For 20-odd years, Lees, whose short tenure as Down Beat
editor dragged it into the mid-twentieth century, has published the eight-page, monthly Gene Lees Jazzletter
. The subscribers are nearly all musicians, and few others would read Lees' lively, knowledgeable stuff if book publishers didn't pop for a collection now and then. Maybe even those few others are getting fewer, for Lees' passion is jazz as a popular music, which it last was during the big band era, and one has to be long in the tooth to recall that time directly. For those who care about how music is made, though, Lees' writing is perpetually interesting, for he gets seasoned pros to talk about what they do, and the things they say, while full of recollections of times and bands past, should remain cogent for as long as bands need arrangers and trombones, pianos, and saxophones are played. A marathon conversation, worth the book's price by itself, with trombonist and arranger Milt Bernhart opens a book that rarely descends from such heights. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"I think of Gene Lees as the Proust of jazz. His accounts of jazz musicians and their world give a sense of intimacy with the jazz scene that no other writer has been able to evoke."