Goodbyes and Other Messages

Goodbyes and Other Messages : Journal of Jazz, 1981-90

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Whitney Balliett's new book contains many of the shorter pieces he has done for The New Yorker during the past ten years. (The pieces on the pianist Bill Evans and on the classic 1957 CBS television show, "The Sound of Jazz," have not been published before.) Balliett gives brilliant final summings-up of many of the irreplaceable musicians who died in the eighties, among them Count Basie, Earl Hines, Thelonious Monk, Buddy Rich, Sarah Vaughan, and Cootie Williams. But he also offers penetrating assessements of young turks like Michael Petrucciani, Warren Vache, Howard Alden, and Wynton Marsalis. Jazz is passing through a recollective period, and Balliett takes long looks at the great Blue Note, Keynote, and Commodore reissue programs, the new jazz repertory groups, and the ambitious and wayward Grove Dictionary of Jazz. He puts his elegant glass on a Caribbean jazz cruise, on several different festivals, on the sad dissolution of the marvelous Gene Bertoncini-Michael Moore duo, and on the strange career of Miles Davis. And he gives us definitive essays on Bunny Berigan, Duke Ellington, John Hammond, Benny Goodman, Ben Webster, and the early lyrical jazz writer Otis Ferguson. Jazz fans and jazz musicians read Balliett because of his unrivalled ability to convey in words the very sound of their music. But people who don't know beans about jazz read him simply to relish his elegant and beautiful more

Product details

  • Hardback | 307 pages
  • 142.24 x 213.36 x 33.02mm | 657.71g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • 019503757X
  • 9780195037579

Review Text

A fine 14th book from Balliett (Bradley, Barney and Max, 1989, etc.) - taken, like many others, from his New Yorker jazz column - that is, he suggests, his farewell jazz hard-cover. And the pages overflow with goodbyes to great jazzmen who have died, many in the past decade, with genial elegies for Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge, Benny Goodman, Thelonius Monk, Count Basle, Earl Hines, Sarah Vaughan, and Bill Evans. Balliett also reviews Gunther Schuller's The Swing Era and James Lincoln Collier's Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong bios. Collier does not get high marks for either of his books; the Armstrong bio is faulted for not covering Pops's big-band Decca years and for not breathing life into him through lively interviews on hand from his friends and sidemen, and the Ellington bio for dismissing the Duke's later concert pieces. Balliett thinks that "It is unlikely that anyone will write a good biography of Duke Ellington." Nicely handled here is electrifying trumpeter Bunny Berrigan, whose virtuosic agility has never been more aptly limned in words. Also well examined are hornplayers Warren Vache, Rex Stewart, Jabbo Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Coleman, Cootie Williams, and Wynton Marsalis. Miles Davis is given a stiff rap on the forebrain for hiding in heavy metal and forgoing his genius. Ol' Blue Eyes's package of 83 songs recorded with the Dorsey band is called largely inert, with only a handful of livelier, more choice ballads singled out for praise. Love for swing drummers Big Sid Catlett and Buddy Rich sings off the page; with their every rim shot, press roll, cymbal smash, or snare whisper itemized and weighed for color. If this is it, Balliett leaves in top form and we are all in his debt. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Whitney Balliett

About the Author: Whitney Balliett has been the jazz critic of The New Yorker since 1957. This is his fourteenth book on the more

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