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John Marks Posted: Oct 01, 2010 Published: Sep 01, 2010 0 comments
Backstory in Blue: Ellington at Newport '56
by John Fass Morton, foreword by Jonathan Yardley. Rutgers University Press, 2008. Hardcover, 336 pages, 107 B&W photos. $34.95.
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David Lander Posted: Jun 06, 2014 1 comments
According to Terry Teachout, Duke Ellington's story is one of "a somewhat better-than-average stride pianist largely devoid of formal musical training [who] managed to turn himself into a great composer." Ellington had ample help from his organization, which included the gifted composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn, who succinctly described his employer's modus operandi: "Each member of his band is to him a distinctive tone color and set of emotions, which he mixes with others equally distinctive to produce a third thing, which I call the Ellington effect." Without standout band members, and without Strayhorn himself, that effect would have been significantly less memorable.
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Stephen Mejias Posted: Mar 18, 2013 13 comments
Measuring 7.1" by 1.6" by 9.1" and with an attractive paper-over-board cover, [Talking Heads founder] David Byrne's boldly titled new book resembles the textbooks often found in public-school classrooms. If not for the author's brief lapses into street talk—he uses the word shit just a bit too freely for the youngest readers—one gets the impression that Byrne wouldn't mind having his book taught in elementary school. He quotes from Oliver Sacks's brilliant Musicophilia: "For the vast majority of students, music can be every bit as important educationally as reading or writing."
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David Lander Posted: Apr 17, 2014 1 comments
514book.250.jpgKansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch (New York: Harper, 2013), 365 pp. Hardcover, $27.99.

A section of this biography, which documents the early life of the dazzling bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker, starts with a four-page meditation on "the truth and myth of railroads" in America: the figurative underground railroad that comprised a web of escape routes for slaves fleeing the South; the "black-smoke-puffing iron horse" that galloped into the West and "would eventually carry the brutal and legendary Apache chief Geronimo and his people . . . to Florida"; the trains "that inspired the legend of Casey Jones"; and the trains steaming through the blues tunes that echoed their melancholy nocturnal sounds.

Crouch views the train as "a vehicle and a dream source" in a culture where children were once tantalized by ads that pictured toy trains looping around "bright ovals of miniature track." As every jazz fan knows, Charlie Parker's playing traveled along bright ovals of its own. So does Crouch's prose, and his intellectual excursions carry readers well into the realm of African-American history, which is a significant dimension of this book.

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John Marks Posted: Feb 10, 2012 1 comments
KEF: 50 Years of Innovation in Sound
By Ken Kessler and Dr. Andrew Watson. GP Acoustics International Limited, 2011. $89.99. Hardcover, 12" by 12" by 0.9", 216 pp. ISBN 978-988-15427-4-8. Available from selected KEF dealers and Amazon.com.

Ken Kessler's latest "coffee-tabler" (my favorite publishing-industry insider neologism) celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of KEF Electronics by documenting the history of the venerable loudspeaker manufacturer. While the book doesn't quite start with a bang, it does start with an evocative vignette. The year was 1979, the place the ballroom of Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty the Queen, about to present KEF's founder, Raymond Cooke, with the medal representing his having been made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), inquired, perhaps formulaically, "This is for loudspeakers?"

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John Marks Posted: Jun 03, 2007 Published: May 03, 2007 0 comments
McIntosh: "...for the love of music..."
by Ken Kessler. McIntosh Laboratory, Inc., 2006. $150.00. Hardcover, 12" by 12" by 1.25", 315 pp. ISBN 0-9787236-0-0.
Available from McIntosh dealers and McIntosh Laboratory, Inc., 2 Chambers Street, Binghamton, NY 13903. Tel: (800) 538-6576.
David Lander Posted: Apr 20, 2012 0 comments
Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice
By Tad Hershorn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. 470pp. Hardcover, $34.95.

One night in 1942, Billie Holiday was singing at a Los Angeles nightclub. Between sets, she crossed the street to have a drink with Norman Granz. She was in tears because some black friends who had come to hear her had been turned away.

David Lander Posted: Jun 06, 2011 1 comments
Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009): 475pp. Hardcover, $30; paperback, $16.95.

