Music

Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

January 2, 2007
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

In reviewing Blowing Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics for the December 17 issue of the Independent, jazz columnist Sholto Byrnes argues that “in the first century of jazz’s existence, it’s the critics who have articulated the arguments about where jazz is from, who it belongs to and where its boundaries lie. have been its historians and its definers.” And as the first academic exploration into the legacy of these critics and their powerful role in defining jazz, Byrnes’ review acknowledges John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool as an essential contribution to the history of the music. Byrnes writes: is a valuable book, and a fascinating one, ranging from the the important role played by the critic John Hammond in promoting Benny Goodman and Bessie Smith in the 1930s, to the epic battles fought over the ‘Young Lions’ movement in the 1980’s. An original and comprehensive approach to jazz history, Gennari’s book will be appreciated by anyone wanting to know more about how modern culture has come to see one of America’s greatest musical traditions. Read an excerpt along with a soundtrack the author outlined to go with the book. . . .

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Review: Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

December 18, 2006
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Review: Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is, of course, one of the most enduringly popular and celebrated composers to have ever lived. With this year marking the 250th anniversary of his birth his compositions remain some of the most frequently interpreted by orchestras worldwide. But what accounts for the perennial popularity of his work? Writing for Opera News Todd B. Sollis praises Pierro Melograni’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography for its keen insight into the enduring presence of Mozart’s music. Sollis writes: “Never able to secure the kind of well paid permanent court post that many of his contemporaries obtained—Mozart turned to the resources offered him by the consumer market. Melograni argues that in the process Mozart became the sublime composer we know.… Melograni demonstrates persuasively how the furnishes the composer with ‘new stimuli,’ assures his greater liberty, and opens the way to modernity in ways that enable him to occupy center stage on the musical scene even two and a half centuries after his .” Expertly analyzing Mozart’s genius and the social environment that allowed it to thrive, Melograni’s biography will be welcomed by anyone wanting a deeper understanding of one of the greatest artists ever . . .

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Review: Gossett, Divas and Scholars

November 17, 2006
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Review: Gossett, Divas and Scholars

Frankly, we don’t know what the late, great Chicago newspaperman Mike Royko thought about Verdi, Rossini, Puccini, or any of the other icons of Italian opera. (We’ll look through his collected columns.) But in a review of Philip Gossett’s Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera Marc Geelhoed from Time Out magazine draws a direct comparison between Gossett’ s first-hand account of the opera and Royko’s famously shrewd journalism. Geelhoed writes: Mike Royko had an instinctive love for the theory of how the deal went down, but what mattered most was seeing first hand how the theory played out in the real world. Musicologist Philip Gossett has spent his career at the University of Chicago, but his scholarship resides in the Royko school of street-smart reporting. Gossett isn’t content to leave a groaning shelf of unread books as his legacy; he’s gotten out into the Opera house and made a difference in the performing world. With Rossini’s operas in particular, opera houses have relied on Gossett’s expertise to coach singers and assist conductors with regard to style before a production opens. Opera lovers of all levels of musical knowledge should rejoice that his recollections are now available for their perusal. Enlivening . . .

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CBGB closes

October 18, 2006
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CBGB closes

CBGB, the legendary New York night club that spawned some of the most colorful icons of the punk genre—Patti Smith, Blondie, the Ramones—closed last Sunday, the end of an era in American music. Though the music may no longer be as loud as it was during the club’s heyday in the mid-seventies, the powerful influence of the club and the culture that surrounded it continues to permeate nearly every form of popular music today; even the more sophisticated echelons of the avant-garde. A listen to the hipster stylings of contemporary chamber musicians the Kronos Quartet is enough to demonstrate the profound ways that the world of modern art has enthusiastically assimilated the forms and conventions of punk rock. The collision between low-brow pop artists and the artistic avant-garde was the subject of Bernard Gendron’s 2002 book Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde. When we published Gendron’s book we posted an excerpt to our Web site focused on the first wave of punk that crested on CBGB’s dilapidated stage. The excerpt is an excellent introduction to the early history of CBGB, bands like the Ramones and Talking Heads, and the pop and/or art sensibilities that echoed . . .

