Mon. Oct 26th, 2020

Media: Book Reviews and Bits, & Pieces | 1978-7-13

Media Bits

David L. Wolper Productions and Warner Bros. are going all out with Roots: The Next Generation – the Henning, Tennessee Set alone costs one million dollars. Already cast are Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, Lynne Moody, Richard Thomas and Fay Mauser.

Busy Brown also occasionally directs for TV

Have you seen the prime time schedule for this fall? It looks like it was programmed by 13-year-old Saturday morning cartoon freaks. C’mon fellas, if you’re going to give us sex with our violence at least make it adult sex.

Antonio Fargas

If you haven’t seen Antonio Fargas, Paramount’s Pretty Baby, you’re missing one of the best acting performances so far this year — Black or white. Fargas steals every scene he’s in The Third Annual Chicane Film Festival will be held August 24 & 25 in San Antonio, Texas.

For information: Adan Medrano, 288 Oblate Drive, San Antonio, Texas

T. A. T. Productions is almost ready with Constipation Blues, a cartoon short set to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ R & B classic of the same name; they’re claiming it’s a laugh riot.

Why doesn’t George Benson have his own TV variety show? Benson On Broadway last May proved that, the man, has charm, wit and charisma, let alone the talent, to really burn up the small tube; Hell, if Donny & Marie can have a weekly hour show, someone of Benson’s skill should have three.

Congrats to Max Robinson on joining the lofty ranks of network evening anchormen over at ABC. D.C.’s loss will be the rest of the nation’s gain.

Books

Jazz Is puts you into a jazz environment. At all times, you are with the Jazz greats. Primarily, Nat Hentoff shares with you his conversations with Jazz musicians. Then he gives his observations, impressions and opinions of the people who took Jazz out of the narrow confines of the honky-tonks of New Orleans and made it an international art form. It is as though he has taken an invaluable tape and made it into a book. Conversations reveal musicians’ feelings about themselves, their music and their experiences with fellow musicians. It is the opinion of one musician about another that makes this book a gem.

The expression “from the horse’s mouth” couldn’t be more meaningful. Duke Ellington talking about Sidney Bechet and Coleman Hawkins; Billie Holiday revealing some facets of her true self; Louis Armstrong letting you see behind the Satchmo facade; Miles Davis rapping about Jazz ingredients; Dizzy Gillespie showing a very serious side of himself. Page after page, these immortals appear. It is Jazz talk at its best because it is real.

Nat Hentoff’s approach to Jazz makes Jazz Is a unique book. He permits the musicians to speak about themselves, about each other. He does not allow his opinions to overshadow the musicians and their special talents. In essence, he sets the stage and a brilliant parade of artists take it from there. Nat Hentoff affords his “players” two approaches to the subject of Jazz. They can “walk on” and “emote” quickly or they can stay “on stage” and speak at length about some Jazz great. Thus, the book has a two-way thrust.

Jazz Is begins with a chapter entitled Jazz Is.  It’s chocked full with well-known Jazz figures offering many thoughts on various aspects of Jazz. In a clever move by Hentoff, the next chapter brings you the man himself, Duke Ellington. It’s not a biographical essay but a revelation by the Duke as how he saw himself, his music, other musical forms and his fellow musicians. It is an essay that gives the respected opinions of musicians who have worked with Duke or were touched by his greatness. Biographical data is incidental, but do point out the evolution of Jazz as a true art form in this country. This format is carried throughout the book. The lessons, the facts and the revelations are endless. Are we surprised that prejudice was experienced by all Jazz players in America? Could an art form, expressed almost exclusively by Blacks, be recognized, accepted and taken seriously in this country? Would the negative aspect — drugs, undesirable clubs and halls frequented by unsavory characters, unbecoming behavior by some artists — denigrate the greatness of the music and its contributors? Nat Hentoff’s book gives the answers to these questions and many others.

There are two valuable lists appended to the book. There is a discography which Hentoff calls “A selective guide to Jazz recordings.” John Coltrane, Roy Eldridge, Gerry Mulligan, Fats Waller, they are all here, Then there is a bibliography in which Hentoff lists books by Jazz artists and several books by writers “off stage.”

If you are into Jazz you will want to read this book. You will want to own a copy for its pictures; its reading pleasure; and for its fact-crammed pages which make it a valuable reference source. Pick up a copy so you will know what “Jazz Is.”

Jazz Is By Nat Hentoff, Avon Books, 263 p., Paperback, $2.25

In midtown Manhattan, there is 52nd Street. It is not the street in its entirety with which we are concerned. It is the block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues that was called The Street. It was a musical haven for many jazz greats — Art Tatum, “Hot Lips” Page, Teddy Wilson, Erroll Garner, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Mary Lou Williams, clubs, bistros, and bars flourished. They flourished because they offered the best in vocal and instrumental Jazz performed by both white and Black artists. “Jamming went on until the wee hours, but the real excitement of The Street was created by the man or Woman who ‘sat in,’ who walked into a club, instrument in hand and played or sang unrehearsed with a group of performing musicians.

It was The Street from about 1934 to 1950, and it was the most swinging from 1935 to 1945.

Arnold Shaw is a composer, club manager and historian; his book 52nd Street is the result of a desire to write about Jazz, the players, the showcases and the audiences. Information was gathered from taped interviews of those involved in Jazz, whether on or off stage. You hear from John Hammond, well-known jazz promoter, as well as Gilbert J. Pincus, “Former” mayor of 52nd Street. Running parallel to these tapes is a history of the clubs in which Jazz made its mark upon the musical world.

52nd Street: The Street of Jazz by Arnold Shaw, Da Capo Press, 378 p., Paperback, $5.95

This book was published originally as The Street That Never Slept in 1971. Now, as 52nd Street, it affords us an even better picture of a street that held its own in spite of the popularity of 42nd Street and Broadway.

Leonard Feather, considered a Jazz authority, has written several books on Jazz — Inside Jazz, The Encyclopedia of Jazz. The Book of Jazz is an all-inclusive book on Jazz, written for anyone who has questions about the music. It is a guide book in the field. Unique in books on Jazz is Leonard Feather’s rundown on Jazz instruments, the histories, the sounds and their contributions to Jazz. Of course, the Jazz artists who played these instruments with unrivaled excellence are introduced and their music analyzed. An interesting aside is Feather’s first chapter, Horizons: Jazz in 1984, in which Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and other masters talk about the future of Jazz. As you finish reading this book, you will be able to see that much of that future is now. A foreword by John “Dizzy” Gillespie and musical passages demonstrating Jazz improvisation are some of the highlights of the book. Additional sources of Jazz information can be gotten from the list of “Notes” at the back of the book.

The Book of Jazz by Leonard Feather, Dell Publishing Co., 317 p., Paperback, $1.95

Children Books

This is a simply written view of the development of music in America. It shows that music was an off-shoot of every step in the growth of America. Music In America points out every ethnic group’s contribution to American music — from the very beginning of America. Thus you go back to the Pilgrims, the slaves and then you are brought up to the time of the writing of this book.

A good bibliography is included.

Music in America, by John Rublowski, Crowell-Colfier Press, 185 p., $3.50, Ages 12-16

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