Book Reviews
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New this month:
"LOFT JAZZ: IMPROVISING NEW YORK IN THE 1970s" (by Michael C. Heller)
In the 1970s, many free jazz musicians were unable to find gigs in mainstream clubs. With new zoning regulations in Manhattan, many of the old factories in lower downtown were available as cheap living and performing spaces. The term "loft jazz" was used to describe this esoteric music, even though the moniker was quite inaccurate. Thomas Cunniffe reviews Michael C. Heller's new monograph on the period, noting that Heller brings the era to life, but neglects to discuss the most important element: the music.

Previous reviews (in alphabetical order by last name of author):
"THE LAST BALLADEER: THE JOHNNY HARTMAN STORY" (by Gregg Akkerman)
Most jazz fans know the vocalist Johnny Hartman for his intensely romantic album with John Coltrane. In his new Hartman biography, "The Last Balladeer", Gregg Akkerman sorts through all of the myths about this misunderstood singer. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the results.

"THE JAZZ OF PHYSICS" (by Stephon Alexander)
The liberal arts and the sciences may not be as far apart as you think. In his new book, "The Jazz of Physics", physicist and jazz musician Stephon Alexander finds remarkable connections between improvised music and the laws of the natural world. As Thomas Cunniffe notes in his book review, Alexander's dense text is sometimes slow-going, but it leads to a group of astonishing theories. 

"FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: INTERVIEWS WITH WOMEN IN JAZZ" (by Chris Becker)
When the sub-category of Women in Jazz first appeared in the 1970s, female jazz musicians were still a rarity. Today, women musicians represent a substantial part of the jazz scene, and the sub-category has started to lose its relevance. In this book review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that Freedom of Expression, a new collection of interviews with female jazz musicians, seems to be  more about the struggles of self-marketing music and less about the unique qualities of jazz women.

"JOE WILDER: SOFTLY WITH FEELING" (by Edward Berger)
Neither jazz historian Ed Berger nor trumpeter Joe Wilder were prone to publicize their own triumphs, but a few years ago, Berger realized that Wilder's story needed to be told. "Softly With Feeling" is a lovingly-written and meticulously-researched biography which chronicles Wilder's career, including his breakthroughs in integrating studio and symphonic orchestras. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the biography.

"LOUIS ARMSTRONG: MASTER OF MODERNISM" (by Thomas Brothers)
In one of the finest books ever written on the subject, Thomas Brothers' "Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism" examines Armstrong's pioneering work from 1922-1931. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the volume, noting Brothers' free use of the race card, but praising his method of humanizing Armstrong. 

"LEARNING TO LISTEN" (by Gary Burton)
From his start as a child prodigy in Indiana through his long dual career of musician and educator, Gary Burton has been an important force in jazz for the past five decades. His new autobiography, "Learning to Listen" tells of his career, his sexuality and, as Thomas Cunniffe notes in this review, an eloquent chapter on the creative process.

"GIRL SINGER" (by Mick Carlon)
Educator and author Mick Carlon has found a unique way to introduce young people to jazz. He writes novels which juxtapose adolescent fictional characters with realistic portrayals of past jazz masters. His first two books featured Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, and in his new novel, "Girl Singer", he explores the worlds of the Count Basie Orchestra and Nazi concentration camps. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book. 

"RIDING ON DUKE'S TRAIN" & "TRAVELS WITH LOUIS" (by Mick Carlon)
One of the greatest challenges in keeping jazz alive is introducing its most famous artists to children. The music programs in public schools rarely delve into jazz history, and music appreciation classes are usually only available to high schoolers. English teacher Mick Carlon may have found a solution to this problem with his jazz-themed novels for young adults. Thomas Cunniffe reviews two of these volumes in this month's Book Review.

"PEPPER ADAMS' JOY ROAD" (by Gary Carner)
For author Gary Carner, chronicling the work and music of baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams has become a lifetime career. In the past months, Carner has released an enormous amount of material, including an annotated discography, and a digital box set containing new versions of Adams' 43 compositions. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the collected materials in this month's Book Review.

