Tom Piazza Setting the Tempo

ISBN 13: 9780385480000

Setting the Tempo

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9780385480000: Setting the Tempo

Since the introduction of the long-playing record, some of the best writing about jazz has appeared on the backs of record covers. Over the years, jazz writers and prominent jazz musicians have annotated record albums with background on the musicians and the recordings, historical context and musical analysis. These annotations, or "liner notes," provide a window on the recording process, as well as intimate anecdotes and personal views of the musicians that have an immediacy and warmth rarely found elsewhere--setting the tempo, in a sense, for the listener's appreciation of the music.

Jazz liner notes, both for new releases and classic material, comprise a rich and vibrant genre of jazz writing that has never been collected--until now. In Setting the Tempo, author and jazz authority Tom Piazza presents fifty of the finest and most distinctive notes from the beginning of the genre, in the 1940s, through the present.  Among them are Duke Ellington's moving reminiscences of stride piano master James P. Johnson, brilliant impressions of John Coltrane by poet Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka); bass virtuoso and composer Charles Mingus's harrangue against his critics, composer Gunther Schuller's extrordinary story of locating Charlie Parker's alto saxophone teacher, and meditations on different meanings of freeedom in jazz by pianist Bill Evans and alto innovator Ornette Coleman. Stanley Crouch, Dan Morgenstern, Ira Gitler, and Ralph J. Gleason and other critics are also represented by some of their strongest work.

A mosaic history of jazz as seen through the occasions of its signal recordings and the sensibilities of some of its foremost observers, Setting the Tempo is one of the most lively collections of jazz writing ever assembled.

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Review:

Many jazz fans first learned about the music not only from listening, but from reading the notes on the backs of records. In "Setting the Tempo," Tom Piazza collects 50 liner notes, dating from 1940 to 1986. Here are such writers as Stanley Crouch (on pianist Thelonius Monk and saxophonist Booker Ervin); Amiri Baraka (on singer Billie Holliday and saxophonist John Coltrane); and Whitney Balliet (on singer Joe Turner and saxophonist Gerry Mulligan). This is writing that informs, often placing the artist in a historical context, as much as it energizes bringing to our attention nuances in the music that often make us hear it afresh.

From Library Journal:

Fordham, who has written several jazz books including Jazz Man (Trafalgar, 1996), offers a collection of his journalism published in British periodicals between 1970 and 1995. These reviews feature contemporary American and British performers and vary in length from a few paragraphs to several pages. Because the majority were written on deadline and within space limits, Fordham had little opportunity for development. And because the reviews often cover multiple performances over the decades, material on a given musician tends to be scattered across the book. But Fordham's sharp critical mind and entertaining style hold one's attention, making such limitations forgivable. Where Fordham collects his own journalism, Piazza (The Guide to Classic Recorded Jazz, LJ 3/1/95) has brought together lengthier essays by many different writers. And while Fordham focuses on living musicians, Piazza's essayists discuss recordings made during the first half of the century. This selection of 49 liner notes includes two of his own essays, but the bulk were written by critics he considers among "the best writers in the field," including Dan Morgenstern, Nat Hentoff, Martin Williams, and many more. A few were written by musicians themselves. Commenting on recordings from Bunk Johnson up through the revolutionary Ornette Coleman, these essays offer substantial historical information, some musical analysis, and many anecdotes. All things considered, Setting the Tempo may better serve as a reference work and for general readers, while Shooting from the Hip best addresses readers already knowledgeable about jazz and interested in the British scene.?Paul Alan Baker, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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