Jazz Notes: Interviews Across the Generations Sanford Josephson Softcover; 208 pages ISBN: 0313357005 Praeger 2009
Jazz Notes is more than just a compilation of interviews with jazz greats. In addition to talks with luminaries like Hoagy Carmichael and Dave Brubeck, it includes updated conversations with those who are still living, as well as musicians who played with or were influenced by them. While admittedly not comprehensive, it does provide an intimate look into the lives of music greats and the musicians they helped inspire.
Readers will be tickled to find out how Hoagy Carmichael whistled the first eight bars of "Stardust" as he walked across the campus of Indiana University. Even though he was on his way to bed, he turned around to find a piano, intent on not forgetting this new melody. The anecdotes about the pranks of violinist Joe Venuti, often at the expense of cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, are amusing.
The harsh treatment that African-Americans received on the road, especially during the '30s-50s, is a dark theme that runs through the book. Alto saxophonist Earle Warren recalled how colleagues would criticize him for his light skin while also using his complexion to their advantage, sending him into restaurants to get the band food. Trumpeter Howard McGhee recalled the experience of being the only black member of Charlie Barnet's band in the '30s. At one hotel, he arrived to find that there was no reservation for him and he wasn't allowed to stay there. While the rest of the band checked in and went to sleep, he was left on his own to roam the streets, searching for accommodations.
Another interesting aspect of the book is the focus on the next generation. Trombonist Arthur Baron recalled leading the band Duke's Men and learning from the older musicians, including saxophonist Norris Turney. Cecil Bridgewater remembered the great learning experience of playing with Dizzy Gillespie during a tour of Italy with Max Roach.
Throughout the book, Josephson's writing is personal and direct. The reader gets a real sense of who these musicians are (or were) as people, along with their challenges and their triumphs. All of this makes Jazz Notes: Interviews Across the Generations a great read.