From Library Journal
According to some critics, jazz today is in a renaissance. Yet others take the view that jazz is dead, that today's young players are trapped in the past. These two books are on opposite sides of this raging debate. Relating the history of jazz to social forces, Nisenson (Ascension: Coltrane and His Quest, LJ 12/93) concludes that jazz is no longer created in its own time but is instead a dead art form. As a result, he attacks those he refers to as the "neo-classicists": Stanley Crouch, Albert Murray, Wynton Marsalis, and Piazza himself. In his collection of previously published pieces, Piazza (The Guide to Classic Recorded Jazz, LJ 3/1/95) takes the opposite tack, arguing that the concept of "jazz as emotion" is a fallacy and that jazz has regained what it had been missing in the years of jazz-rock fusion: technique, a feeling of swing, and knowledge of and respect for the tradition. (Sadly, another issue raised in both books is racism; there have been accusations that the Jazz at Lincoln Center program, under the auspices of Marsalis, has excluded white musicians.) The truth likely lies somewhere between the two poles presented here, and these two books are recommended jointly for effectively providing both sides of the argument.?Michael Colby, Univ. of California, Davis
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Piazza, whose short-story collection Blues and Trouble (1996) won the Michener Prize, looks again at his favorite music in this collection of occasional pieces. Writing on jazz between 1979 and 1997 (for which he won the 1996 ASCAPDeems Taylor Award for Music Writing), Piazza has had the opportunity to watch this musical phoenix arise once again resplendent from its supposed ashes. In the course of the two decades covered by the pieces in this volume (most of them previously published in the New York Times, the New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, and the Village Voice), Piazza has recounted the arrival of a new generation of young jazz musicians, headed by the controversial Wynton Marsalis. The author has been one of the more forceful advocates for Marsalis and his acolytes and their brand of neoclassical jazz. Briefly, Piazza believes that the critics who decry Marsalis's lack of ``emotion'' are unwittingly and tacitly racist, reducing all jazz to a sort of primitive expression of raw feeling and undervaluing the role of intellect in the creation of the music. It's an argument that's not without some merit, as his lengthy attacks on James Lincoln Collier (particularly a scathing review of Collier's egregious Duke Ellington biography) show. But too many of the pieces here--the opening reviews of McCoy Tyner and Mary Lou Williams in particular--have little or nothing to do with this thesis. The best essays are reportage from the road, a previously unpublished piece on a jazz festival in Dahomey and a recounting of days and nights on tour with Wynton and his band. Piazza is a writer worth paying attention to, but this book is too slight a framework to support his arguments. In fact, it is too slight a framework to call a book. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.