I think.

It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It's not. It's feeling. ~Bill Evans

…cartoons [are] America's only native art form. I don't count jazz because it sucks. ~Bart Simpson

Bart Simpson
No America, no jazz. I've seen people try to connect it to other countries, for instance to Africa, but it doesn't have a damn thing to do with Africa. ~Art Blakey

One thing I like about jazz, kid, is you don't know what's going to happen next. Do you? ~Bix Beiderbecke

For me, music and life are all about style. ~Miles Davis

If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know. ~Louis Armstrong

If you can't play the blues, you might as well hang it up. ~Dexter Gordon

Jazz is not dead – it just smells funny. ~Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa
I think I was supposed to play jazz. ~Herbie Hancock

The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician. ~Louis Armstrong

Life is a lot like jazz – it's best when you improvise. ~George Gershwin

Those jazz guys are just makin' that stuff up! ~Homer Simpson

Jazz and love are the hardest things to describe from rationale. ~Mel Torme

Jazz is an intensified feeling of nonchalance. ~Francoise Sagan
Francoise Sagan
There is no such thing as a wrong note. ~Art Tatum

If you find a note tonight that sounds good, play the same damn note every night. ~Count Basie

Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can't understand it. It's too complicated. That's what's so simple about it. ~Yogi Berra

Men have died for this music. You can't get more serious than that. ~Dizzy Gillespie

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kyle Eastwood's First Trip to Alabama

Serious fans of Clint Eastwood, and probably a good many not so serious fans of Clint, know what a jazz fanatic he is. They know he frequents jazz clubs, has an extensive rare jazz record collection, has directed movies about jazz, and just generally has been a supporter of America’s music. Less well known is that he has a son, Kyle Eastwood, who is an accomplished jazz bassist, composer, and performer in his own right. With the benefit of Sirius XM radio, I have known about Mr. Kyle Eastwood for some time, and though I've always enjoyed his music, I wouldn't say I was a fan or follower of his. Nonetheless, when I found out the famous movie star’s son who calls Paris home would be in Alabama to give a concert, and there was an opportunity for a meet and greet for VIP ticket holders, I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to try to take in the concert. Unfortunately, I had an off-shift 4:30 AM meeting scheduled for the morning after the concert, so I was not sure expending the energy and effort was a worthwhile pursuit, but after Mrs. S saw a couple promotional picks of the good looking Kyle, she started pushing. I decided to at least call around and find out what I could about getting tickets.

Having a nice chat while I make Mr. Eastwood do some work.
So first, I called local chamber of commerce sponsoring the event. They had no idea about the VIP package and thought the tickets were $175 each. They directed me to the tourism board who also had no clue about the VIP package. They did, however, know the promoter (lady) who set up the concert. Turns out she knew Morgan Freeman, Morgan Freeman knew Clint Eastwood, and Clint knew his son (obviously). Anyway, she was able to give me the lowdown on the tickets, and through a stroke of good fortune, she was eating at a restaurant only ten minutes from my house the following night, saving me a two hour round trip drive just to go and buy the tickets. We were set for our next star musician meet and greet.

Eric, Kyle, and Mrs. S. Why they made him stand in front of a garage door for the photo op is completely beyond me. For the retouched version with a nice background, visit Mrs. S's Facebook page.
Juggling my schedule, we were able to make the one-hour drive late on Wednesday afternoon and enjoyed a sushi dinner near where the concert was being held, on the campus of the University of North Alabama. We arrived at the auditorium early enough to be ninth and tenth in the line, but still had to wait around for 30 minutes while everything got organized. Kyle is a very cool guy. I was the only one who brought CD’s (3) to have signed, and he was quite surprised. (“Wow. You've got a lot.”) We chatted about how his blue shirt matched my tie, and I thanked him profusely for making the trip to Alabama. He was very personable and pleasant.

Kyle Eastwood in concert. (Photo © Mrs. S)
The concert had one very good country western opening act (duo), then a blues trio that was excellent. They played way too long, though, as no one was really there to hear blues and a little blues guitar (E-A-E-B-A-E, etc. etc. etc.) goes a long way. Then came a four man jazz trio, and they played a great version of “Blue Bossa” and the piano player, Harvey Thomspon, satisfied the crowd with a nice rendition of “Last Date”, among their four tunes. Then came Kyle.

