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Book Reviews

The House That Trane Built: The Story Of Impulse Records

By Published: June 3, 2006
The House That Trane Built: The Story Of Impulse Records
Ashley Kahn
Hardcover; 340 pages
W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.
2006

Author Ashley Kahn's latest contribution to the documentation of jazz history is The House That Trane Built: The Story Of Impulse Records, a chronicle of the rise of Impulse Records in the '60s and '70s. Impulse Records occupied a unique place in the development of jazz for the sheer variety of its catalogue: During its 15-year run, Impulse issues represented every school of jazz, from swing and bebop to avant-garde and free improvisation.

As the book's title suggests, the label's mainstay was saxophonist John Coltrane. Kahn carefully tracks the growing symbiosis between the prolific artist and the label's management as Coltrane pulled up his roots in big band and buried them deep into experimental jazz. During the six years he recorded for Impulse, Coltrane's musical expression evolved in reaction to—or perhaps in call-and-response to—the seismic cultural and political shifts of the day, especially in the African-American community. The label could not help but follow suit.

Kahn's storytelling reveals an exhaustive amount of research. Thus the back of the book material fascinates as much as does the story line: A comprehensive discography of Impulse Records from 1961 to 1977 reads like a syllabus of jazz history. Also of interest: 36 album profiles inserted throughout the chapters, complete with interviews, photos and insider stories about the sessions and the players.

The book's release marks the 45th anniversary of Impulse Records. Accompanying the book are 12 Best-of-Impulse CDs (including a four-CD companion collection).



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