Mstation Book Reviews
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Sat, 02 Sep 2006


Stanley Crouch, Considering genius, 
Basic Civitas Books

I saw Miles Davis play at the Village Vanguard in NYC when I was quite small. There I was in blazer and tie and with my step-sister in tow. They drew the line at her, who must have looked about ten years old at the time, and sent her back to the Waldorf.

The place was only moderately full, with mostly black men. I settled at the bar with a beer and listened to the great man's phrasings which often brought loud exclamations from the crowd - Oh Yeah! Yeah! The people were really nice to me. This was before the days of the Black Power movement. The price of acceptance there, at that time, was just that you were interested. You dug Miles? You were a friend.

I'm not a jazz expert. At the time I followed West Coast Cool, a mainly white-man's game of soothing fluffiness mostly with names like Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and Dave Brubeck. Not that I cared what colour their skins were.

Let's join this wonderful book now. The author is a black American who was around for early Miles and has been around since. He starts by giving us an overview and then talks in some detail about the likes of Miles Davis and the earlier Charlie 'Bird' Parker.

Along the way he also lays out what being Black meant. While most white writers tend to make a hash of this, for various reasons including odious political correctness (and in the UK today, not adhering to that line could see a visit from the thought police), Stanley Crouch isn't afraid to say unpalatable truths about his own people where relevant. The arrogant racists of the Black Power movement get a good serve here. In fact, those people almost killed off jazz as a moderately popular music genre.

Not that they are the only villains here but the main point off the thing, the heart, soul, and the joy, is the music itself which is lovingly described, and the people who played it too. (Baron K)

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