Book Reviews

  • “DAVE BRUBECK: A LIFE IN TIME” (by Philip Clark)
    2020 marks the 100th anniversary of Dave Brubeck's birth. British journalist Philip Clark has written a new biography--written in a non-linear style--which corrects old misconceptions and adds new perspectives to the life and work of this American jazz icon. Thomas Cunniffe offers his reactions in this month's Book Review.
  • “PLAY THE WAY YOU FEEL” (by Kevin Whitehead)/“STARS OF JAZZ” (by James A. Harrod)
    Seen any good jazz films lately? This month's book review features two new volumes on jazz's sometimes uneasy alliance with the screen. Thomas Cunniffe examines Kevin Whitehead's "Play the Way You Feel" and James A. Harrod's "Stars of Jazz".
  • “RABBIT’S BLUES” (by Con Chapman)
    Johnny Hodges was a private man who disliked giving interviews. Self-taught on both alto and soprano saxophones, he was not particularly well-versed on the mechanics of music, and the fear of being asked to explain elements of his personal style may have been his reason for keeping the press at arm’s length. In his new Hodges biography, "Rabbit's Blues", Con Chapman explores many of the stories about the enigmatic saxophonist. However, reviewer Thomas Cunniffe was disturbed by the book's lack of musical discussions, so he has amended this Book Review with five embedded YouTube clips featuring some of Hodges' finest solos.
    Sonny Rollins is rightly considered “the world's greatest living jazz improviser” even though he has been unable to play his tenor saxophone for several years. Yet, very little has been published about Rollins’ personal life. A massive 700+ page biography by Aidan Levy rectifies the situation with pages of previously undocumented information, and an incredible collection of new interviews, including with Rollins. Thomas Cunniffe discusses this important reference work in this Book Review.
  • “SITTIN’ IN: JAZZ CLUBS OF THE 1940s & 1950s” (by Jeff Gold)
    Live music and venues were one of the first casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while some venues are reopening with reduced seating capacity, it may be several months before we can all enjoy an evening at a nightclub. Jeff Gold's new book "Sittin' In" offers an unusual look at the legendary clubs of the past, with rare souvenir photos, menus and handbills. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the timing for this book could not be better.
  • “THE REAL AMBASSADORS” (by Keith Hatschek)
    It has taken 60 years, but the story of Dave and Iola Brubeck's pioneering musical "The Real Ambassadors" has been told in a full-length book. Using vintage interviews and materials from the Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck archives, author Keith Hatschek examines the work in the larger scope of the civil rights movement, as well as the details of the creation, recording and sole performance of the work. There is talk of a film treatment, and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe explores that angle in this Book Review.
  • THE HISTORY OF EUROPEAN JAZZ (edited by Francesco Martinelli)
    Jazz was born in the United States, but its influence spread across the world shortly after it was first recorded. Europe embraced the music, producing their own famous soloists. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the massive reference volume, "The History of European Jazz" (Equinox) and notes that its series of essays on each country's jazz history makes the book seem more like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle than a comprehensive narrative.
  • 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.
  • Being Prez: The Life & Music of Lester Young (by Dave Gelly)
    It would be hard 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 in this Book Review.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Conversations with Bill Holman (edited by Bill Dobbins)
    At the age of 90, Bill Holman is as active as ever, leading his LA-based big band, fulfilling commissions for new compositions and arrangements, and (in the near future) being the subject of a new documentary. Conversations with Bill Holman is the result of a week-long series of interviews conducted by Holman's friend and colleague, Bill Dobbins. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that most of the material is easily accessible to the average educated jazz fan, but that the reader should come in with knowledge of Holman's famous scores.
  • Conversations with Charlie Haden (by Josef Woodard and Charlie Haden)
    Charlie Haden was known for passionate music that encompassed several genres, and his fiery left-wing politics. Over the last two decades of his life, Haden was interviewed several times by writer Josef Woodard. Seventeen of these encounters have been collected in a new book, Conversations with Charlie Haden. Reviewer Thomas Cunniffe writes that the book is quite enlightening, but gets bogged down with numerous retellings of Haden's life story.
  • 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.
  • DAVE BRUBECK’S “TIME OUT” (by Stephen A. Crist)
    Dave Brubeck frequently related the story that the businessmen at Columbia Records fought against the release of “Time Out”, feeling it would be a commercial flop. Fortunately, Brubeck had an important supporter in Columbia’s president, Goddard Lieberson. When the album was released and sales went through the roof, Brubeck was accused of going commercial! A new monograph by Stephen A. Crist examines the history and legacy of Brubeck's signature album. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the book.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Good Things Come Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz (by Fred Hersch)
    Like most autobiographies, “Good Things Happen Slowly” is a story of discovery and identity. However, as the subject is Fred Hersch, this book tells of the more-or-less simultaneous emergence of two distinct (and for some, incongruous) character traits, that of a gay man and of a jazz pianist. Thomas Cunniffe reviews this touching memoir, notable for its candor and understated tone.