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Review: Gossett, Divas and Scholars

October 6, 2006
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Review: Gossett, Divas and Scholars

A recent review by virtuoso pianist and music critic Charles Rosen has much to say about Philip Gossett’s latest work, Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera. Rosen writes for the New York Review of Books: “To my knowledge, there is no other book like it. No one else has treated an important genre of half a century in its social and political setting, its stylistic development, together with a detailed history of its dissemination and performance … Along with occasional indulgence in what the author calls ‘that backstage gossip indigenous to the opera house,’ all this is accomplished in a prose style sensible, often original, provocative, learned, technical but lucid, and always entertaining—and, most remarkably, in only 603 succinct pages.” The review continues: “The achievement was possible not only because Gossett is our leading authority on nineteenth-century Italian opera and the principle figure in establishing the new editions of Rossini and Verdi, but also because he has been actively engaged for some years as a consultant to productions of operas in Italy and America, advising on the problems created by the multiple versions that exist for most of these operas as they were rewritten for different singers in different cities, . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

October 2, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

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 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 . . .

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Review: Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

September 1, 2006
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Review: Melograni, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Library Journal recently ran a prepublication review of Piero Melograni’s new book Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography commending Melograni’s work as both insightful and apropos. From the review: “Melograni, an Italian historian who writes principally on nonmusical topics of the 20th century, has made a valuable contribution to the crowded field of Mozart studies published this year, the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. The author draws extensively from letters and notes of the Mozart family, and thus his conversational, chronological account of the composer’s life is unusually rich in detail.” The review also cites Melograni’s engaging commentary on the historical events he recounts, making of particular note Melograni’s provocative “case for the removal of the Requiem from the Mozart canon, that this masterpiece is mainly the work of others and is not up to par with Mozart’s final works.” Written with a gifted historian’s flair for narrative and unencumbered by specialized analyses of Mozart’s music, Melograni’s is the most vivid and enjoyable biography available. At a time when music lovers around the world are paying honor to Mozart and his legacy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart will be welcomed by his enthusiasts—or anyone wishing to peer into the mind . . .

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Press Release: Gosset, Divas and Scholars

August 25, 2006
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Press Release: Gosset, Divas and Scholars

Philip Gossett is the world’s leading expert on performing Italian opera. Conductors from Riccardo Muti to Bruno Bartoletti, and singers from Marilyn Horne to Renée Fleming, consult him on how to get the works of composers like Verdi and Rossini right. This magesterial book, the capstone to Gossett’s storied career and the culmination of his decades-long experience, brings colorfully to life the challenges, and occasionally even the scandals, that attend the production of the world’s most favorite operas. Gossett here weds incomparable expertise with his own triumphant experiences producing such celebrated and beloved works as La traviatta, La boheme, and Rigoletto. Part musical history and part back-stage-pass, Divas and Scholars will not only enthrall aficionados of Italian opera but also newcomers seeking a more reliable introduction to it. Read the press release. We also have an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 23, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

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 . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 16, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

A review of John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool in this month’s issue of The Wire commends the book, calling Gennari’s in-depth look at the history of jazz criticism “superb,” “nuanced,” and “insightful.” The review focuses on Gennari’s penetrating argument that jazz criticism has not only played an essential role in documenting the jazz tradition but, to a large extent, has been responsible for creating that tradition. Yet most interesting about The Wire review is its acknowledgment of Gennari’s work as his own addendum to that tradition— his attempt to “write his academic self” into the “problematic history” of jazz criticism which he describes. If The Wire article is any indication, Gennari’s work will continue to make an impact in circles beyond the walls of the academy. From The Wire: focuses on what he calls jazz’s “superstructure”—its critics essentially, but also some of its businessmen—to analyze what a much related story says, or almost says, about about racial and cultural politics in the American 20th century.… An account of Leonard Feather’s 1935 encounter with John Hammond sets up key themes of distance, engagement, and responsibility. Gennari has the pair at the Savoy in Harlem to hear Teddy Hill, pushing . . .

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