Music

Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 1, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

The July 28, 2006, issue of Financial Times ran a review of John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics in which resident jazz critic Mike Hobart doesn’t hesitate to rain praise on Gennari’s latest work: This is a book about jazz in which the music is in the background, for John Gennari’s main concern is a critique of jazz criticism from the 1930’s to the present. Densley researched, broadly partisan and compiled with a wry sense of humor, Blowin’ Hot and Cool still manages to reveal much about jazz, and more about the lives of its musicians than many recent hagiographies.… His account opens in the 1930’s, with two patrician figures of great infulence: John Hammond and his English acolyte, Leonard Feather. Negotiating a racially segregated world of thrill seekers, jitterbugs, and the communist party’s popular fronts, they fought for racial integration and jazz as an art, yet fell out over the authenticity of modern jazz. In the process they discovered Count Basie and Billie Holiday, recorded Bessie Smith, and persuaded Benny Goodman to drop schmaltz. Our excerpt from the first chapter talks more about Feather and Hammond. Gennari also outlined a soundtrack for the book. . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

June 13, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

Library Journal recently praised John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics: "Gennari…performs something magical: he manages to make the role and history of the jazz critic interesting. Finely written thought-provoking.… This is an essential purchase for any comprehensive jazz collection. Highly recommended." In the illustrious and richly documented history of American jazz, no figure has been more controversial than the jazz critic. Jazz critics can be revered or reviled—often both—but they should not be ignored. And while the tradition of jazz has been covered from seemingly every angle, nobody has ever turned the pen back on itself to chronicle the many writers who have helped define how we listen to and how we understand jazz. That is, of course, until now. In Blowin’ Hot and Cool, John Gennari provides a definitive history of jazz criticism from the 1920s to the present. Read an excerpt and a soundtrack for the book. . . .

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Press release: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

May 30, 2006
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Press release: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

Whether they’re writing about art, food, movies, or music, critics have always been received with both awe and ire by their readers and by their subjects. This is also true in the world of jazz where the critic is responsible for putting into words an experience that is, more often that not, wordless. Yet their influence on the shape of the jazz tradition and the careers of the musicians is undeniable. It is also an aspect of the story of jazz which has before now been neglected in most accounts of its history. With Blowin’ Hot & Cool John Gennari corrects this oversight in a profound way by offering the first comprehensive overview of the critics’ role in the story of jazz over the course of the past seventy-five years. Read the press release. Read an excerpt about Leonard Feather and John Hammond; also see an outlined soundtrack to accompany the book. . . .

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Review: Kehew, Lark in the Morning

May 25, 2006
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Review: Kehew, Lark in the Morning

The London Review of Books recently praised Robert Kehew’s Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours, a Bilingual Edition. Barbara Newman wrote, "Only formal verse, respecting the troubadours’ metrical innovations and their prodigious achievements in sonority and rhyme, can hope to convey both their individual voices and their collecive charm. It is here that Robert Kehew’s anthology, Lark in the Morning, succeeds so brilliantly." Although the troubadours flourished at the height of the Middle Ages in southern France, their songs of romantic love, with pleasing melodies and intricate stanzaic patterns, have inspired poets and song writers ever since, from Dante to Chaucer, from Renaissance sonneteers to the Romantics, and from Verlaine and Rimbaud to modern rock lyricists. Yet despite the incontrovertible influence of the troubadours on the development of both poetry and music in the West, there existed no comprehensive anthology of troubadour lyrics that respected the verse form of the originals until now. Lark in the Morning honors the meter, word play, punning, and sound effects in the troubadours’ works while celebrating the often playful, bawdy, and biting nature of the material. . . .

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Review: Kenney, Jazz on the River

April 26, 2006
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Review: Kenney, Jazz on the River

The Journal of American History recently reviewed William Howland Kenney’s Jazz on the River: "The history of how riverboat entertainment venues shaped the evolution of jazz receives long-overdue analysis in this thorough and sensitive study.… By locating jazz ‘on the river,’ Kenney draws a picture of the Jazz Age that shifts attention from the nightclubs and dance halls of major cities, broadening the social and occupational histories of the first four decades of jazz performance. His portrait of aspiring musicians who used the river to enhance their social mobility also brings a new dimension to our understanding of the Great Migration. For Kenney, the shifting racial and cultural tensions communicated through jazz resound as jazzmen riff on the ever-shifting currents of these great heartland rivers." In Jazz on the River, William Howland Kenney brings to life the vibrant history of this music and its seduction of the men and women along America’s inland waterways. Here for the first time readers can learn about the lives and music of the levee roustabouts promoting riverboat jazz and their relationships with such great early jazz adventurers as Louis Armstrong, Fate Marable, Warren "Baby" Dodds, and Jess Stacy. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: William Howland Kenney, Jazz on the River

January 23, 2006
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Review: William Howland Kenney, Jazz on the River

"The romance, the misery and the music of migration are all captured in William Howland Kenney’s Jazz on the River, a book that narrates a history that couldn’t be captured merely by doting on scratchy records, tattered scores and old reviews. It was commonly known that jazz was born in New Orleans and made its way up the Mississippi, but until Kenney no one had investigated the makers of the boats and the conditions of the musicians who worked on them. And no study before this one ever charted that northern migration so that we can appreciate the artists and how their musical communities were formed, giving us new ways to appreciate the Pittsburgh of Billy Strayhorn, Art Blakey, and Mary Lou Williams, the St. Louis of Miles Davis…. ntil Kenney’s book we never got to feel what…the riverboat gig was actually like. What we get in this book, with lucid prose and meticulous research, is a geographical and cultural context for the figures who would eventually become canonical, providing a vital new backdrop for music and anecdotes that had seemed well trodden…. As for actually placing jazz in its historical and cultural context in America, Kenney is among the . . .

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