Cover image for Jazz and its discontents : a Francis Davis reader
Jazz and its discontents : a Francis Davis reader
Davis, Francis.
Personal Author:
First Da Capo Press edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiv, 336 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3506 .D328 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



From Frank Sinatra to Sun Ra, from the jazz age to middle age, with thoughts on everything in-between, Francis Davis has been writing about American music and American culture for more than twenty years. His essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and the Village Voice among countless other publications from coast to coast. And now, for the first time, here are his most important writings of his impressive career-the quintessential Davis on everything from why Rent set musicals back two decades, to what Ken Burns should have filmed. And Davis's writing is as enjoyable as the music of which he writes. The New York Times Book Review has compared Davis's work to "a well-blown solo."

Author Notes

Francis Davis is a monthly columnist for the Village Voice, a contributing editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and writes regularly for the New York Times, and the New Yorker.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Jazz critics of two generations weigh in with a career retrospective from the younger one, a collection of recent pieces by the older. Davis says the 25 years he has been writing about jazz have been a period of artistic and popular decline that he blames on "the entrenched tastes of the jazz faithful"--a statement the first part of which will draw the ire of young avant-garde enthusiasts while the second rouses the wrath of the elders whose patronage keeps mainstream jazz alive. Davis obviously isn't afraid to make waves but deserves to be read because, like the late Martin Williams, he writes about music for nonmusicians without substituting purple prose for audibly verifiable description and because, like venerable New Yorker 0 jazz writer Whitney Balliett, he communicates musicians' personalities pungently and believably. In this collection, he does both for the music and the persons of figures ranging from old Sonny Rollins to young Don Byron, from young traditionalist Wynton Marsalis to old avant-gardist Charles Gayle. His critical acumen shines brightly, too, in the three pieces on musical theater and the commentaries on movies and comedians that conclude the book. Before becoming everybody's favorite civil libertarian, Hentoff was a jazz critic, whose Jazz Life0 (1961) introduced the music to many baby boomers. Lately proclaimed the first nonmusician jazz master by the National Endowment for the Arts, he now writes on jazz not for erstwhile haunts Down Beat0 and the Village Voice 0 but, judging from the provenances of most of his new book's contents, for the Wall Street Journal.0 In line with the Journal's 0 status as a newspaper, these pieces are news-story short and, in line with the Journal0 's market orientation, contain consumer guidance to recordings, books, and music organizations. Most focus on particular musicians, though some are topic driven, such as "Testosterone Is Not a Musical Instrument," on the continuing resistance to women in jazz except as singers and pianists. Unfaithful followers of Hentoff on music may be surprised, but very pleasantly, by the pieces on his other "American Music" passion, hard country--by the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Delbert McClinton. --Ray Olson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Table of Contents

Only Myself to Blame: Introduction and Acknowledgmentsp. ix
From in the Moment
An Improviser Prepares (Sonny Rollins)p. 3
No Success Like Failure: Ornette Coleman's Permanent Revolutionp. 15
Leading Lady (Abbey Lincoln)p. 26
Anthony Davis's New Musicp. 33
From Outcats
Surviving Ellingtonp. 55
Ellington's Decadep. 68
The Mystery of Herbie Nicholsp. 76
Sunshine, Too (Sheila Jordan)p. 82
She's Susannah McCorklep. 93
Too Late Blues (Bobby Darin)p. 101
West Coast Ghost (Frank Morgan)p. 105
Black Like Him (Bobby Short)p. 111
The Home and the World (Abdullah Ibrahim)p. 116
Streams of Consciousness (Ran Blake)p. 123
Circles, Whirls, and Eights (Borah Bergman)p. 128
From Bebop and Nothingness
Pres and His Discontents (Lester Young)p. 135
Apple Pie (Art Blakey)p. 141
Real Stuff in Life to Cling To (Tony Bennett)p. 145
"Zorn" for "Anger"p. 151
Bagels and Dreadlocks (Don Byron)p. 158
Out There (Charles Gayle)p. 167
White Anglo-Saxon Pythagorean (Roswell Rudd)p. 174
Recurring Characters
The Unsure Egoist Is Not Good for Himselfp. 187
Talking with Milesp. 190
Miles Agonistesp. 195
Hottentot Potentatep. 200
Sun Ra, Himselfp. 204
The Right Stuffp. 210
Born Out of Timep. 213
Wynton's Ellington Jonesp. 219
Bonus Tracks
My Worthy Constituentsp. 225
Jim Hall Has It Madep. 230
Other Folks' Music
Full of Foolish Song (Guys and Dolls)p. 239
Infection (Stephen Sondheim)p. 248
Black Faces, Black Masksp. 258
Mixed Media
At the Moviesp. 269
Talking Kerouacp. 286
Standup Sitcom (Seinfeld)p. 290
Onward (Mort Sahl)p. 297
Bob Hope, Prisoner of Warp. 302
America Surrendersp. 307
Only in the Moviesp. 320
Indexp. 329