Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Report #75.5 - The Cover Art of Blue Note Records by Graham Marshand Glyn Callingham

As a companion to the Blue Note biography I was also leafing through a gorgeous coffee table book that collected the cover art of so many iconic Blue Note LPs.

The book was not about the music but about the striking imagery of Reid Miles who did much to create the look and feel of a Blue Note album.  Through his work and the photography of Francis Wolff Blue Note records had a unique look that just spoke of cool.

I found this book endlessly fascinating. Given that the work of Alfred Lion and Rudy Van Gelder was of such a high standard you can actually judge a CD by its cover.  Blue Note was the standard bearer of Hard Bop and you can pick up just about any disc and enjoy it.

I've discovered artists I have never heard of just from the images from this book.

It's a fun way to look a little deeper into the jazz of the 50's and 60's.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Report #75 - Blue Note Records, the biography by Richard Cook

For the past few months I've been thick in discovering the Hard Bop era of jazz from the 1950's and 1960's.

I've been buying dozens of CDs mostly from Blue Note.  I've also been listening to loads of jazz radio programs, through the DAR.FM cloud-based recoding service and listening to them on my iPhone while delivering the mail. 

It didn't take long before I started to search out books on the subject of jazz.  I picked up this copy at a used record store in Nanaimo while visiting my parents last spring.

I finally dusted it off and tore through it at a pretty steady pace.

I found the book very informative, I made a few CD purchases just from reading it.

Ironically I found the book bogged down at times when long passages were devoted to describing specific recording sessions.  Of course the book would delve into this; that's what Blue Note did - produced records.  But I was more interested in how Blue Note fit into the history of jazz records and how it coped with the advent of R&B, free jazz and rock.

Every time my eyes started to glaze over Cook would switch gears from describing sessions to deals Blue Note made, industry milestones and stories of the lives of various artists.  Cook's ability to keep the story moving on all these fronts kept me turning pages.

This was an important book to me and I will keep it on the shelf along with my tiny vinyl collection and growing CD collection.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Book Report #74 - Waist Deep by Frank Zafiro

You know what I love best about reading? 

Sure the characters and stories can take up a special place in your life but what I love best are the authors.

I read quite a bit and sometimes I'm compelled to contact the author.  I even have a letter, in a drawer, from the man himself; Elmore Leonard.  Yup, I wrote him and he wrote back.

Mostly contact is via email or this blog. 

Frank Zafiro and I have corresponded a few times over the years.  Not long ago he emailed me asking if I'd read Waist Deep yet.  When was the last time you've had an author contact YOU?

Well, I dug the book up, I have a kindle copy, and started to get into it. However I had to put the book aside twice in order to cope with work.

But that's the test of a good book; can you put it down and get back into it days or weeks later?  If you can you know you have a connection.  This book was like that.

Every time I read something by Zafiro I wonder why I don't read more of his stuff.  The answer is that there is so much stuff out there that I want to discover that I can't stay in one place for any large block of time.  You know it's true because I blog about books as I read them; I'm all over the map.

But what about Waist Deep?

It was excellent.  Zafiro has such a wonderful, deeply damaged character in Stefan Kopriva that I'm always wondering if his character will just curl up in the fetal position and give up on life. I really enjoy seeing how he keeps himself motivated and moving forward.

Clocking in at 263 pages this book is right in the sweet spot for mystery fiction.  I love the old stuff from the paperback area of the 50's and 60's where authors were "writers"; guys who bashed away at a typewriter all day long to make a living.

Zafiro is that kind of writer, think Mickey Spillane if you want a comparison to the kind of writer I think Zafiro is.  Hell, his output alone should tell you that this guy is writing as a career.  He's also one of the lucky ones who's just loving it too.

Perhaps his years on the Spokane PD has taught him him to write with the notion of getting to the point.  I love this.  I don't need 200 pages of exposition to make me feel good about buying a book.  I need a good story that kicks me in the ribs.

Waist Deep kicked me hard.  I have two daughters who are about the same age as Kris Sinderling, the subject of this story, so perhaps I could relate to her dad who hires Kopriva to find the missing teen.

In any case this is a solid story that I very happy to have read.