  • 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.
  • HEART FULL OF RHYTHM” (by Ricky Riccardi)
    Known amongst his colleagues as "Rickipedia", Ricky Riccardi is the go-to man for all things pertaining to Louis Armstrong. His first Armstrong biography, "What a Wonderful World" reappraised the jazz icon's later years (1947-1971). His newest addition is "Heart Full of Rhythm", which discusses Armstrong's equally-misunderstood big band era (1929-1947). Thomas Cunniffe's review of the new book notes that Riccardi has grown as an author and historian since the earlier volume, and that while he has not lost his enthusiasm for his subject, his arguments are guided by scholarship rather than jingoism.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • JAZZ FROM DETROIT (by Mark Stryker)
    "It takes a village to raise a jazz musician, and one reason Detroit has produced so many front-rank players is that the villagers are as hip as they come." This sentence from Mark Stryker's new book "Jazz from Detroit" is an apt summary of the city's contribution to jazz. In this month's Book Review, Thomas Cunniffe explores Stryker's history, which traces the Motor City jazz scene from the bebop era to the present day.
  • Jazz in China (by Eugene Marlow)
    According to its author, Eugene Marlowe, the first reaction he gets to his pioneering study, Jazz in China, is the question, Is there jazz in China? It has not been an easy road for jazz to flourish in this heavily Communist country, but it has two major periods, one before Mao's reign, and one after. Thomas Cunniffe applauds Marlow's original research and intrepid detective work in documenting this subject, but notes that a further trip to China was necessary to bring the book up-to-date.
    As we enter the 20th year of the 21st century, two new books focus on jazz in the new millennium. In this Book Review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that neither Bill Beuttler's "Make it New" nor Abby Mendelson's "Spirit to Spirit" are perfect books, but they may well become valuable resources for further scholars.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 reveals Wilder's breakthroughs in integrating studio and symphonic orchestras. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the biography.
  • 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.
  • Late Life Jazz (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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Mary Lou Williams was not only the most important female musician in jazz history; she was a major force in the music's development. For the past two decades, Deanna Witkowski has researched Williams' life and music. Thomas Cunniffe reviews Witkowski's new book on Williams' life, and her new CD which features Williams' music.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • ODE TO A TENOR TITAN (by Bill Milkowski)
    Idolized by fellow musicians but ignored by traditional jazz critics, Michael Brecker proved time and again that he was a worthy member of the great jazz tenor legacy. Bill Milkowski, who knew Brecker and understood his importance at the time, has written a new biography "Ode to a Tenor Titan" which documents Brecker's astounding talent and achievements. Thomas Cunniffe offers his reactions in this month's Book Review.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shall We Play That One Together (by Paul DeBarros)
    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.
  • SINGER’S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO TOURING (by Elisabeth Lohninger)
    While universities do a credible job of training young jazz musicians for successful careers, the one course usually missing from the curriculum might be the most beneficial: “The Road 101”. Elisabeth Lohninger comes to the rescue with "Singer's Survival Guide to Touring", a comprehensive guide to life on the road. In his book review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that while the book is designed for vocalists, much of the information is equally applicable to instrumentalists.
  • Sophisticated Giant: The Life & Legacy of Dexter Gordon (by Maxine Gordon)
    The extraordinary life of Dexter Gordon is the subject of two fine biographies, one written in 1989 by British journalist Stan Britt, and the other--just published, by Gordon's manager and widow, Maxine. In this month's book review, Thomas Cunniffe compares the two books, noting what each author chooses to highlight and omit.
  • Swinger!: A Jazz Girl’s Adventures (by Judy Carmichael)
    Jazz's coexistence of styles allows any musician of any age, gender or race to pursue any genre they wish, even if it's not currently in style. Still the late 1970s appearance of Judy Carmichael, a white, blond and stunningly beautiful stride pianist turned several heads. In her new memoir, Swinger!, Carmichael offers a compelling narrative that jumps between various points in her life, and alternates between comedy and tragedy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor (by Billy Taylor & 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This is Hip: The Life of Mark Murphy (by Peter Jones)
    One of the most original vocalists in jazz history, Mark Murphy never stopped experimenting with his sound, style and repertoire. His artistic restlessness and uncompromising attitude may have kept him from achieving the fame due him. Peter Jones' new Murphy bio This is Hip explores the fascinating life and career of this jazz icon. Guest reviewer Mick Carlon offers his thoughts on the volume.
    When drummer Joe La Barbera was hired as the newest member of the Bill Evans trio in January 1979, he knew that Evans had a long-standing addiction to drugs. Evans died of his addiction just 19 months later, while La Barbera was still with the band. The triumphs and tribulations of that final edition of the Evans trio (with Marc Johnson on bass) are the subjects of La Barbera’s frank and touching memoir, “Times Remembered: The Final Years of the Bill Evans Trio” (University of North Texas Press). Thomas Cunniffe offers his reactions to the memoir in this month's Book Review.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.