Howard E. Fischer Jazz Expose: The New York Jazz Museum and the Power Struggle That Destroyed It
In 2002 Congress provided one million dollars for the development of a jazz museum in Harlem. What many people may not recall is that there used to be a New York Jazz Museum in the seventies, a small, private enterprise organized by a few devoted fans. Jazz Expose: The New York Jazz Museum and the Power Struggle That Destroyed It is a chronicle of the project from its founder, Howard E. Fischer. The museum had a promising start; there were several concerts, rotating exhibits, and even a jazz puppet show for children, along with the participation of several jazz luminaries. However, a lack of funding and squabbling between Fischer and the Board of Directors led to its demise. This book is Fischer's last gasp attempt to show that the New York Jazz Museum was a good idea, and its failure was the fault of others who blackballed him out of the organization.
There's probably a good story here, but this isn't it. The whole tone of the book suggests that Fischer had no choice but to write the book himself, but unfortunately, he isn't a very good writer. Passages detailing the creation of the Hot Jazz Society read like meeting minutes; the chapters dealing with the legal battles are too much like court transcripts. There's an awful lot of passive voice as well, the agentless style suggesting that nobody did anything, it just got done.
Perhaps Fischer's background as an attorney is to blame, for his writing lacks emotional weight or any sort of ability to emphasize the important parts of the story. The "Reflections and Aftermathâ??? section, instead of presenting any final thoughts on the matter, is merely a laundry list of what Fischer has been doing since. But the most grievous error is the tedious artist biographies, filled with facts that even the most causal jazz fan would know. Would anybody other than a jazz fan be interested in this book? For that matter, does anyone not know that a reed is, in Fischer's words, "important for a musician's mouthing of the instrument while playing"?
Labors of love like the Jazz Museum are everywhere in the jazz community. People like Fischer are willing to risk everything to share their passions with the public, and jazz thrives largely because of dedicated fans like him. It's too bad that the museum failed, but it's also too bad that this book doesn't do its failure justice. Besides the photograph of the Benny Goodman Quartet puppets, there might be little here to hold your interest.