One of the worst and one of the best piano players in north Alabama, me and Harvey Thompson.
He has a great band, with two horn players, piano, drums, and him on bass. He also played all his good songs, mostly the opening tracks from his last three albums. He was extremely talented and capable. He didn't show up at the after party and nothing at the after party was included with the ticket, so that was a bust. We drove the hour and ten minute drive home and got to bed by 1AM, and two hours and forty minutes later, I woke up to go to work. Was it worth it? Sure it was, but I’m getting too old for this. Making arrangements for and getting to and from these spur of the moment concerts will be much easier when I’m retired. I look forward to my next career as a jazz musician and music writer.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Some encouragement from a famous concert pianist and international recording star

Last week, Mrs. S suggested I accompany her to the Huntsville Chamber Music Guild’s penultimate concert of the year, featuring pianist Emanuel Ax. Interestingly enough, I had never heard of the guy until a few weeks before, when Mrs. S was telling me about Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music having over 200 Steinway grand pianos. I didn't think that was possible, so I did what any normal person would do. I Googled it. It turned out to be true, but then I thought, well, if Jacobs has that many, I wonder how many Juilliard has. Turns out they have over 250 Steinway grands (and 6 full time piano technicians). While “researching” that, I happened to glance at the Juilliard piano faculty listing, and that’s where I saw Emanuel Ax’s name. So, when the missus invited me to his concert, I was in.

The concert was quite good. As you would expect of an old Polish guy, he played a lot of old Euopean (German) music:  Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, but also some modern pieces, including a suite of pieces written to be played in between some Brahms pieces. He was signing CD’s after the concert, and Mrs. S, who is usually replete with the concert star’s CD’s in the event there is an autograph session was fresh out of Emanuel Ax CD’s. (Most of the ones she had were concertos with Yo Yo Ma, anyway, so he might not have been so thrilled to sign those in the first place.) 
Grammy winner Emanuel Ax signs a pair of CDs for me.
So we bought two CD’s to have signed. Mr. Ax was very pleasant and cordial. When I asked for a photo because I am a budding pianist, he said, “Oh, sure! Of course. That’s great. That’s great.” We took the photo and I shook his hand, and even with a line of people still behind me and my shared moment with him over, he took the time to add, “You should continue to pursue the piano by all means and I wish you well!” 

Would you take advice from this man? Of course you would! 
I’m pretty sure I've never heard any such words of encouragement that were more sincere. The look in his eyes was unwavering and clear: Playing the piano is a thing worth doing. You may think you are old and you may have a long way to go, but you should do it, … by all means.

Thank you very much Mr. Ax. I think I will.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Take your brain back thirty years

Here’s an updated review of a book I skimmed through a few years back and have since revisited and read cover-to-cover in the last month.

Although The 101 Best Jazz Albums is getting quite long in tooth, I still found it to be one of the most useful and interesting looks at jazz records, possibly second only to Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. (Or maybe third after Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of jazz, although that, too, is getting quite dated and as an "encyclopedia", is not a "sit down and read" type of book.) Still, as a study of jazz and jazz recordings, 101 Best has a lot of value and impact, in part because it was written so long ago, before CD’s and way before MP3’s, iTunes, and the digital music era. So, when Mr. Lyons says something like, “This was a great recording that, sadly, (some record company) has decided to take out of its catalog”, the reader can discount such comments and although one maybe can’t assume it’s available somewhere, you can still fire up Google and maybe track down a vinyl, or even digital, copy. So, if you’re using this book as a buying guide, it becomes a little tricky, but if you’re using this just to learn about the history of jazz through records, this book is unparalleled.

The author breaks the book down chronologically, but as most historians and jazz fans will know, dividing up jazz chronologically leads to easy divisions of the kind of jazz being talked about. So, in Mr. Lyons’s telling you end up with (roughly) Pre-1920: Ragtime, Dixieland; 1920’s: swing; 1930’s: big band, dance; 1940’s: swing to be-bop; 1950’s: bop and post-bop; 1960’s: modal; 1970’s: fusion; later than that: free jazz. Again, roughly. In addition to the 101 albums cited in the book, Mr. Lyons makes mention of many other albums that were recorded, either as precursors to the ones mentioned in the text, or as follow ups. He is careful, also, to provide some reflection and analysis on the impact the recordings had on the artists’ careers and their overall outlook on jazz. There are black and white graphics of the albums that are called out, and there’s a section of black and white photos of some of the more famous musicians during their more “impactful” sessions. (Serious jazz fans will have seen most of these photos before.) Sometimes the author allows himself to get a little subjective, and there were a few (just a few) times where he made what I thought were rather personal statements and comments that really had no place in discussion of the recording or were just plain wrong. But everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and this is Mr. Lyons’ book, so I’m willing to look past that and move on to the next discussion. (Plus it was fun to read what the author thought about, for example, Miles Davis’ hiatus and what sort of music Miles might break into in the twilight of his career – before he died, of course.)

I like this book for how it ties the history of jazz to the recordings that were made over the years, and I like how it weaves together the recordings, players, studios and producers to give an overall tapestry of the business of jazz recordings from its inception to the modern day (in the late 1970’s, mind you). It provides lots of ideas and suggestions for adding to one’s jazz music collection, and for fans of specific genres of jazz, it provides a lot of ideas for introduction of, study of, and listening to genres with which the reader might not be so familiar. For whatever reason you choose to read this book, it’s a clear and open window to some interesting jazz history, so even in its dotage, I give it five stars. (If this were my Amazon review...)