Jazz Greats Speak: Interviews with Master Musicians

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Jazz Greats Speak:
Interviews with Master Musicians
by Roland Baggenaes
Scarecrow Press, Inc. (2008) rowman.com

There was a sign in the medical library of the hospital in which I practiced; it stated: Any Book Is New Until You’ve Read It. And, that may also apply to this review.

The author Roland Baggenaes is Danish and the interviews of seventeen jazz artists were conducted from 1972 through 1987. The interviews were originally published in Coda magazine. Interviews are conversational in style, perceptive and informative. Each interview is preceded with a brief biographical sketch obviously written later for the book since a number of the interviewees had died in the interim.

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The names of most of the interviewees will be familiar to American jazz fans. Less familiar, perhaps is Marie-Ange Martin, a guitarist who grew up in Paris. Pierre Diorge, guitarist-bandleader-composer, and clarinetist-saxophonist John Tchicai are both Danish.

The fourteen Americans interviewed are Dexter Gordon, Stanley Clarke, Duke Jordan, Jackie McLean, Mary Lou Williams, Howard King, Red Rodney, Marc Levin, Benny Waters, Warne Marsh, Mal Waldron, Ernie Wilkins, Sahib Shihab, and Lee Konitz. There are also photos of all seventeen interviewees.

This is the kind of book which might best be read one or two interviews at a time and before one seeks out a recording or two via YouTube or another source. One possible economic drawback is the steep cost of many of the Scarecrow Press books, including Jazz Greats Speak; the publisher caters to an academic rather than a casual readership. This book is still in print with list price at fifty-one dollars. However, one may be able to find a lower priced used copy for significantly less, as I did.


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