A Great Book about the Making of Great Jazz Records
Written by Michael Jarrett
It seems to be harder these days to find the great books about jazz, especially when their focus isn’t on a star like Miles or Coltrane. Here’s a must read for any jazz fan, one I found by accident in an internet search for something else:
Pressed For All Time: Producing The Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall written by Michael Jarrett, a Penn State professor, and sourced from original author interviews over a 25 year period.
What’s so different here? The book exclusively interviews jazz record producers, not artists (though there are artist/producers like Carla Bley). Why does it matter? As you read stories from men (and they’re almost exclusively male) who started in the direct-to-disc era of 78s (like George Avakian) through magnetic tape (like Orrin Keepnews, Nat Hentoff, Teo Macero, Tommy LiPuma) up through our current digital times (our own Michael Cuscuna, who, of course, spans multiple periods), you’ll start to figure out the significant, often misunderstood, influence that different approaches have had on our collective understanding of this music we all love.
To spice things up, Jarrett includes some gossip about revered legends like John Hammond that shouldn’t be missed; if nothing else, one senses that producer egos can quietly be as large as the artists they represent.
Complaints? Only a small one. Since all these oral histories come directly from Mr. Jarrett’s interviews, we don’t get much insight on critical luminaries like Alfred Lion and Norman Granz, or the literally unknown heroes who toiled in obscurity, but all of whose massive presences are keenly felt throughout. Still and all, urgently recommended to anyone who loves jazz and loves recordings.
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