From Library Journal
Long one of American literature's overlooked resources, novelist and essayist Murray (Stomping the Blues, LJ 2/1/77) here uses his considerable talent to ruminate on the impact of African American music on 20th-century American culture. Applying both his lifetime love of the jazz and blues idioms and his personal relationships with musical giants such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie, Murray examines the music in terms of the human, not merely the black, experience. It is in the human experience that Murray sees the essence of all culture?painting, music, or literature. Using the work of Ernest Hemingway as an illustration, he makes the point that treating art as sociopolitical protest is taking the easy way out. The aesthetic of jazz and blues looks for the universal in us all and celebrates it. This thoughtful book is essential for all humanities collections. [For a review of Murray's latest novel see p. 158.?Ed.]?Dan Bogey, Clearfield Cty. P.L. Federation, Curwensville, Pa.-?Dan Bogey, Clearfield Cty. P.L. Federation, Curwensville, Pa.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Mr. Murray writes beautifully about the lives and technical achievements of the black musicians he so lovingly portrays.... -- The New York Times Book Review, Charles Johnson
This book has honorable intentions and high ambitions. Murray wants to demonstrate the centrality of Black artistic achievement to the American imagination. He talks about the indomitable sense of style the great blues singers took from sufferings endured, about the ways Ellington, Armstrong, and Basie transformed country and city sounds into a national music unimagined by the conservatory-trained, and about how the jazz improviser draws on discipline the better to discover new freedoms. Jazz, Murray claims, is not just a kind of music but a way of feeling and knowing, the definitive aesthetic form of American life. So this is a work of practical criticism, unconstrained in its likes and dislikes, in its determination to make the reader see. That's a good thing, but this is not a very good book. It subverts its own enthusiasms with a lack of humor, and for all its talk of improvisatory range, strikes for the most part one scoldingly earnest note. Murray promises a lot, but he lacks the chops to perform. Copyright © 1996, Boston Review. All rights reserved.
-- From The Boston Review