Oxford Univ. Press
1990, 350 pages
With material from over one hundred sources, bassist Bill Crow compiled a very rich collection of jazz lore and humor. From the marvelous cover photo of Roy Eldridge cracking up Lester Young, to the last page's variations on the old chestnut "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?", Jazz Anecdotes delivers.
From Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith to Miles Davis and John Coltrane, eighteen of the forty-three chapters are devoted to specific artists and/or their playing units, with some doubled up (Coleman Hawkins/Lester Young, Zoot Sims/Al Cohn, Miles Davis/John Coltrane). Some of Crow's topics are serious: origins of the term "jazz", stories of how musicians started on their particular instruments, inventions (mutes,etc.), prejudice. But more of the anecdotes are in a lighter vein, with chapters on nicknames, goofs, put-ons, the road and "good lines".
No doubt the more "legitimate" forms of music also have their share of lore and humor. But great humor and art have often come from the "other", those on the fringes of society (witness the huge proportion of Jewish and African-American comedians in this country), making jazz a gold mine.
If you're like me you'll have trouble putting down Jazz Anecdotes, especially with its bite-size entries. And this is a book you can return to repeatedly without the contents getting stale. This one is a must for jazz fans!