www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 5, April 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.

Gary Giddins: Visions of Jazz. The First Century
 
For twenty-five years Gary Giddins has covered the jazz world for the Village Voice. His books include Riding on a Blue Note, Satchmo and Celebrating Bird. In 1986 he founded the American Jazz Orchestra and was its artistic director for seven years. His "new" book, Visions of Jazz, was published in 1998 and won the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award.
 
Gary Giddins' useful overview presents the first century of jazz - which means that he believes that there are others to come. He expresses some worries in his introduction about a low-quality revival of jazz. Giddins himself would be more confident if he had included articles e.g. on Brad Mehldau - whose name he only mentions once (as Brad "Meldau") - and on Diana Krall who has impressively progressed in recent years. The title of his book, Visions of Jazz, says it all: this is no dry account of the history of the first century of jazz but a book that contains lively and engaging portraits from Giddins' perspective. His 79 chapters tell a lot about his vision of jazz and his favourites. He dedicates three chapters to Duke Ellington whereas Cab Calloway has no right to his own. Giddins is not alone with that vision. Ellington is one of the kings of jazz, maybe together with Louis Armstrong, who also gets more than one chapter, the king of jazz. Cab Calloway on the other hand gets hardly credited for his contribution to jazz. Not only was he the commercially most successful jazz-bandleader of his time, he also paid best and gave a chance to a lot of musicians who pursued their own careers later. Cab Calloway's jazz was mainstream, it was dancing music and therefore even attractive for teenagers. He could reach out to a wide audience and influence popular culture. Give credit to whom credit is due!
 
Giddins combines criticism and musicology, history and biographies as well as anecdotes to a lively account. Visions of Jazz includes articles on the precursors of jazz such as Bert Williams and Al Jolson, representatives of a then new music such as Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver, classics like Benny Goodman and Count Basie, mainstream musicians like Miles Davis and Art Blakey, the avant-garde with John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and many others. Even for people who do not agree with all of Gary Giddins' visions, this is still a book of reference.
 
Gary Giddins: Visions of Jazz. The First Century. OUP, 1998, 690 p. Get it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
 

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 5, April 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.