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At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene Hardcover – June 1, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For more than half a century, Hentoff has deftly chronicled the lives of jazz musicians, the rise of jazz music in America, and the intimate relationship between jazz and civil rights, weaving intricate rhythmic prose around themes of loss, triumph, and musical virtuosity. In this collection of 64 interviews, essays, and recollections (many of them previously published), Hentoff ranges widely over numerous topics, from the meaning of jazz and the elements of a perfect jazz club to profiles of Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Oscar Peterson, and Anita OÖDay. Hentoff vividly recalls hearing Artie ShawÖs "Nightmare" while walking past a record store in Boston when he was 11 and being touched as viscerally by ShawÖs haunting music as by the passionate and mesmerizing singing of his synagogueÖs cantor during the High Holy Days. In a paean to Louis Armstrong and the trumpeterÖs recognition of the healing power of music, Hentoff discusses the development of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at New YorkÖs Beth Israel hospital, which focuses on medical treatment for patients with asthma and chronic pulmonary disease. Because the author realizes the power of jazz to educate young people about civil rights as well as music, Wynton Marsalis becomes, in HentoffÖs eyes, the Leonard Bernstein of today. Although the collection is repetitious and uneven (as such collections often are), HentoffÖs essays often generate thoughtful insights into this uniquely American musical form.
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From Booklist

Hentoff called his first collection on his musical prime passion The Jazz Life (1961). He could have called this book the same. For the theme uniting these mostly tiny (two- to four-page) pieces, most first published in JazzTimes and the Wall Street Journal, is jazz as a way life is lived and a reason for life, not just for musicians but for all who hear the life in jazz and wouldn't willingly live without it. A strong second theme is the condition most people live in for large parts if not all of life—family. Accordingly, Hentoff groups the pieces to reflect historic familial concerns as they're expressed in the jazz life. There are clutches of articles concerned with education, elder-care, dealing with emergencies (e.g., Katrina, which, after all, hit the cradle of jazz, New Orleans), defense (against assaults on civil rights and the First Amendment), spirituality, and more within the jazz family. And, of course, there are the appreciations of jazz family members—lots of these—for which Hentoff is absolutely and justly treasured. --Ray Olson

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520261135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520261136
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,180,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Five HUGE Stars!! A wonderful jazz-appreciation book absolutely essential for any jazz library, full of remembrances of jazz titans written by the legendary award-winning jazz authority (writer, critic, record label creator and producer, musician-confidant, lawyer, Guggenheim fellow, and 1st Amendment defender) Nat Hentoff. A book that is a statement as much about the author as about the art of jazz. These 64 articles, interviews, and stories are in the expected engaging Hentoff style of writing, giving an enjoyable, wide-ranging series of non-chronological stories and topics about the jazz scene, movements within jazz, and especially about great jazz musicians and friends of jazz. Stories such as: the importance of clarinetist Artie Shaw who first dazzled a young Hentoff with "NightMare"; the great brass artist Ruby Braff saying he went to "the Louis Armstrong University..from which you could never graduate"; the dark side of jazz where agents, club owners, and record companies unfairly treat(ed) jazz musicians; when a famous jazz band leader was told that a number of his musicians were leaving to join Duke Ellington's orchestra, instead of anger he appreciatively joked "take me with you"; a kid trumpeter named Quincy Jones approaching Clark Terry who gave him lessons at 6 AM cutting into his own sleep. The over-the-top and fully-due appreciation of the incredible Anita O'Day, a great jazz musician who just happened to sing. He traces the career of the dazzling teenage Oscar Peterson giving way to the 70-ish, stroke-limited Peterson fighting to regain his lost finger fluency and playing on for years. The talented pianist and jazz radio hostess Marian McPartland who thrived despite having "3 strikes against her".Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love Nat Hentoff -- a real champion of jazz writing and freedom literature in America -- but he was too sloppy in his editing here. These are mostly Jazz Times monthly columns stitched together, with an incredible amount of repetition. He also has the unfortunate tactic of constantly saying that jazz artists "told me...." as if there is no validity in what they told others, in other contexts. He repeats about six of these instances MANY times. A man of Nat's vintage needs to write an original memoir. Perhaps he needs a co-writer for such an endeavor, if he can allow a younger person into that sacred space.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At the Jazz Band Ball, by jazz critic Nat Hentoff is must reading for jazz fans as well as professional musicians. From the moment he heard a recording of Artie Shaw's "Nightmare," while passing a Boston record store at the age of 11, Nat fell in love with jazz because the sounds he heard that day reminded him of the cantor's singing in Orthodox synagogues during the High Holy Days. He also liked the freedom of expression and unlimited creative possibilities that jazz offered. I recommend this compilation of articles because Nat interviews some of the msot famous musicians in the world including Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Phil Woods, and many others. "Who Owns Jazz?" is one of the best articles and readers should know about the Jazz Foundation of America, located in New York, which provides assistance to down and out musicians who at one time were famous and very active, but who now cannot even pay their rent or medical bills because their employers paid them in cash many times after each gig, and never paid into social security or other benefit plans for future seniors.
I came away with a great appreciation for jazz musicians and hope to buy some of their recordings, thanks to Nat's insightful interviews with so many fine musicians.There is also an interesting article about women jazz musicians that are more than equal to men in their musical performances but have not received their due recognition. Also, Moving to Higher Ground by wynton Marsalis is a good accompaniment to At the Jazz Band Ball.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nat Henthoff has seen it all. He takes his love of the genre and admiration for its musicians and sets it to the page. These interviews span a lifetime on the jazz scene and grooves with it as it explores different modes of expression. The musicians trust him to faithfully report their thoughts and feelings about their music, their creations. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the genius behind the music.
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