History, Music, Reviews

Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

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A recent review in The Nation of John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics opens by recounting a fistfight between the legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus and the critic Amiri Baraka—an image that vividly demonstrates the historically troubled relationship between the musicians that play the music and the critics who write about them. The review points out that short of such scuffles, the musicians have rarely had the chance to turn the tables on their critical contemporaries. Enter John Gennari’s latest book Blowin’ Hot and Cool, a book that “does for jazz musicians what most of them were unable to do for themselves,” critique the critics. David Yaffe writes for The Nation:

“The overall achievement of Gennari’s thoughtful, original and impressive book [is in recognizing that] jazz is not only in need of serious criticism, it is in need of serious criticism of its criticism.… The first sustained scholarly book exclusively about jazz criticism—and, not least, about the passions that have driven and surrounded it—Blowin’ Hot and Cool is thorough, absorbing and original, an obsessive study of obsessives that will circumvent the need for any other.”

Touching upon nearly a century of the evolving scene of American jazz music, Gennari’s incisive book deconstructs the influential role the critics have played in defining the significance of the genre. Written with “an impressive scholarly command” of the material, Blowin’ Hot and Cool is an essential corrective to the historical account of jazz music in American culture.
Read an excerpt and an outlined soundtrack to the book.