- Hardcover: 227 pages
- Publisher: North Point Press; Reprint edition (January 24, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0865474907
- ISBN-13: 978-0865474901
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #885,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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But Beautiful: A Book about Jazz Hardcover – January 24, 1996
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Besides colorful and expressive music, jazz greats such as Lester Young, Thelonius Monk and Duke Ellington led equally colorful, albeit self-destructive, lives. Through this collection of essays, Geoff Dyer recounts some of the more vivid episodes and events these personalities engaged in and illuminates unique aspects of their character that contributed to their music. He also sheds light on the oppression of working within an atmosphere of race-alienation, a hardship that led many to abuse alcohol and drugs, and find solace only in their incredible music.
From Publishers Weekly
Dyer (Ways of Telling) here weaves impressionistic fantasies around the lives of eight jazz legends. Though he calls this "imaginative criticism," the vignettes, inspired by photos and writings about the artists, have little to do with music. Rather, he muses about the musicians' personalities and certain episodes in their lives?Lester Young's disastrous stint in the army, Thelonious Monk's inability to communicate with anyone but his wife, Bud Powell's mental breakdown, Chet Baker's drug-induced deterioration, Duke Ellington's endless travels. The colorful essays are sometimes excessively fanciful, and they capture the atmosphere of alienation that surrounded these men who, often wasted by drug and alcohol abuse and worn out from days and nights on the road, seemed to function only when making music. The pretentious "afterword" is irrelevant. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Dyer knows that the foremost responsibility of a music critic is not to critique but to verbalize his non-verbal subject, bringing it to life for the reader. He does so admirably, creating believable, recognizable, fascinating portraits in unlabored, unpretentious prose.
His portraits of the artist ring completely true to the ears of this fellow observer--penetrating glimpses of the creative child trapped in a man's body now reduced to fighting a losing battle against physical and mental entropy. Yet his faith in the living tradition of jazz is refreshing, as is his characterization of the jazz musician's struggle as a valiant contest with the precursor, not unlike that of the strong poet's.
Though there's an elegaic tone throughout the book, it's never ponderous or depressing. In fact, its human portraits are more likely to interest newcomers than the many text books that catalog styles and names.
This is not to say the book is without shortcomings. The author is much better at capturing the musicians for us than their music. And his appreciation and understanding of Duke Ellington's music seems somewhat limited. Too bad he didn't give at least as much attention to the colorful cast of characters on the band bus as to the private conveyance preferred by Duke.
Yet any listener who has the slightest interest in jazz and its makers simply cannot afford to pass this one up. And it goes a long way toward fleshing out some of the caricatures served up on the Ken Burns' television series.
somehow perfectly replicating the feel of the concrete world of jazz luminaries. To read this is to be given a backstage pass to their lives off the bandstand.
I will always be reading this book.