Book Review: ‘Jazz Greats Speak’

Jazz Greats Speak;
Interviews with Master Musicians
Roland Baggenaes, Author
Scarecrow Press, Inc.
Pp. 139; paperback
© 2008 by Rowland Baggenaes

There was a sign in the medical library of the hospital in which I practiced; it stated: Any Book Is New Until You’ve Read It. And, that may also apply to this review.

The author Roland Baggenaes is Danish and the interviews of 17 jazz artists were conducted from 1972 through 1987. The interviews were originally published in Coda magazine. Interviews are conversational in style, perceptive and informative. Each interview is preceded with a brief biographical sketch, obviously written later for the book since a number of the interviewees had died in the interim.

The names of most of the interviewees will be familiar to American jazzfans. Less familiar, perhaps is Marie-Ange Martin, a guitarist who grew up in Paris. Pierre Diorge, guitarist-bandleader-composer and clarinetist-saxophonist John Tchicai are both Danish.

The 14 Americans interviewed are Dexter Gordon, Stanley Clarke, Duke Jordan, Jackie McLean, Mary Lou Williams, Howard King, Red Rodney, Marc Levin, Benny Waters, Warne Marsh, Mal Waldron, Ernie Wilkins, Sahib Shihab and Lee Konitz. There also are photos of all 17 interviewees.

This is the kind of book that might best be read one or two interviews at a time and then seek out a recording or two, YouTube or other source. One possible economic drawback is the expense of many of the Scarecrow Press books, which are academic and not mass-market. This is still in print with list price at $51. One may be able to find, however, a lower-priced used copy for significantly less, as I did.

This book will be available for circulation at the Jazz Room of the downtown West Florida Public Library.

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