All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Book Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

12

All That's Jazz

Phil Barnes By

Sign in to view read count
All That's Jazz
Sammy Stein
198 Pages
ISBN: 13: 978-0-9557670-9-8
Tomahawk Press
2017

Sammy Stein is a brave woman. Take that title—not just a riff on "All That Jazz" to cover a personal memoir of time spent in the jazz trenches but ALL that IS jazz. This is a book that in the author's words attempts to ..."share this wonderful music with as many as possible, to allow people to understand that jazz has few limitations...." Not only that but Ms Stein looks to reflect the views of a large number of industry figures, labels, musicians, venues and radio presenters, to get the most comprehensive overview of the state of jazz today possible.

If the enormity of that ambition hasn't hit you yet, think about the typical new listener's follow up question 'well WHAT do you mean by jazz anyway?' and picture just about every music journalist you've ever read coughing, looking at their shoes and mumbling about prior engagements. Those of you who know Sammy Stein from her astute writing on jazz both for this site and others in the UK and Europe will know that if any writer in the UK blogosphere could pull this off then she can. The approach fits well with the author's signature style, a feature of her pieces being a willingness to give a voice to musicians views on their own work alongside her own well thought through perspectives.

None of this entirely gets away from the issue that asking 10 people to define jazz will elicit at least a dozen shades of opinion, but the combination of the multiple voices is an effective way of mitigating the potential for chaos. For the record the "what is jazz" question is not ducked but tackled upfront in the first chapter, Stein ably marshalling the range of opinions around the core of improvisation. The reader will to some extent be able to find their own view in the views expressed, but arguably Mats Gustafsson summed up the discussion best: "Everyone should have his or her own definition... In my world, the word 'jazz' represents resistance, improvisation and swing...." As the source of that quote suggests, Ms Stein clearly has an exceptional contact book—in addition to the aforementioned Mr Gustafsson the musicians alone include exclusive reflections from the likes of Peter Brötzmann, Claire Martin, Norma Winstone, Gilad Atzmon and Sam Eastmond.

Each of the chapters that follows looks at a different aspect of the current jazz scene with Sammy Stein's infectious enthusiasm both leading the discussion and curating the material from the interviewees into a coherent text. The ground covered is very wide, for example, chapter 2 is a potted history of the music that is particularly good on the relatively neglected free jazz sub-genre. I also liked the chapter on "labels" which it turns out is as much about jazz terminology and sub-genres as Blue Note, Impulse et al. It's a fascinating read, taking in a range of opinions on some of the biggest issues in the industry. For example, take this quote from the ever on point Mats Gustaffsson regarding the impact of jazz's ever present past on new artists "If new players were as good as the old ones, the inventors, the pioneers... [and were prepared to] improvise a bit more, go deeper... develop their own language... then they would get the credit they deserve!... And there are actually huge numbers of great players and great music these days but I have no idea what to call their music...." Some might find this provocative, but the point is that it is up to the individual to form their own response from the range of opinions available. Surely as fans of a medium as open as jazz we can cope with that?

Another favourite section was the chapter on "The Musicians and Being a Jazz Musician," where the contributors are mostly interesting once you get past the unsurprising opening comments along the lines of "being a jazz musician is great"—how could the opportunity to follow your talent be anything else? I especially liked the observation here of Sam Eastmond, best known as part of the Spike Orchestra: "When the mainstream doesn't move you, it can leave you feeling isolated and marginalised... the transformative jolt I got the first time I dropped the needle on Bitches Brew did make me feel ... that I belonged somewhere for the first time." Mr Eastmond also has the stand out anecdote on how the musician's life is all consuming—if it is even part true that he publicised his forthcoming Ronnie Scott's gig during his wedding speech then he is clearly fortunate to have both such an understanding spouse and continued good health!

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon Book Reviews
Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: August 21, 2018
Read Blues From the Bayou: The Rhythms of Baton Rouge by Julian C. Piper Book Reviews
Blues From the Bayou: The Rhythms of Baton Rouge by Julian...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 20, 2018
Read Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans, 3rd Edition Book Reviews
Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans, 3rd Edition
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 18, 2018
Read The Other Night at Quinn's Book Reviews
The Other Night at Quinn's
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 17, 2018
Read Portrait of a Phantom: The Story of Robert Johnson’s Lost Photograph by Zeke Schein with Poppy Z. Bright Book Reviews
Portrait of a Phantom: The Story of Robert Johnson’s...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 3, 2018
Read Blue Grass, Newgrass, Old-Time, and Americana Music by Craig Harris Book Reviews
Blue Grass, Newgrass, Old-Time, and Americana Music by...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 3, 2018
Read "Good Morning Blues" Book Reviews Good Morning Blues
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: January 11, 2018
Read "Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968" Book Reviews Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968
by Doug Collette
Published: April 14, 2018
Read "The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums" Book Reviews The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums
by Roger Crane
Published: December 19, 2017
Read "Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The Politics Of Improvisation" Book Reviews Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The...
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 10, 2017