Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 23, 2006
By

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Whether you love them or hate them, critics have helped to influence and, indeed, define the jazz genre. In the August edition of the Literary Review William Palmer argues “that true, improvised jazz has always been a minority taste, and, without critics and promoters like John Hammond and Norman Granz, much of what we prize as real jazz would never have been recorded.” Thus Palmer is quick to rain praise on John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics which chronicles how these writers have affected how we listen to and how we understand jazz.

In Blowin’ Hot and Cool, John Gennari provides a definitive history of jazz criticism from the 1920s to the present. The music itself is prominent in his account, as are the musicians—from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Roscoe Mitchell, and beyond. But the work takes its shape from fascinating stories of the tradition’s key critics—Leonard Feather, Martin Williams, Whitney Balliett, Dan Morgenstern, Gary Giddins, and Stanley Crouch, among many others. Gennari is the first to show the many ways these critics have mediated the relationship between the musicians and the audience—not merely as writers, but in many cases as producers, broadcasters, concert organizers, and public intellectuals as well.
Read an excerpt from the book or have a look at the soundtrack Gennari compiled to accompany his work.

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