Behop and Nothingness: Jazz and Pop at the End of the Century

Francis Davis, Author
Francis Davis, Author Schirmer Trade Books $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-02-870471-5
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Most contemporary jazz is too homogeneous and conservative for Davis (The History of the Blues), who says the unifying theme of this idiosyncratic collection of essays is his ""growing disenchantment with contemporary jazz."" He includes a number of innovative mainstreamers, such as Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie and Lester Young, and he also devotes a section to Broadway and vintage pop because they have been the sources of much in jazz. For the most part, however, Davis focuses on peripheral musicians-mavericks such as Dr. Vernard Johnson, who spreads the gospel on alto saxophone; Charles Gayle, a homeless tenor saxophonist; pianist Lennie Tristano, a cult figure more interested in pedagogy than performance; Sun Ra and his Myth Science Arkestra; black klezmer clarinetist Don Byron; avant-garde trumpeter Lester Bowie, leader of the experimental group Brass Fantasy; and Bobby Previte, who composes ""technoeclectic"" scores for the Moscow Circus. All these heady, thought-provoking pieces previously appeared in various newspapers and periodicals. (Mar.)
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