In today's Wall Street Journal (go here), Tim Marchman favorably reviews Why Jazz Happened. I'm absolutely thrilled.
Here's what Tim writes in WSJ's Review section:
"The question of why jazz went from a practical art geared toward accompanying dancers to a performative one aimed at contemplative listeners is one that has engaged a lot of smart writers and historians. Marc Myers, a frequent Journal contributor, has made a serious contribution to that discussion with "Why Jazz Happened," a social history of midcentury jazz that connects changes in style to changes in the music industry, and in American culture at large...
"Mr. Myers rightly defines jazz as an art form shaped by "the blues, a deep feeling for the poetry of the music, and a burning desire by musicians to stand out through improvisation." There were several decades when those characteristics, which are as alive today as they were 100 years ago, took on startlingly new forms seemingly every year, and were captured on record in a way they weren't before and haven't been since. If you want to know why, this book is as good a place as any to start."
If you missed me at Barnes & Noble last week, you'll have another shot: I'll be at 92Y/Tribeca on February 4 at noon. For this one-time-only event, I will be presenting a multimedia extravaganza at this hipster space. I'll be talking about why jazz happened over a period of 30 years—with rare music clips and huge-screen jazz photos. A major event. Tickets are $21 each. For more information and tickets (they're going fast), go here.
Thanks to the nearly 100 people who came out to Barnes & Noble on New York's Upper West Side last week to hear me talk about Why Jazz Happened and the reasons for the rise of the jazz LP in the early '50s. Jazz writer Ira Gitler joined me on stage, and we talked about the 10-inch LP, the 12-inch LP, Zoot Sims, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis.
More reviews from last week...
Downbeat—in the February issue, reviewer Jon Ross writes..
"[Why Jazz Happened] aims to dissect what was happening offstage and how changes in the broader cultural and political zeitgeist propelled the music forward...a vividly detailed and well-researched book."
BlogCritics.com—At this book site, Greg Barbrick writes...
"Why Jazz Happened does an excellent job of exploring the most significant period in the history of the music. It is hard to believe that so many changes happened in just 27 years. This is a fascinating read, and one I think every jazz fan will enjoy."
Reason.com—Reviewing for Reason.com, George H. Smith writes...
"In Why Jazz Happened, Marc Myers of JazzWax.com has given us an important contribution, but this is a contribution with a difference....A refreshing aspect of the book is its richly nuanced treatment of the relationship between commerce and creative individuality."
Patti Page (1927-2013). As a jazz fan, I was never big on Patti Page. She had a wonderful bell-clear voice and perfect pitch, but her note choices and sensibilities always remained rigidly square. Other than Old Cape Cod, (1957)—which many obits oddly left out—my ear never found her heart. Like many victims of pop record producers' kitschy artistic tastes and surreally brilliant commercial gut, Page served a life sentence sending up syrupy standards and goofy novelty tunes.
Page—like Rosemary Clooney, Kay Starr and other female vocalists of the '50s—was actually a made-for-TV vocalist who just happened to make records. In addition to delivering flawless first takes, she knew how to work her wide, optimistic eyes and overjoyed smile, and won the hearts of heartland viewers and record-buyers.
But there was one break in the corn-fed action. In 1957, Page recorded two hip albums for Emarcy with knock-out Hollywood jazz bands conducted by Pete Rugolo—In the Land of Hi Fi and The West Side. On these dates—thanks to arrangements by Rugolo, Bill Holman, Marty Paich and Shorty Rogers—we hear what Page might have been if she hadn't made a Faustian fortune.
Interestingly, Page knew nothing of Cape Cod when she recorded her hit about Massachusetts's vacation spot. What she understood instinctively was that visitors who kicked back on the curved cul de sac experienced pangs of nostalgia as soon as they drove home along the same narrow road that brought them in. Despite never having visited the Cape, Page identified with the patient lifestyle and traditional New England spirit, perhaps yearning for her own Oklahoma home.
As a farewell to Page, here's my favorite—Old Cape Cod—and a sound that perhaps suited her best...
Chu Berry. On Sunday, jump with my boy "Symphony"
Sid Gribetz when he spends five hours with platter and chatter showcasing the recording career of tenor saxophonist Chu Berry. Tune in from 2 to 7 p.m. (EST). You can listen in from anywhere in the world on your computer by going here.
Max Roach. On Thursday, WKCR-New York will present its annual "Max Roach Birthday Broadcast" for 24 hours. With this one singular drummer, you have the history of post-war jazz. You can listen in from anywhere in the world on your computer by going here.
Clifton Anderson and Orrin Evans. If you're in New York on Friday evening, trombone sensation Clifton Anderson and piano dynamo Orrin Evans will be appearing with their groups at Intersections, at 274 Fifth Ave. (between 29th and 30th St.). The first set starts at 7:30 p.m., while the second set starts at 9:30. This is a free event that's part of APAP. For more information, go here.
Duffy Jackson, son of bass-great Chubby Jackson, is captured in two wonderful clips by Bret Primack, who was attending the Jazz Education Network (JEN) this month in Atlanta. The sheer joy in drummer Jackson's face is impossible to ignore and will certainly light your fire.
Here, he's behind the kit for Shiny Stockings...
And here Jackson is interviewed by Bret on Count Basie...
Otis Redding. If you enjoyed my piece on Otis Redding's Dock of the Bay in Friday's Wall Street Journal, then you'll love two books by trumpeter Wayne Jackson. In In My Wildest Dreams: Take 1 and In My Wildest Dreams: Take 2, Wayne takes you through his career as trumpeter in the Mar-Keys and Memphis Horns, which joined Booker T. & the MGs on countless sessions behind Stax and Volt artists. You'll find his two-part memoir here and here.
CD discoveries of the week. Fans of the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band should know that Fresh Sound recently released the entire Santa Monica 1960 concert from October of that year. Personally, I never quite understood the appeal of this band—though fans of the orchestra are many. I always found it rather short on swing and innovation and heavy on labored instrumental mutterings and by-then dated charts. But if you dig the band, this two-CD set is a must. The sound is terrific and soloist Zoot Sims puts on quite a show.
If you like your hard rock with a large scoop of fem-attitude pop, you'll enjoy Lisa Loeb's No Fairy Tale (429). Singer-songwriter Loeb has been at this for nearly 20 years and is quite good at it. Tails (1995) and Firecracker (1997) did well, and Loeb remains the only artist to have a #1 Billboard pop single (Stay, I Missed You) while not signed to a recording contract. The smart indy rock background supporting Loeb's determined vocals makes for a smashing combination. Loeb had a hand in writing all but two of the tracks, and the results are tight, bold and all-in. Hail to co-producer and guitarist Chad Gilbert.
In the world of social-statement soul, few bands could match the eclectic funk of War. Originally released in 1972, the band's The World Is a Ghetto has now been reissued by Universal as a 40th Anniversary Edition with two bonus tracks. The album includes the bandito-grooved Cisco Kid, the chill-chug title track, and the polyrhythmic Beetles in the Bog. One of the most fascinating tracks is the rehearsal for The World Is a Ghetto, with the stuck-in-traffic instrumentation coming together neatly with the singing sermon.
Oddball album cover of the week.