Monday, April 16

Best Jazz Book of All Time #1

Yes friends, I know I have mocked list-makers over the years, but when it comes to jazz I like to be organized. Like many of you, jazz isn't just something to be listened to; it's something to absorb, to live, to wrap around you like James Cameron's new deep water sub to protect you from the drudgery of day to day living. (Okay, there's no drudgery here, but it was a nice turn of a phrase so how could I resist?)

I wish I had written this book.
I recently picked up a great book that has me thinking of jazz in a new way. Gary Giddins, Visions of Jazz: The First Century.

You know that for me jazz became interesting in the 1950s (with Louis Armstrojng being the god-like exception to this and every other rule) yet this book has me rethinking some of the oldies. I mean, how many of you have an understanding of Irving Berlin? I didn't. Sure, we all know his classic songs ('Cheek to Cheek', 'Puttin on the Ritz', 'Blue Skies', 'White Christmas', 'God Bless America', 'I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm' and on and on...) but did you know he and his parents escaped Russia in order to avoid a pogrom? Did you know that his life was full of tragedy and heartbreak? If I dwelled on the sadness in jazz I could tell you about the tragedy that befell his lovely wife during their honeymoon in Cuba and how the sad song he wrote about it ('When I Lost You') sold a million copies.

I downloaded Ella Fitzgerald's The Complete Irving Berlin Songbooks upon completing the chapter on this icon (see how quickly Giddins has brought me around to his way of thinking?) and I recommend you do the same.

I have little doubt this book will continue to inspire me as I chip away at its riches in the weeks to come so I will keep you posted, alright?  For now, have a listen to this lovely number. Frank Sinatra singing 'When I Lost You'. He brings out that sadness Irving was feeling in those dark times.

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