This biography of Benny Goodman's music and times attempts to recreate the colourful music world of the 1920s and 1930s, when Goodman was hailed the King of Swing. The author offers insights into the character and music of a man who helped transform the Depression years into the Swing Era.
In his life and in his music, Cole Porter was the top--the pinnacle of wit and sophistication. From the 1910s through the '50s, from Yale pep rallies through the Broadway triumphs of Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate, he delighted audiences with a glittering torrent of song: "I Get a Kick Out of You." "Night and Day," "Love for Sale," and "Just One of Those Things." The bright surface of these gems--their catchy melodies and ingenious lyrics--made them instant pop hits. Their more subtle qualities and their musical and emotional depth have made them lasting standards, among the greatest glories of the American songbook.In Cole Porter, William McBrien has thoroughly captured the creator of these songs, whose life was one not only of wealth and privilege but also of tragedy, secrecy, and courage. A prodigal young man, Porter found his aesthetic and emotional anchor in a long, loving, if sexless marriage, while continuing to maintain many discreet affairs with men. In 1937, at the height of his success, he suffered a near-fatal riding accident; his last eighteen years were marked by pain, drugs, and repeated operations on his legs, years of physical agony but unstinting artistic achievement. Here is the book that Porter's fans have long hoped for--a life that informs the great music and lyrics though illuminating glimpses of the hidden, complicated, private man.
Clad in white tie and tails, dancing and scatting his way through the "Hi-de-ho" chorus of "Minnie the Moocher," Cab Calloway exuded a warm charm and sophistication that endeared him to legions of fans. In Hi-de-ho: The Life of Cab Calloway, author Alyn Shipton sheds new light on Calloway's life and career, explaining how he traversed racial and social boundaries to become one of the country's most beloved entertainers. Drawing on first-hand accounts from Calloway's family, friends, and fellow musicians, the book traces the roots of this music icon. Beginning in obscure Baltimore nightclubs and culminating in his replacement of Duke Ellington at New York's famed Cotton Club, the book shows how Calloway honed his gifts of scat singing and call-and-response routines. His career as a bandleader was matched by his genius as a talent-spotter, evidenced by his hiring of such jazz luminaries as Ben Webster, Dizzy Gillespie, and Jonah Jones. As the swing era waned, Calloway reinvented himself as a musical theater star, appearing as Sportin' Life in "Porgy and Bess" in the early 1950s; in later years, Calloway cemented his status as a living legend through cameos on "Sesame Street" and his show-stopping appearance in the wildly popular The Blues Brothers movie, bringing his trademark "hi-de-ho" refrain to a new generation of audiences.
Irving Berlin remains a central figure in American music, a lyricist/composer whose songs are loved all over the world. His first piece, "Marie from Sunny Italy," was written in 1907, and his "Alexander's Ragtime Band" attracted more public and media attention than any other song of its decade. In later years Berlin wrote such classics as "God Bless America," "Blue Skies," "Always," "Cheek to Cheek," and the holiday favorites "White Christmas" and "Easter Parade." Jerome Kern, his fellow songwriter, commented that "Irving Berlin is American music."
In Irving Berlin: The Formative Years, Charles Hamm traces the early years of this most famous and distinctive American songwriter. Beginning with Berlin's immigrant roots--he came to New York in 1893 from Russia--Hamm shows how the young Berlin quickly revealed the talent for music and lyrics that was to mark his entire career. Berlin first wrote for the vaudeville stage, turning out songs that drew on the various ethnic cultures of the city. These pieces, with their Jewish, Italian, German, Irish, and Black protagonists singing in appropriate dialects, reflected the urban mix of New York's melting pot. Berlin drew on various musical styles, especially ragtime, for such songs as "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and Hamm devotes an entire chapter to the song and its success. The book also details Berlin's early efforts to write for the Broadway musical stage, culminating in 1914 with his first musical comedy, Watch Your Step, featuring the popular dance team, Vernon and Irene Castle. A great hit on Broadway and in London, the show was a key piece in the Americanization of the musical comedy. Blessed with prodigious ambition and energy, Berlin wrote at least 4 or 5 new songs a week, many of which were discarded. He nevertheless published 190 songs between 1907 and 1914, an astonishing number considering that when Berlin arrived in America, he knew not a single word of English. As one writer reported, "there is scarcely a waking moment when Berlin is not engaged either in teaching his songs to a vaudeville player, or composing new ones."
Early in his career, Irving Berlin brilliantly exploited the musical trends and influences of the day. Hamm shows how Berlin emerged from the vital and complex social and cultural scene of New York to begin his rise as America's foremost songwriter.
Few people know jazz as well as Gene Lees. As a musician, songwriter, former editor of Down Beat, and creator of the acclaimed Jazzletter, he has steeped himself in the music for decades. And no one writes about jazz better than Lees. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the leading jazz historians. The Washington Post called him "one of those writers who's a joy to read on any subject at all." No less than Dizzy Gillespie has called Lees "the glowing jewel of jazz" for his perceptive writing about the music. Now comes the book that jazz lovers (and Lees's fans) have been waiting for--Leader of the Band, a vivid, full-scale biography of Woody Herman.
