Monday 8 June 2020

Favourite Books #3

To quote from the book, p. 132:

‘To strip the Western literary or art-historical tradition of criticism would be to decimate our cultural capital (no Berger on Picasso, no Benjamin on Baudelaire). All that has ever been written about jazz, on the other hand, with the exception of musicians’ memoirs and the odd jazz-inspired novel (Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter is a masterpiece), could be lost without doing any but the most superficial damage to the heritage of the music.’

On the other hand, as David Thomson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, this ‘May be the best book ever written about jazz.’ When I finished reading it, I wanted to go out and buy multiple copies as Christmas presents for all my closest musical friends. Keith Jarrett agrees, apparently:

‘The only book about jazz that I have recommended to my friends. It is a little gem with the distinction of being 'about' jazz rather than 'on' jazz. If closeness to the material determines a great solo, Mr. Dyer's book is one.’

It’s not as though jazz is necessarily my favourite genre of music (although I tend not to classify music by genre anyway), but I appreciate brilliantly cogent and evocative writing about any type of music – and that’s a rare enough commodity. Having said that, for reasons too complex to go into here, jazz is perhaps the most difficult genre to write about in those terms, and also, paradoxically, the genre which lends itself most readily to truly creative criticism. It other words, it’s relatively easy to do badly, but quite difficult to do well. This book does it more than well. It makes it look easy. It’s the tits. 

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