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conversations with 40 musicians by W: Royal Stokes

W. Royal Stokes’ The Jazz Scene (OUP-USA 1991) (left) was highly praised as an oral history of jazz, which, said famous jazz writer Stanley Dance, put together a kind of mosaic that effectively illustrated the whole subject in a novel and informative way.

His new collection, Jazz Profiles, follows the same successful model, but deals with jazz oral history in some significantly different ways. Stokes’ interviews strongly focus on how the different musicians got involved with jazz when young and how their careers developed from an early age. This presents a wonderful range of perspectives on what makes jazz musicians. In the book, too, a number of prominent women musicians discuss their jazz careers and describe the obstacles they had to overcome and the problems of being a woman in the jazz world. They include three prominent jazz singers: DeeDee Bridgwater, Shirley Howe, and Diane Kral, who featured in Jazz Junction earlier. She is married to Elvis Costello.

we´re gonna need a bigger bookshelf

Women instrumentalists – especially those performing on such suspect jazz instruments as harp (Dorothy Ashley) and violin (Regina Carter) have had an even more difficult career path. The interviews in the book break down into a series of jazz-related subjects – jazz families, early jazz pioneers, saxophonists and pianists and string players, singers, jazz composers, jazz musicians beyond the US, blues players, and comics – the last being discussions with Steve Adler and Bill Cosby about their intense involvement with jazz. In their accounts of their careers, these musicians provide great insight not only into their own careers but into the nature of jazz itself and how it has attracted and sustained its players. The subjects cover the entire history of jazz – from its early days, in the 1920s and before, to the present, for Stokes is particularly good at eliciting stories from promising young musicians who are just building their careers now. But the book presents a broad perspective of jazz in all its aspects and of the talented people who have made it successful

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