DownBeat | The Great Jazz Interviews

Written by | Book Reviews, Reviews

Large format,soft cover,with the articles/interviews arranged in chronological order,starting in the 1930’s through the 2000’s. The soft cover is substantial and would hold up to some wear.

This is another fine collection of interviews/articles published in conjunction with DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE,the “bible” of jazz. The focus is on jazz artists in the DOWNBEAT Hall of Fame. Frank Alkyer-publisher,and Ed Enright-editor of DOWNBEAT have chosen wisely for this 75th anniversary publication. While some long-time readers of the magazine,or jazz listeners may quibble over the omission of a favorite artist/artists,the many featured musicians in this book give a fine overview of both jazz from it’s (arguable beginning),and as a history of DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE.

Following the publication,in conjunction with DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE,of the fine “The Miles Davis Reader”,a number of years ago,this collection takes in most of the greatest names in jazz,past and present. While many more musicians could have been included,the artists here form a solid foundation of jazz. From jazz’s beginnings,featured artists such as W.C. Handy,Louis Armstrong,Jelly Roll Morton,Duke Ellington (1930’s),through Woody Herman,Glenn Miller, Billie Holiday, T-Bone Walker,Stan Kenton,Lester Young,Dizzy Gillespie,Charlie Parker (1940’s),into the 1950’s with Les Paul,Chet Baker,Lennie Tristano,Oscar Peterson,John Coltrane,Roy Eldridge,to Joe Williams,Ornette Coleman,Paul Desmond,Bill Evans,Art Tatum,Ella Fitzgerald,Thelonious Monk,Miles Davis,Muddy Waters (1960’s),to “Cannonball” Adderley,Roland Kirk,Charles Mingus,Tom Waits,Frank Zappa,WEATHER REPORT,Stevie Wonder (1970’s),to Freddie Hubbard,Brian Eno,Tony Williams,Keith Jarrett,Carla Bley,Henry Threadgill,Carlos Santana (1980,s),to Joe Henderson,Stephane Grapelli,Joshua Redman,Van Morrison,Joni Mitchell,Betty Carter,Steve Lacy (1990’s),through Tony Bennett,Hank Jones,Dave Brubeck,James Brown (2000’s),and many,many more,together present the history of jazz.

The many black and white (and few color) photographs,many not seen for years,adds depth and emphasis to the thoughts of these artists. Sprinkled throughout are (small) color reproductions of DOWNBEAT covers from various years. The opinions on jazz in the articles and a few “Blindfold Tests”,(different from the interviews),by musicians from the period,are interesting and attest to the aches and pains jazz went through (and is still going through),with a number of dissenting opinions and criticisms (read both 60’s articles by “Cannonball” Adderley and Charles Mingus concerning Ornette Coleman as an example) on the course and future of jazz.

This is a book that could sit on anyone’s jazz shelf. For someone new to jazz,there’s much information which would lead to some great jazz listening. For the long-time jazz listener/reader,this book is a compendium of jazz history,in chronological order,which reinforces why we listen to jazz in the first place. DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE has done a fine job delving into it’s vast archives,something they alone are uniquely qualified to do. In bringing together the history of a true American musical genre,through the thoughts of the very musicians who created (and are still creating) so much fine music,into one collection,is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. DOWNBEAT has done it.

By Stuart Jefferson


Last modified: July 15, 2018