Asked by Herman in 1986 to write his biography, Gene Lees has spent close to a decade working on it, interviewing many of Herman's childhood friends and lifelong acquaintances as well as numerous musicians, including Les Brown, Milt Jackson, Peggy Lee, Tony Martin, and Red Norvo. The result is a strikingly immediate and well informed portrait of one of the great figures in jazz history--a musical giant whose career spanned the big band and bebop eras. Lees unfolds Herman's dramatic life from his childhood in Milwaukee to his final tragic days hounded by the IRS. We follow his rise to prominence in the 1930s as leader of "the band that plays the blues," when he quickly earned the love and respect of his peers that became the enduring hallmark of his career. Lees illuminates Herman's great success between 1945 and 1950, when bebop rapidly developed, revealing how Herman successfully made the transition with bands that became famous as Herman's "First Herd" and "Second Herd." (The Second Herd in particular won a stellar place in the annals of bebop, boasting many brilliant musicians, most notably, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz.) Lees also captures the ultimate tragedy that broke Herman's career--when Herman's manager diverted the band's withholding tax to settle gambling debts. Herman was tormented by the IRS for decades, until he died, penniless, in 1987. Along the way, Lees brings to life the weary routine of performing on the road, with its constant one-night engagements and unending travel, broken only by brief stays at home and moments of camaraderie. And perhaps most important, we not only see Herman's legion of friends and admirers, we see why this commanding figure was so loved and respected, even by that fractious bunch who make their living by playing jazz.
Woody Herman played a central role in the development of jazz--and he played it, as he did the music, with dignity and breathtaking ability. In Leader of the Band, one of our finest writers captures the life of this great bandleader, vividly portraying the triumph and tragedy of a life in jazz.
Written by one of jazz journalism's best and most knowledgeable critics, this book explores the full swing spectrum from its origins in the 1920s through its current retro resurgence. Features intriguing capsule biographies of 400 of the best musicians, from classic artists like Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman to retro swingers such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers, with each artist's most notable CDs reviewed and rated, plus info on film appearances, books, and hard-to-find recordings. Includes insightful essays that explore this music's cultural impact, fun photos and swing memorabilia.
Here is the book jazz lovers have eagerly awaited, the second volume of Gunther Schuller's monumental The History of Jazz. When the first volume, Early Jazz, appeared two decades ago, it immediately established itself as one of the seminal works on American music. Nat Hentoff called it "a remarkable breakthrough in musical analysis of jazz," and Frank Conroy, in The New York Times Book Review, praised it as "definitive.... A remarkable book by any standard...unparalleled in the literature of jazz." It has been universally recognized as the basic musical analysis of jazz from its beginnings until 1933.
The Swing Era focuses on that extraordinary period in American musical history--1933 to 1945--when jazz was synonymous with America's popular music, its social dances and musical entertainment. The book's thorough scholarship, critical perceptions, and great love and respect for jazz puts this well-remembered era of American music into new and revealing perspective. It examines how the arrangements of Fletcher Henderson and Eddie Sauter--whom Schuller equates with Richard Strauss as "a master of harmonic modulation"--contributed to Benny Goodman's finest work...how Duke Ellingtonp used the highly individualistic trombone trio of Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Juan Tizol, and Lawrence Brown to enrich his elegant compositions...how Billie Holiday developed her horn-like instrumental approach to singing...and how the seminal compositions and arrangements of the long-forgotten John Nesbitt helped shape Swing Era styles through their influence on Gene Gifford and the famous Casa Loma Orchestra. Schuller also provides serious reappraisals of such often neglected jazz figures as Cab Calloway, Henry "Red" Allen, Horace Henderson, Pee Wee Russell, and Joe Mooney.
Much of the book's focus is on the famous swing bands of the time, which were the essence of the Swing Era. There are the great black bands--Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Earl Hines, Andy Kirk, and the often superb but little known "territory bands"--and popular white bands like Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsie, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman, plus the first serious critical assessment of that most famous of Swing Era bandleaders, Glenn Miller. There are incisive portraits of the great musical soloists--such as Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Bunny Berigan, and Jack Teagarden--and such singers as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Helen Forest.
Before Elvis Presley and rock-'n'-roll, another King ruled the roost of American popular music. His name was Benny Goodman and his domain, the gilded age of Swing. Benny's concerts, records, and radio shows catapulted the hot and controversial sounds of jazz into the hearts and homes of a hungry public. Swing, Swing, Swing at once illustrates Goodman's enormous impact on American music and culture, reflects the rich textures of the times in which he lived, and evokes the very private life of a complicated, difficult man. Raised in a tenement in Chicago's Maxwell Street ghetto, he grew up to become the symbol of glamorous high-society living. Benny's undeniable position as social groundbreaker --his were the nation's first racially integrated bands--was characteristically downplayed by the man himself: he simply wanted the finest musicians he could find. Here are the sounds and stories that define the remarkable life of the world's most demanding and idiosyncratic band leader. The violent clashes between his smiling public persona and his intensely private nature; the infamous "Goodman Ray" (no musician who played with Benny escaped its wrath); the conflicting stories of Goodman's parsimony and his largess--these stories and many more paint a vibrant portrait of a truly original, undeniably American artist.