DAMERONIA: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF TADD DAMERON (by Paul Combs)
While Tadd Dameron's music has been beloved by jazz aficionados for decades, the details of his life and work remain quite elusive. "Dameronia", a new book by Paul Combs, includes a persuasive argument for Dameron as a chief architect of bebop harmony, but as Thomas Cunniffe points out in his book review, Combs omits any discussion of Dameron's unique voice-leading techniques.

"LATE LIFE JAZZ: THE LIFE & CAREER OF ROSEMARY CLOONEY" (by Ken Crossland & Malcolm MacFarlane)
Rosemary Clooney was never truly a jazz vocalist, but she maintained a close association with jazz musicians in the last 25 years of her life. It made her a better singer, and her career experienced an artistic renaissance like few others. Thomas Cunniffe reviews "Late Life Jazz", a new biography that, despite its title, discusses Clooney's entire life and career.

"BIRD LORE"
Charlie Parker's life story has been so clouded with legends, exaggerations and half-truths, that biographies about the bebop genius have explored his life from a number of directions. In this month's Book Review, Thomas Cunniffe examines wildly different Bird biographies  by Chuck Haddix and Stanley Crouch.

MARIAN McPARTLAND: "SHALL WE PLAY THAT ONE TOGETHER" (by Paul de Barros)
Marian McPartland is a survivor. At 95, she has outlived her contemporaries, and has only recently retired from performing and broadcasting. Paul de Barros' new biography "Shall We Play That One Together" offers a thorough history of McPartland's life and work, written with the full cooperation of the lady herself. Thomas Cunniffe presents his reactions to the volume in this month's Book Review.

"GETTING DOWN TO BRASS TACKS" (by Amy Duncan)
Amy Duncan has achieved fame both as a pianist and a journalist. A former writer for the Christian Science Monitor (and Jazz History Online), she has penned her autobiography "Getting Down To Brass Tacks", which tells of her experiences living in Boston, New York and Rio de Janeiro. Thomas Cunniffe offers his views on this funny and enlightening book.

"MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE MUSIC" (by Bruce Epperson)
Because so much of jazz history lies within the grooves of phonograph records, discography—the science of cataloging and detailing those records—is an important part of the historical canon. Up until now, the story of jazz discographers was told only in brief articles and offhand summaries, but Bruce Epperson’s new book “More Important than the Music”  provides a thorough history of the discography. Thomas Cunniffe offers his reactions.

"PLAYBOY SWINGS" (by Patty Farmer and Will Friedwald)
As Hugh Hefner conceived it, the Playboy lifestyle had jazz as its soundtrack. Hefner promoted the music through his magazine, festivals, television shows and the Playboy clubs. A new book by Patty Farmer and Will Friedwald, "Playboy Swings" recounts the history of Playboy's forays into the entertainment world. In his book review, Thomas Cunniffe writes that the book offers a unique perspective on its subject, but could have used better editing and a general rewrite.

"PARIS BLUES" (by Andy Fry)
Did French audiences and critics really understand jazz and its creators better than Americans? Author Andy Fry thinks not, and in his new book, Paris Blues, he refutes those stories with dramatic new research. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe admires Fry's research, but wishes that the book would have been more comprehensive.

"BETTER GIT IT IN YOUR SOUL" (by Krin Gabbard)
Charles Mingus was many things: a virtuoso bassist, a brilliant composer, an intriguing author, and a great personality. In his new "interpretive" biography "Better Get It In Your Soul", Krin Gabbard separates Mingus' different elements. Thomas Cunniffe notes the strengths and weaknesses of Gabbard's approach, as well as the connections to Mingus' autobiography "Beneath the Underdog" in this Book Review.

