By Robert Walser
Drawing from contemporary journalism, reviews, program notes, memoirs, interviews, and other sources, Keeping Time lets you experience, first hand, the controversies and critical issues that have accompanied jazz from its very birth. Edited by Robert Walser, these sixty-two thought provoking pieces offer a wealth of insight into jazz. Some of the giants of jazz speak to us here, including Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus and Wynton Marsalis. And there are pieces by writers such as Langston Hughes, Norman Mailer, and Ralph Ellison, and by critics such as Leonard Feather and Gunther Schuller. Readers will find Louis Armstrong on what makes swing, Dizzy Gillespie on bebop, and Miles Davis on jazz-rock fusion. Equally important, Walser has selected writings that capture the passionate reactions of people who have loved, hated, supported, and argued about jazz. One can read, for instance, a dismissive article written in 1918 that relegates jazz to the "servant's hall of music" along with "the clatter of the clogs, the click of Slavic heels." Or a debate between Wynton Marsalis and Herbie Hancock over the merits of free jazz and electric instruments. Or Duke Ellington's claim that jazz is neither highbrow nor lowbrow, but "goes back to something just about as old--and as natural--as the circulation of the blood." In the end, the focus here remains on how the music works and why people have cared about it. Filled with passionately felt, insightful writing, Keeping Time will increase one's historical awareness of jazz even as it provokes lively discussion among jazz aficionados, whether in clubs, concert halls or classrooms.