Cold nights, hot jazz.
READING JAZZ: A GATHERING OF AUTOBIOGRAPHY, REPORTAGE AND CRITICISM FROM 1919 TO NOW
Vintage Press ($25)
Edited by Robert Gottlieb, this anthology starts with excerpts from the autobiographies of Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and goes up through Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton. The autobiographies alone are worth the price of the book, but the two other sections on reportage and criticism offer a vast panoply of takes on jazz, including "Jazz in America" by Jean Paul Sartre and "Bop" by Amiri Baraka.
A MILES DAVIS READER
Smithsonian Institution Press ($20)
A different way to trace almost the entire history of jazz music is to pick one figure and study him or her-more microscope than telescope. This anthology of essays and other Davis documents provides an ever-varied and fascinating musicological tour through not only Davis' life and art, but also the history of jazz itself. Several essays include transcriptions of Davis' solos, including a revelatory study of Davis and the song "My Funny Valentine," tracing Davis' relationship with that one tune over many years. Also of note: the Leonard Feather Downbeat Magazine "blindfold tests," wherein Davis reveals his, uh, critical side, dismissing Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor and Archie Shepp vitriolically while lauding The 5th Dimension.
VISIONS OF JAZZ: THE FIRST CENTURY
Oxford University Press ($35)
Gary Giddins has been writing about jazz for nearly 30 years, and this highly entertaining, multifaceted and engaging anthology collects 89 of his thoughtful and informative essays. Giddins has taken an approach particularly suited to jazz: Each essay focuses on a single individual and provides a sketch of their entire career, their importance to the music and their influence. One of the fine aspects of Giddins' work is that it spans all genres, styles and periods in jazz without prejudice, favoritism or bias. At the same time, Giddins avoids hagiography and tells a straight yet passionate story.