[JPL] Jazz | From Monterey to Coltrane

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Sun Dec 2 23:53:54 EST 2007


*Jazz | From Monterey to Coltrane*

*Jazz*

/By Paul de Barros, Seattle Times jazz critic/

*"Jazz, Giants, and Journeys: The Photography of Herman Leonard,"* 
*/edited by David Houston and Jenny Bagert/* (/Scala, $60/). A fan once 
said to Herman Leonard, "That's a great photograph of Dexter Gordon, but 
why did you put in all that smoke?" Replied Leonard archly, "The smoke 
is the photograph." Indeed, Leonard's iconic, moody, high-contrast, 
black and white images of Gordon, James Moody and Billie Holiday, with 
their curls of cigarette smoke, have come to represent the atmospheric 
evanescence of jazz performance itself. This first full treatment of 
Leonard's career includes mostly jazz work, but also fashion, war and 
general assignment pieces. It's a gem.

*"The Art of Jazz: Monterey Jazz Festival 50 Years,"* */by Keith and 
Kent Zimmerman/* (/Monterey Jazz Festival, $50/). Having already 
published a well-researched history of the festival 10 years ago, the 
greatest of all West Coast jazz festivals celebrates its 50th 
anniversary with a gallery of gorgeous, full-page color reproductions of 
its poster and program art, with a short essay for each decade. That 
lone trumpet on the cocktail chair has come a long way, from beatnik 
existential to post-modern disjunction. Great stuff.

*"Coltrane: The Story of a Sound,"* */by Ben Ratliff/* (/Farrar, Straus 
and Giroux, $24/). Jazz attracts many hagiographers, so it's fitting 
that a candidate so much in need of demythologizing --- the 
already-sainted (in the popular imagination) John Coltrane --- has 
attracted the trenchant New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff. 
Proposing that Coltrane's music and outlook were products of their time 
--- the searching '60s --- and that the spiritual seeker is a 
long-standing American type, Ratliff suggests Coltrane's "band" --- and, 
subsequently, his sound --- really was the whole culture, from Terry 
Riley's minimalism to the church bombings in Alabama. Though technical 
in places, Ratliff's cultural reach makes this an approachable and 
extremely valuable book.

*"Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life & Times of Doc Pomus,"* */by Alex 
Halberstadt/* (/Da Capo, $26/). In 1961, 13 songs by the legendary 
Jerome Felder --- known as "Doc Pomus" --- made the pop charts, 
surpassing even Leiber and Stoller. In this sentimental but 
realistically believable biography, Pomus, who penned Ray Charles' 
"Lonely Avenue," Elvis' "Surrender," the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance 
for Me" and Dion's "A Teenager in Love," comes off as a sort of noble 
hack. Stricken with polio at 7 --- and by black music as a teen --- the 
Brooklyn-bred Pomus finds his way on crutches to the Brill Building, 
supplementing his income with a poker game in his midtown hotel room 
when times get lean. Cigars, whiskey, women and rhymes --- that's enough 
for at least a song or two.

*"Improvising: My Life in Music,"* */by Larry Coryell/* (/Backbeat 
Books, $24.95/). Seattle readers will be disappointed that jazz/rock 
electric guitar innovator Larry Coryell, raised in Richland and a 
student at the University of Washington, doesn't spend more time talking 
about his years in our neighborhood. But even fleeting references to the 
Dynamics, Charlie Puzo's Penthouse, the House of Entertainment, Chuck 
Mahaffay and Jerome Gray are fun. Coryell's main focus, however, is 
personal salvation: the confessional arc of falling into and rising out 
of substance abuse and the perennial search for the right relationship. 
Some stories about Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis (Coryell inexplicably 
turned down an offer to join Miles' band) and others surface along the way.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company </news/general/copyright.html>

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