Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J Gleason Interviews by Toby Gleason (ed); Jazz Worlds/World Jazz by Philip V Bohlman & Goffredo Plastino - review by Daniel Matlin

Daniel Matlin

Innovators & Impresarios

Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J Gleason Interviews


Yale University Press 276pp £20 order from our bookshop

Jazz Worlds/World Jazz


University of Chicago Press 496pp £24.50 order from our bookshop

Two more contrasting books about jazz would not be easy to find. Conversations in Jazz, comprising transcripts of interviews conducted by the music journalist Ralph Gleason during the 1950s and early 1960s, embellishes and lends intimacy to canonical jazz history. Through Gleason, and often in his Berkeley home, we meet fourteen renowned musicians, all American, all male, from one of jazz’s most storied periods. These were years that brought the fruition of hard bop and modal jazz, represented here by Horace Silver and Bill Evans respectively, the latter in his collaboration with Miles Davis on Kind of Blue. They also witnessed the dramatic early expressions of free jazz, including those of the book’s first interview subject, John Coltrane. Meanwhile, Jazz Worlds/World Jazz, a collection of eighteen scholarly essays, has as its purpose the interruption of all such settled familiarity. Editors Philip Bohlman and Goffredo Plastino invite us to remove the blinkers that, they say, have largely restricted jazz history’s field of vision to the narrow terrain of the USA and its self-aggrandising mythologies, haul ourselves out of the comfort of Gleason’s living room, and find jazz in Copenhagen,

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