The author of two previous essay collections, Francis Davis claims to be going through a period of disenchantment with jazz. He decries the "commodification of youth," which has allowed a pack of young neo-bop players to shoulder aside many a deserving, middle-aged master. Despite this case of the blahs, Davis's prose is as shapely as ever, and his book is full of gems. There are standout essays on Mel Lewis, Don Byron, Charles Gayle, Roswell Rudd, and Tony Bennett, which resemble scaled-down short stories in their narrative ingenuity.
From Publishers Weekly
Most contemporary jazz is too homogeneous and conservative for Davis (The History of the Blues), who says the unifying theme of this idiosyncratic collection of essays is his "growing disenchantment with contemporary jazz." He includes a number of innovative mainstreamers, such as Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie and Lester Young, and he also devotes a section to Broadway and vintage pop because they have been the sources of much in jazz. For the most part, however, Davis focuses on peripheral musicians-mavericks such as Dr. Vernard Johnson, who spreads the gospel on alto saxophone; Charles Gayle, a homeless tenor saxophonist; pianist Lennie Tristano, a cult figure more interested in pedagogy than performance; Sun Ra and his Myth Science Arkestra; black klezmer clarinetist Don Byron; avant-garde trumpeter Lester Bowie, leader of the experimental group Brass Fantasy; and Bobby Previte, who composes "technoeclectic" scores for the Moscow Circus. All these heady, thought-provoking pieces previously appeared in various newspapers and periodicals.
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