Jazz Anecdotes: The Second Time Around

By Marsalis, Ellis L., Jr. | Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Jazz Anecdotes: The Second Time Around


Marsalis, Ellis L., Jr., Phi Kappa Phi Forum


Bill Crow. Jazz Anecdotes: The Second Time Around. Oxford University Press, 2005. 416 pages. $17.95.

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past ...

-Shakespeare

While reading Jazz Anecdotes, I was reminded of the opening line of Shakespeare's sonnet 30 that I learned quite by accident as a college freshman. However, these anecdotes are more about remembrances of a select group of people who are commercial musicians (Glenn Miller, Fred Waring, and others), jazz musicians (Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, and so on), managers, agents, and teachers; the places that they played, and the people with whom they interacted; and the many pranks, practical jokes, insults, put-ons, and numerous other devious activities in which they engaged.

Commercial musicians, as I see them, are musicians whose total motivation for performing is the dancing entertainment of their public. This statement is intended as a description and not a condemnation or an evaluation of anyone's musical abilities. And very often it is the commercial musician who hires the jazz musician because of a specific need of the jazz musician's improvisational skills.

Unlike the commercial musician, jazz musicians seek to challenge the listener's ear rather than limit their performance. The musical character of jazz musicians is the key to their individuality. They constantly strive for a unique sound that separates one from another, even if they play the same instrument. Jazz is their raison d'être.

Bill Crow has a gift. He is an urban storyteller who can stitch together these stories that can only come from someone who knows the world of the jazz musician, that peculiar breed of individual whose need for self expression often ignores all other logical opportunities that lead to a "normal" lifestyle. This book is also a testimony to the fact that jazz is connected to every aspect of American life. These anecdotes include such diverse but similar musical personalities as Fred Waring (director of the Pennsylvanians chorale) and music-loving comedian Jackie Gleason, whose anecdote segues into a Theodore "Sonny" Rollins escapade without missing a beat.

The beauty of the book is that under the rubric of jazz we find individuals of different business persuasions: hucksters, thieves, con artists, and the perennial management with alleged ties to the underworld. …

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