"IS THAT ALL THERE IS?: THE STRANGE LIFE OF PEGGY LEE" (by James Gavin)
From the beginning of her 6-decade career, Peggy Lee was the personification of understatement. Her subtle vocal delivery said more with one note that most singers did with several, and on film, she could entice the entire audience with only a raised eyebrow. James Gavin's new biography, "Is That All There Is" examines Lee's life and music. In his Book Review, Thomas Cunniffe argues that because the book's primary focus is on Lee's personal life, it might discourage new fans from exploring her music.

"BEING PREZ: THE LIFE & MUSIC OF LESTER YOUNG" (by Dave Gelly)
It would be hard to imagine Lester Young being anything except a jazz musician. His music was so emotionally transparent that it was easy to tell his mood just by the sound of his improvisations. Dave Gelly's biography "Being Prez" is the first book to discuss Young's life and music side by side. As Thomas Cunniffe notes in his book review, the lack of new revelations about Young are balanced by Gelly's insightful connections between Young's life and music. 

"BLOWIN' HOT AND COOL" (by John Gennari)
No one ever became a jazz critic to be popular. Musicians reserve their strongest (and usually negative) opinions for those who earn their living publishing their viewpoints on the music. However, history shows us that critics have played a valuable role in the music’s development. John Gennari's book Blowin' Hot and Cool is the first full-fledged history of jazz criticism. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book, finding both strengths and flaws in the author's approach.

"HOW TO LISTEN TO JAZZ" (by Ted Gioia)
The title of Ted Gioia's new book might strike many long-time jazz fans as too elementary for their needs. However, JHO book reviewer Thomas Cunniffe asserts that "How to Listen to Jazz" should be required reading for all jazz fans, because Gioia proves that the best way to revitalize our own passions for jazz is to share the music with others. Gioia recalls his early experiences with the music, and then applies his thirty years of experience as a critic and historian to clarify and amplify these events.

"THE JAZZ STANDARDS" (by Ted Gioia)
Ted Gioia's new book The Jazz Standards is an invaluable guide to the standard repertoire of working jazz musicians. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the volume, which includes essays on 252 songs by Tin Pan Alley and jazz composers. And if you're wondering why we're featuring this book in a Women in Jazz issue, it's because Gioia recommends recordings by women musicians on nearly every page of the book.

"LOVE SONGS: THE HIDDEN HISTORY" (by Ted Gioia)
Ted Gioia is one of today's finest music historians. Since he usually focuses on American music, it's a little surprising that his latest book "Love Songs" is not limited to modern love songs, but is a comprehensive history of the subgenre going back to the 23rd century BC. Thomas Cunniffe's review states the book contains many fascinating and controversial theories, but that the section on American music should have been expanded. 

CELEBRATING RALPH J. GLEASON
Ralph J. Gleason was a pioneer in music criticism. He published his first reviews in 1934, when he was a student at Columbia University, and by 1950, he was the first full-time jazz critic working for a major newspaper. Gleason's interests extended beyond jazz into comedy, folk, rock and politics. Thomas Cunniffe reviews two new collections of Gleason's work which cover the late journalist's astounding range and perception.

"JIVE COLORED GLASSES" (by John F. Goodman)
Up until a few years ago, John F. Goodman’s best-known work in jazz journalism was his nine-year tenure as the music critic for Playboy magazine. Jazz has been a passion for Goodman ever since his childhood, and in his new self-published memoir, “Jive Colored Glasses” he relates how jazz was a constant part of his life, even when he was not writing about the music. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book.

"THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO DUKE ELLINGTON" (Edited by Edward Green)
Duke Ellington was many things to many people, and a new collection of essays, "The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington", examines Ellington from a diverse and wide-ranging set of approaches. In his Book Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the anthology--which utilizes the work of 20 different authors--is uneven, but worth exploring. 

"POSSIBILITIES" (by Herbie Hancock & Lisa Dickey)
Ask the average jazz musician who he would like to meet, and one likely answer would be Herbie Hancock. From all accounts, Hancock is a friendly warm person with few pretensions. We may not all get our chance to hang out with Herbie, but his autobiography "Possibilities" might be the next best thing.  In a conversational tone, Hancock recalls his work with Miles Davis, his own groups, and offers a few surprising stories. Thomas Cunniffe offers his impressions of the autobiography in this month's Book Review. 

