From Publishers Weekly
Ramsey's second book (after Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop) aims to understand "one of jazz's greatest and indeed most mysterious stars" from a variety of perspectives. He takes in bebop—from East to west and back West again—with consideration given to the social, political, and economic contexts of its day, as well as the concept of the free-spirited, convention-defying "musical genius" (in Ramsey's view "the ultimate construction of the bourgeois subject"). It is a lot to take on in such a brief book and Ramsey doesn't quite pull it off. His tendency to quote in full—often unnecessarily—and his occasional isolation of mundane details drain energy from his subjects. For instance, the author makes fine observations on how "the jazz industry" of the '40s and '50s took advantage of Black musicians, but then goes into no further detail about just how Powell's life and work were affected. What starts as an engaging criticism winds down into a pedestrian biographical observation with admirable but unrealised ambitions; it's jarring, and by trying to say a lot, results, inversely, in not saying enough. (June)
"Ramsey writes with a musician's ear. . . . Full of beauty and that edgy logic."
(John Mole The Times Literary Supplement
"An important, thoughtful work for those wishing to probe beyond cliches."
"Equal parts biography, historiography, and music analysis, Ramsey’s brilliant study represents a much-needed examination of one of jazz’s most influential pianists and artists."