Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Norman Granz - the Man Who Used Jazz for Justice

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Norman Granz - the Man Who Used Jazz for Justice

Article excerpt

Norman Granz - The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice Tad Hershorn University of California Press, 470 pages, 2011

IAJRC members know much about the subject of this book already.

Norman was a successful networker in both Manhattan and Los Angeles, even before he'd made any real dough, hanging with Duke, Billie, Roy and, as a steady girlfriend, Marie Bryant. Society's racial discrimination slapped his face early on and so he developed his mission to seat the personal and the political on the same bus - from separate musicians' unions to intolerant restaurants, the jazz world, and even in America's cosmopolitan capitals.

Granz was never afraid to apply court rulings in his favour and that's perhaps why no biography appeared while he was still able to telephone his lawyer. But the book doesn't suffer from the lack of jazz gossip, and it's securely anchored with details. In fact they mostly seem to be Norman's own reflections - it's his story and he's stickin' to it! Our Norman is shown to be mostly a saintly success, but less admirable, aggressive moments can be seen just off-stage. He was human but the irrelevant stories some of us have heard, incidents that have nothing to do with jazz, were not invited into this book. Thus, the biographer has better manners than his subject.

I may be interested in NG's first efforts in promoting groovy sets in Billy Berg's nitery and you may not. But don't worry : if one slice of jazz history isn't to your taste, there's a lot more on the plate. The biographer is, after all, writing for us all and did the democratic thing by handing out all sorts of selective facts from the well-researched, wide inventory of experience that was Granz' professional life.

This biography is not for those with only a casual interest in jazz history, for the details may, by the end, blunt some readers' needles. The tireless stylus-trackers of the IAJRC certainly won't mind, for there's rather a lot of newsy noise. Hershorn's challenge was that Granz achieved so much!

The joining up with Moe Asch and David Stone Martin was due to their socialist associations. Remember, before the House Un-American Activities Committee got a full tank to start its hit-and-run ruin of careers, it was OK, really ok, for Americans to pay attention to Leftists. Granz' membership in the Communist Party and evasion of the HUAC is quickly noted in its irony but the author wasn't keen to 'name names' and connect the dots. He's shown to have become pals with Pablo Picasso, the only Communist Party member back in the day to have absolutely no obligations to Stalin and the Party. …

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