LOUIS ARMSTRONG'S HOT FIVE & HOT SEVEN RECORDINGS (by Brian Harker)
One of the enduring mysteries of jazz history is how Louis Armstrong, with barely a fifth grade education and little exposure to music from outside his hometown, revolutionized virtually every aspect of the music. Thomas Cunniffe reviews a new monograph that answers some of those questions, but raises doubts due to its presentation of the material.

NORMAN GRANZ: THE MAN WHO USED JAZZ FOR JUSTICE" (by Tad Hershorn)
The impact of Norman Granz on the world of jazz can hardly be underestimated. He influenced the way the music is presented both live and in the studio, and he was a trailblazer in the struggle for civil rights. Tad Hershorn's new biography tells of  Granz' accomplishments and failures, and Thomas Cunniffe offers his reactions in our new book review section.

"DAVID BAKER: A LEGACY IN MUSIC" (edited by Monika Herzig)
David Baker, who passed away March 26, 2016 at the age of 84, was one of jazz’s true Renaissance men. Best known as a pioneer of jazz education, Baker was also a musician, author, composer, conductor, historian and activist. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews Monika Herzig's collection of essays, "David Baker: A Legacy in Music", which Cunniffe notes is a book that openly celebrates its subject, but is not always effective in relaying its wealth of information. 

"PRESSED FOR ALL TIME: PRODUCING THE GREAT JAZZ ALBUMS" (by Michael Jarrett)
The role of the jazz producer has evolved considerably in the past 80 years. As recording technology transformed from shellac to vinyl, and then from analog to digital (and back again!), producers accepted increasing responsibilities from editing master tapes to sequencing LPs and CDs. Michael Jarrett's new book "Pressed for all Time" is an oral history of jazz production, and as Thomas Cunniffe notes in his Book Review, the narrative includes several fascinating historical tidbits about iconic jazz albums, but leaves out discussions of several key players.  

JELLY ROLL, BIX AND HOAGY (by Rick Kennedy)
In  the early 1920s, future jazz giants like Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Bix Beiderbecke endured long train rides to record for a tiny company in rural Indiana. Rick Kennedy's newly expanded and revised book "Jelly Roll, Bix and Hoagy" offers the history of Gennett Records with discussions of their jazz, country and blues recordings. Thomas Cunniffe provides his impressions in this month's book review.

WHY JAZZ HAPPENED (by Marc Myers)
Most jazz history books discuss how social and technological advances affected the music, but Marc Myers' book, "Why Jazz Happened" turns that formula on its head, and offers an insightful look into the music business in the process. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the volume in this month's Book Review. 

"WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD" (by Ricky Riccardi)
The second half of Louis Armstrong's career may be the most misunderstood in all of jazz history. In his new book, "What A Wonderful World", author Ricky Riccardi attempts to correct the record. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book.

"HARLEM JAZZ ADVENTURES" (by Timme Rosenkrantz)
Timme Rosenkrantz was a Danish baron with a deep and abiding love for jazz. He spent significant parts of his life in the US, and his memoirs have been translated and collected in the new book "Harlem Jazz Adventures". Thomas Cunniffe reviews the volume in this month's book review.

"THE BARONESS" (by Hannah Rothschild) 
The Baroness Pannonica Rothschild de Koenigswarter was one of a handful of non-musicians who played small but pivotal roles in the history of jazz. The Baroness' great-niece Hannah has researched Nica's story for radio and television documentaries, and has now put her findings in book form. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the volume.

"JAZZ TALES FROM JAZZ LEGENDS" (by Monk Rowe, with Romy Britell)
Over the past several decades, jazz oral history projects have preserved the stories of great musicians. While the Filius Jazz Archive from Hamilton College may not be as well known as other jazz oral history projects, a new book "Jazz Tales from Jazz Legends" reveals that the Filius Archive holds several unique treasures. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book, sales of which support the ongoing work of the archive. 

