PositiveThe Seattle Times\"... an intimate, keenly-rendered new biography that will interest jazz enthusiasts and anyone with an interest in American popular culture ... Maxine Gordon’s fastidious research into her husband’s racially mixed ancestry, musical development, prison years (which he refused to discuss) and the built-in inequality of the record business are impressive. But readers with a desire to hear more than one side of a personal story may sometimes be frustrated ... a warm, subjective story that trains an astute lens on the social and political circumstances that helped shape a career; and for that, it stand outs as a landmark contribution to the literature of the jazz.\
RaveThe Seattle TimesPaul Simon...is a top-flight artist but not a particularly sympathetic figure. Be that as it may, biographer Robert Hilburn...really makes you want to know what makes this coolly calculating, controlling and ambitious 76-year-old singer-songwriter tick. Hilburn accomplishes this in part by focusing on the work as well as the man — song lyrics are quoted in full, with helpful explications — building a strong case for the composer ... Not since Caetano Veloso’s and Dylan’s autobiographies has there been such a detailed discussion of the layered poetic process that lies behind a great song. Hilburn also offers plenty of juicy stories ... As for Simon’s also precipitous marriages...Simon is less forthcoming than he is about his music, but Hilburn’s keen portrayal of a man who has even described himself as often critical, selfish and career-obsessed makes it clear why it took him three tries to get it right.
MixedThe Seattle TimesThis dark, panoramic thriller set in post-World War I New Orleans appears to have been inspired stylistically by the films that author Nathaniel Rich examined in his 2005 study, San Francisco Noir ... Though not in the same league as E.L. Doctorow’s similarly fictive-historical Ragtime — or, for that matter, Michael Ondaatje’s haunting Coming Through Slaughter (about fabled trumpeter Buddy Bolden) — King Zeno is a fun read and more ambitious than most genre novels ... His muscular prose hums at its best when it is plainly expository, particularly while inhabiting his characters’ minds ... Rich excels at character development, painting vivid, interior portraits of his cowardly white detective, Bill Bastrop, and the aspiring but conflicted African-American jazz musician of the book’s title, Isadore Zeno ... More troubling is that the writing in King Zeno sometimes runs purple and also spills into other implausibilities... But there’s still a lot to like here for fans of detective fiction, and of film noir and jazz.
Elaine M. Hayes
MixedThe Seattle TimesHayes argues that Vaughan’s refusal to let herself be pigeonholed as a happy-go-lucky swinger, blues-drenched victim or romantic pop crooner, but instead embraced all sides of her artistic personality, allowed Vaughan to transcend stereotypical expectations of race and gender...Though Hayes offers no evidence to back up this rather grand assertion, her strategy of viewing Vaughan through the lenses of race and gender leads to some profitable insights ... But Hayes displays a disappointing level of fluency in jazz history, its African-American milieu and the fickle machinations of the popular music business ... while Queen of Bebop sheds welcome new light on Vaughan, jazz fans will still have to wait for a definitive biography of this important figure.