Faces in the Crowd

Faces in the Crowd : Players and Writers

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Primarily a jazz critic, Gary Giddins is also keenly interested in cinema and modern American literature, and this book brings together over thirty of his most perceptive pieces. There are portraits of such music legends as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Kay Starr, and Dizzy Gillespie, and appreciations of writers of the calibre of Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov, Eudora Welty, and Raymond Chandler, and such movie greats as Sam Goldwyn, Clint Eastwood, Spike Lee, and Myrna Loy.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 162 x 236 x 30mm | 621.42g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • music examples
  • 0195054881
  • 9780195054880

About Gary Giddins

About the Author: Gary Giddins is a columnist for The Village Voice, artistic director of the American Jazz Orchestra, and contributor to Entertainment Weekly. His previous books include Rhythm-a-ning, Riding on a Blue Note, Celebrating Bird, and Satchmo. His work has garnered numerous prizes including four ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for music criticism, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Peabody Broadcasting Award, and an American Book Award.show more

Review Text

Village Voice critic Giddins (Rhythm-a-ning, 1985, etc.) shows his versatility in this large, varied collection of reviews and essays - but the jazz pieces remain far more impressive than the author's writing on literature and show-biz. Although Giddins can get a bit gushy about his enthusiasm for the vocal and instrumental jazz greats (e.g., a self-indulgent tribute to Sarah Vaughan), he's usually persuasive in his mix of extensive knowledge and eloquent appreciation. He uses lesser-known recordings to fashion a balanced assessment of Ella Fitzgerald's uneven yet awesome career; he makes a convincing case for the undervalued Kay Starr (whose "serpentine portamentos...resemble tailgate glides"). As for Louis Armstrong, Giddins stresses a "renegade" quality that was able to transmute racist material. And, combining live-concert reviews with surveys of recorded work (plus a few interviews), he does justice to the distinctive contributions of harmonica-virtuoso Larry Adler, the erratic Miles Davis, sax-man Sonny Rollins ("the most commanding musician alive"), and Dizzy Gillespie - whose Afro-Cuban innovations are highlighted in a close analysis of the landmark composition, "Manteca.' Giddins's book reviews - on Vonnegut, Roth, Welty, James M. Cain ("no one squats more imposingly" in the trashy dominion of "foul dreams") and others - are solid but mostly unremarkable. Overviews of the careers of Jack Benny and Irving Berlin are surprisingly bland; Giddins does better with Hoagy Carmichael and Myrna Loy. Least effective of all is an effusive defense of Clint Eastwood's Bird film-bio of Charlie Parker. Not Giddins at his consistent, authoritative best, then, but sturdy, accessible work from a valuable critic. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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13 ratings
3.69 out of 5 stars
5 8% (1)
4 54% (7)
3 38% (5)
2 0% (0)
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