"OUTSIDE IN" (by Scott Shachter)
Jazz fiction is a rarely-used literary sub-genre, which means the forms are open enough to allow its writers a great deal of flexibility. Scott Shachter's new novel "Outside In" tells the story of a progressive jazz saxophonist and his number one fan. Thomas Cunniffe reviews this funny and engaging book. 

"KEYSTONE KORNER: PORTRAIT OF A JAZZ CLUB" (by Kathy Sloane)
Todd Barkan's  Keystone Korner. was one of San Francisco's premier clubs in the 70s and 80s. In her new book, "Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club", author/photographer Kathy Sloane offers an intimate portrait of the nightspot, complete with a CD of recordings from the club. Chris Coulter reviews the package.

"TUBBY HAYES: THE LONG SHADOW OF THE LITTLE GIANT" (by Simon Spillett)
In a long-awaited biography, British saxophonist and jazz historian Simon Spillett examines the music and life of Tubby Hayes in "The Long Shadow of the Little Giant". Spillett details the development of the British modern jazz scene and Hayes' primary role within it, and also tells of Hayes' addictive tendencies and messy personal life. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe calls this book one of the best biographies he's read in years.

"100% PROOF: THE COMPLETE TUBBY HAYES DISCOGRAPHY" (by Simon Spillett & C. Tom Davis)
In a recording career that spanned 22 years, Tubby Hayes played on nearly 400 different sessions, including broadcast, film and studio appearances. The only job more Herculean than playing all of those sessions is cataloging them. Thomas Cunniffe reviews "100% Proof: The Complete Tubby Hayes Discography", compiled by two of Hayes' most ardent researchers, Simon Spillett and C. Tom Davis.

"BILLIE HOLIDAY: THE MUSICIAN AND THE MYTH" (by John Szwed)
Published in time for Billie Holiday's 100th birthday celebration, John Szwed's new book, "Billie Holiday: The Musician and The Myth" is not a full-length biography, but it reads like notes for one. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that Szwed's in-depth discussion of Holiday's autobiography is in-depth and thorough, but the musical discussions that follow are sketchy and uneven. 

BENNY GOODMAN'S FAMOUS 1938 CARNEGIE HALL JAZZ CONCERT (by Catherine Tackley)
Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the event, Catherine Tackley's monograph, "Benny Goodman's Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert" examines the performance in great detail. As Thomas Cunniffe notes in his book review, Tackley's book might have been more valuable with less musical analysis and more information about the recording's enigmatic history.

"THE JAZZ LIFE OF DR. BILLY TAYLOR" (by Billy Taylor and Teresa L. Reed)
Until shortly before his death in December 2010, Dr. Billy Taylor maintained a busy schedule of concerts, lectures and other live appearances. Unfortunately, that meant that he had little time to write his memoirs. He did work with a ghostwriter, Teresa Reed, but even Reed admits that she did not have adequate time with Taylor. The resulting book, "The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor" has just been published, and Thomas Cunniffe offers his reactions to the volume.

"DUKE: A LIFE OF DUKE ELLINGTON" (by Terry Teachout)
In the weeks following its Terry Teachout's new critical biography "Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington" has unleashed a storm of controversy, including charges of blatant racism. Thomas Cunniffe examines the book, finding strengths in Teachout's exemplary collection of historical facts, and flaws in his basic musical hypothesis.  

"THE BOSWELL LEGACY" (by Kyla TItus)
Don't look now, but the Boswell Sisters are currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity. A recent gathering in New Orleans featured tribute groups from all over the globe, and a new documentary on the Boswells is due to air on PBS in 2015. Unfortunately, none of the sisters are still alive to take part, but Vet Boswell's granddaughter, Kyla Titus, has just self-published a new biography, "Boswell Legacy" that clears up many of the mysteries surrounding the sister's personal and professional histories. Thomas Cunniffe reviews this long-overdue book.