PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... a slim yet powerful book in which Marc Ribot blends bits of memoir with strange little fictions ... The essays and stories here cohere around connected themes: Artful distortion reveals essential truths; meaningful struggle yields wisdom and rare beauty; unreliable narrators ... Mr. Ribot’s writing wrings maximum meaning from minimalist statements ... \'Lies and Distortion,\' the first of the book’s four sections, distills with rare clarity the lessons and epiphanies Mr. Ribot received while on the bandstand ... Mr. Ribot’s most moving passages concern his earliest mentor, the composer and guitarist Frantz Casseus ... In a poignant tribute to Derek Bailey, Mr. Ribot remarks how the English avant-garde guitarist \'let the song be what it is while letting the improvisation go where it goes.\' As a musician and, here, as an author, Mr. Ribot embodies that same approach.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMs. Golia aptly outlines the aesthetic dilemma, when \'jazz had become aware of itself and its strengths\' and Coleman \'found this self-consciousness restrictive and contrary to the purpose of deeper exploration.\' She writes with demystifying clarity about the manifestations of compassion and rigor behind Coleman’s search for \'unison\' and the musical system he called \'harmolodics\' ... her book opens ears yet further to the transformative power of Coleman’s music.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Gioia’s claim that \'the main plot in the narrative of popular music\' for more than a century now has been \'the descendants of African slaves rewriting the rules of commercial songs in every decade\' is hard to dispute. Yet that point is complicated by his repeated use of the term \'underclass\' in this context (Miles Davis, for instance, did not grow up poor). His narrative is sometimes tone-deaf ... Considering this book’s theme, it is curious that the author doesn’t mention the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians ... And given Mr. Gioia’s expertise in jazz, I was disappointed that his account of that art form effectively ends in the 1980s ... Yet in other important respects, Mr. Gioia stays current.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalJason Berry’s bold, witty and deeply researched history of his native city homes[sic] in on the sound of the place ... avoids allusions to a melting pot or, as commonly applied to New Orleans, a gumbo. [Berry\'s] city is a collection of \'map-of-the-world neighborhoods,\' each with a distinct identity ... Berry might have dug more deeply into how this dynamic has played out in the \'new\' New Orleans—why community clubs took the city to federal court over jacked-up fees for Sunday second-line parades, or how the brass-band and Mardi Gras Indian cultures he rightly celebrates have faced fresh waves of police intimidation. The \'resilience\' Mr. Berry praises has become, for some New Orleans residents, a dirty word ... Yet Mr. Berry understands these issues as fully as anyone. His optimism, a faith of sorts, is grounded in the very story he tells ... an indispensable history, explains both what we might take care not to lose and why it’s so easy to believe it will always be so.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"His criticism and reporting shy away from grand pronouncements yet amply reflect jazz’s present vitality ... The jazz wars subsided largely because both sides realized insufficient spoils. Mr. Chinen ignores that fact, yet makes a persuasive case that this once-elemental schism is now largely beside the point ... Thankfully, Mr. Chinen doesn’t seek to define jazz. He focuses on subtler existential dilemmas ... Jazz fans and critics love to quibble. Yet Mr. Chinen’s choices—his narrative subjects and lists of recommended recordings—are hard to question ... The role of jazz as ritual music with a spiritual function is notably less conspicuous here. Nevertheless, Mr. Chinen appears bent on a kind of enlightenment. His narrative traces a sturdy, finely crafted and open-ended framework for consideration of where jazz is headed, and why—and a treaty to maintain jazz-war disarmament.\