Waiting for Dizzy

Waiting for Dizzy

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Dizzy Gillespie. Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang. Benny Carter, the true "Gentleman of Jazz." And Bix Beiderbecke, the F. Scott Fitzgerald of players. The story of jazz is a story of individuals--enormously gifted, dedicated, sometimes driven, yet often gentle people. In this volume, Gene Lees, continues his richly entertaining and informative chronicle of the lives and times of jazz with a new collection of fourteen memorable essays drawn from his renowned Jazzletter. Waiting for Dizzy adds to the insights of his two previous collections, Meet Me at Jim & Andy's and Singers and the Song, both highly acclaimed. Meet Me at Jim and Andy's won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. Lyricist, essayist, and music historian, Gene Lees draws on a lifetime of experience--and in many cases friendships--in the jazz world to bring fresh insights to the lives and work of these magnificent artists, whether he is discussing why any guitarists have unsteady time or the complex role of race in jazz history. He is a repository of the humor of the jazz musician, recounting their wit and practical jokes: Ray Brown and Herb Ellis dying their hair as a gag on Oscar Peterson, or Joe Venuti trying to nail a foot-tapping tenor player's shoe to the floor. And as a perceptive cultural historian, he questions the jazz myth that no white musician ever made a signficant contribution to jazz. But the heart of Waiting for Dizzy is its exquisitely crafted character studies, warm pictures of the men (and women) who created and continue to create this music. He begins in the era of its first great flowering, the 1920s. He then presents a gallery of vivid portraits of a diverse group of musicians, including the seminal arranger Bill Challis, Joe Venuti, Herb Ellis, Benny Carter, Lenny Breau, and Edmund Thigpen. The theme of discrimination against black Americans turns up frequently, as in the portraits of Al Grey and Hank Jones. Readers meet Spiegle Wilcox, the 87-year-old trombonist who played in the legendary Jean Goldkette band of the mid-20s, and left the music world only to return to playing 50 years later; Emily Remler, the tragic, determined, gifted guitarist who sought to break the sex barrier and her own drug habit, only to die all too young in a far-away place; and Bud Shank, the fine alto saxophonist who disappeared into the numbing atmosphere of studio work, and at last rebelled to return to jazz. The books final essay is its pinnacle: a day spent in the recording studio with Dizzy Gillespie, surrounded by brilliant younger musicians who are his spiritual children, among them Art Farmer and Phil Woods. It is a lyrical, affectionate, and affecting portrait of one of the three or four most important figures--and the most loved-- in jazz history. From Bix to Dizzy, from swing to be-bop, from the 1920s to the 1990s, Waiting for Dizzy is an exhilarating collection by the author The Washington Post Book World calls "not only an extraordinarily perceptive reporter and analyst of jazz performance, jazz history, and jazz people, but also one of those writers who's a joy to read on any subject at all."show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 260 pages
  • 134.62 x 200.66 x 30.48mm | 226.8g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0195079086
  • 9780195079081

About Gene Lees

About the Author: Gene Lees is the award-winning author of Meet Me at Jim & Andy's and Singers and the Song, as well as biographies of Oscar Peterson and Lerner and Loewe. He has written extensively for Down Beat, Stereo Review, High Fidelity, The New York Times, American Film, and other publications. Since 1981, he has published, edited, and written for the Jazzletter, PO Box 240, Ojai CA 93024-0240.show more

Review Text

Jazzology that swings, by the former editor of Down Beat, author of the uplifting Singers and the Song(1987), etc. Lees breaks down fixed ideas of lifelong jazz fans and - with the help of miraculously remastered (and described) CD reissues of classic jazz - washes out our ears, boosts our hearts, and shoehorns us into the vanished joys of the Jazz Age. Somehow his words on Bix Beiderbecke and the boys, and on the now sonically restored CD bass lines of the bass sax and bass fiddle, give the swing a lift, support the fresh bell-tones of Bix's cornet, the soothing bite of Frankie Trumbauer's C-melody sax, and the heartbreaking happiness of the bands, offering an exhilaration not often found in jazz books. Lees finds no dark notes in Bix's playing, no hint of the alcoholism that would cut him down at 28, and quashes the idea that Bix was unhappy with the Whiteman band. He shows how the joy that ruled jazz, and was as unique to the period as art deco, died in the Crash and reemerged as something new. His tales of madcap jazz violinist Joe Venuti are reinforced by an interview with the master in his mid-70s, when he was still goosing fellow players into stronger swing. Lees finds the same lift in old-time trombonist Spiegle Wilcox and octogenarian "I-don't-know-the-meaning-of-depression" Benny Carter, who still blows his alto, leads a band, and arranges. The book ends with a long paean to Dizzy Gillespie, whom Lees interviews and who modestly ascribes his change from Roy Eldridge trumpetry to Charlie Parker saxophonics as the turning point in his career, and points out how Parker's accents made the rhythm groove. Far more perceptive than Lees's last book, Inventing Champagne, on Lerner and Loewe; the man clearly should stick to jazz, which he explicates so very well. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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