Hershorn has managed to write a highly engaging and well-documented biography even though his subject vacillated on whether he wanted his life examined in this way. Readers may vacillate as well, on whether or not they find the enigmatic Granz to be likeable. He could be uncommonly generous, giving expensive gifts (sometimes including luxury cars) to people he favored or sending money to musicians who were having health or financial problems. He could also be arrogant, abrupt, chauvinistic, and dismissive. He was a gourmet who would think less of someone because they sought out a good burger rather than a fine French restaurant.
Regardless of likeability, readers will certainly find Granz respectable. He was true to his convictions, especially racial equality, even when his moral commitment resulted in financial loss. Starting in the 1940s, he broke new ground in the integration of jazz performances and equal pay and accommodations for the performers. In the process, he was one of the driving forces in expanding jazz from small nightclubs to major concert halls.
The cast of characters is a who's who of jazz from the 1940s-80s, which is a delight for longtime jazz fans but may be a bit daunting for newcomers who will struggle to keep up with the namedropping. Fortunately, many great artists play big roles in the story, and we gain significant insights on their lives and careers. Among them are Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, Nat Cole, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins.
Granz was also an art collector, and had a friendship with Pablo Picasso during the last few years of the artist's life. One chapter is devoted to this facet of Granz's character.
There's plenty to be learned here about jazz history, the civil rights struggle in America (and to a lesser extent, Europe), and the devotion of one man to a musical art form for which he perhaps did more than any other non-musician.