cover image Jazz Greats

Jazz Greats

David Perry, Author Phaidon Press $14.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7148-3204-3

The latest entry in Phaidon's 20th-Century Composers series sketches the complicated history of this wholly American art form by examining the complicated lives of a few of its finest, and most well-known, practitioners. Unfortunately, Perry's short chapters find him glossing too much. While he doesn't glamorize the various drug habits and unruly lifestyles that were part and parcel of the jazz scene of previous decades, Perry's quick, friendly style does reduce such giants as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane to a few ""significant"" recording sessions and their already self-perpetuating legends. The question of whether Buddy Bolden's turn-of-the-century band was the first to play jazz will forever go unanswered, in spite of Perry's rehashing of an old tale. For all of his painstaking care with the facts, Perry doesn't deliver anything not already published elsewhere about Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus or Duke Ellington. Jazz Greats isn't apt to enlighten the fan whose record collection goes deeper than Miles Davis's classic sides with Parker or a couple of Sidney Bechet albums, but novices brought into the fold by the Marsalis brothers and their neo-traditional peers might be enlightened by dipping into Perry's selective discography at the book's end. (July)