If you plan to read just one book about Louis Armstrong, whose virtuosic cornet solos pushed jazz past rudimentary ensemble playing and launched his phenomenal career as an instrumentalist and singer, make it Pops. Teachout built it on brickwork laid by authors who preceded him, so you'll benefit from their research, as well as from narrative on 650 previously private reels of tape that Armstrong recorded and archived. Moreover, Teachout is a musician and music critic who offers opinions on his subject's discography.

Few people seem to realize that Armstrong (1901–1971) called himself LOU-iss. "All White Folks call me Louie," he once noted, and in some instances that may have been patronizing. In others, it was surely an instinctive response to the man's infectious warmth and informality.

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John Marks Posted: Nov 13, 2013 1 comments
RA—The Book: The Recording Architecture Book of Studio Design
By Roger D'Arcy and Hugh Flynn (illustrator), with photographs by Neil Waving. Foreword by Adrian Kerridge. Black Box Limited (London), 2011. $215. Hardcover, 15" by 10.5" by 1.25", 350 pp. ISBN 978-1-907759-16-1. Available from www.ra-thebook.com (ships from within the US).

In July 2004, I reviewed Jim Cogan and William Clark's Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios, a collection of the business histories of 15 US recording studios. Each chapter covered a particular studio, focusing on its role in the careers of the recording artists most associated with that studio; eg, United Western Recorders and the Beach Boys.

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John Marks Posted: Aug 27, 2006 0 comments
Sound Bites: 50 Years of Hi-Fi News
By Ken Kessler and Steve Harris. London, IPC Media, 2005; paperback, 224 pages, 8.25" by 5.75", indexed. $29.95. Available in the US from Music Direct, www.musicdirect.com, (800) 449-8333.
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Kalman Rubinson Posted: Apr 29, 2008 Published: Apr 30, 2008 0 comments
Surround Sound: Up and Running (Second Edition)
by Tomlinson Holman. Published by Focal Press, an imprint of Elsevier (footnote 1) (Oxford, England, UK; www.elsevier.com). 2008. Paperback, 248 pages, ISBN 978-0240808291. $44.95.
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Art Dudley Posted: Apr 29, 2008 Published: Apr 30, 2008 0 comments
Swiss Precision: The Story of the Thorens TD 124 and Other Classic Turntables
Swiss Precision: The Story of the Thorens TD 124 and Other Classic Turntables
by Joachim Bung. Published by Joachim and Angelika Bung, Schmitten, Germany (info@td-124.de), 2008. Hardcover, 288 pages, four-color, ISBN 978-3-00-021162-1. Price: €59 plus overseas mailing.
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John Marks Posted: Aug 01, 2004 Published: Jul 01, 2004 0 comments
TEMPLES OF SOUND: Inside the Great Recording Studios
by Jim Cogan and William Clark; Foreword by Quincy Jones
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2003. Softcover, 7.5" by 10", 224 pp. $24.95. ISBN 0-8118-3394-1.
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David Lander Posted: Dec 17, 2012 1 comments
The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun by Robert Greenfield 431 pages. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Hardcover, $30.

Robert Greenfield's engaging biography shows that Ahmet Ertegun was destined to dominate. The son of a Turkish ambassador, Ertegun (1923–2006) left his native country at age two, and lived for a decade in Switzerland, France, and England, where he had a nanny who had previously cared for the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. His first American home was an architectural gem of a mansion on Washington's Embassy Row. House guests included Cary Grant and his second wife, the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton.

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David Lander Posted: Oct 10, 2012 0 comments
In December 1941, just after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S.'s declaration of war, the state of Indiana unwittingly endorsed a very different conflict by approving the incorporation of a talent agency headed by Denver Ferguson, an Indianapolis-based African-American entrepreneur. The Chitlin' Circuit and the Road to Rock 'n' Roll documents the second of these campaigns, launched by the musical forces Ferguson dispatched to venues throughout the American South where blacks could entertain black audiences. In successive waves, talented musicians hit those stages running. Their performances were often incendiary, and a large chunk of this book chronicles the artistic warfare they waged between the advent of rhythm and blues and the emergence of what became known as rock'n'roll.

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