Reading Jazz

David Meltzer, Editor Mercury House $14.95 (332p) ISBN 978-1-56279-038-7
Meltzer ( Arrows: Selected Poetry 1982-1992 ) is a shrewd reader, a man for whom ``read'' and ``riddle'' are integral, a man who approaches text determined to uncover its mysteries. Here he assembles bits and pieces from his historical and critical readings on jazz to form an eclectic anthology. Jazz aficionados are offered obscure sources that they might never track down on their own: a 1917 New Orleans newspaper review obviously confused by the new music, a 1937 study of the medium by social critic Waldo Frank, jazz-inspired poems written circa the 1950s by Mina Loy and Gilbert Sorrentino, criticism written by British visitors to the U.S. in the 1920s whose understanding of the music is retrospectively laughable. Meltzer presents familiar literary names in a jazz context: Julio Cortazar describes a live Thelonious Monk concert; Norman Mailer depicts the culture surrounding jazz in a passage from The White Negro as does Ralph Ellison in a passage from Invisible Man . Meltzer's dubious thesis, that jazz is a black music usurped by white critics and later by white musicians, and that the history of jazz is also the history of racism, is weak but does not ultimately interfere with an otherwise intriguing study. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/16/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
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