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Underneath a Harlem Moon: The Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall (Bayou Jazz Lives) Hardcover – 4 Jul 2002


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; 1st ed. edition (4 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826458939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826458933
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 871,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Iain Cameron Williams is the writer of the biography 'Underneath a Harlem Moon ... the Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall' (published 2002/2003). He was a close friend of the singer/entertainer Adelaide Hall from 1971 until her death in 1993.
In 2013, 'Underneath a Harlem Moon' attracted a new generation of readers after British singer Laura Mvula revealed her song 'Sing to the Moon' (from her hit album 'Sing to the Moon') was inspired by Williams' book.
Williams is also a musician, producer and composer and has released several recordings under various stage names. He has written two musical stage revues.
(2013) Williams is currently working on several creative projects including editing his third novel and writing a screenplay about his friendship with Adelaide Hall.

Product Description

Review

"Williams recounts the excitement and vibrancy of the era when jazz was in its infancy and of the personalities who created and nurtured it." Booklist, 9/1/02

About the Author

Underneath a Harlem Moon is Iain Cameron Williams' first biography. He was a close friend of Adelaide Hall from 1971 until her death in 1993

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Dec. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I came across this book through a recommendation. I’m so pleased I did.
As an admirer of Duke Ellington’s work, I knew of Adelaide Hall, mainly through her connection and early recordings with Ellington, but knew little about the lady herself or her significant achievements in the world of entertainment.
In the books preface, the author, Iain Cameron Williams, claims Adelaide Hall appears in many jazz anthologies as a mere footnote, whilst others abandon her career altogether. With "Underneath a Harlem Moon" Williams attempts to set the record straight by documenting comprehensively her exact relevance and role in the History of Jazz and, in my opinion, succeeds admirably.
Williams’s familiarity with his subject clearly demonstrates the amount and depth of research he made in order to unearth the facts. One gets the distinct impression that during the process he left no stone unturned, so detailed is his descriptive. Although Williams’s 20-year friendship with Hall must clearly have helped him in appraising his subject’s temperament, it must also have allowed him the privilege to see an intriguing side to her character that her fans would not normally have seen. This becomes apparent the deeper one delves into the text.
The book charts in rich detail the life and career of Miss Hall during the frenetic Harlem Renaissance and documents all the colourful characters to emerge from this movement, most of whom worked with Miss Hall at some point in her career. It also gives a fascinating insight into the social history of the Twenties and Thirties when Prohibition, real-life gangsters and sophisticated nightclub culture ruled the sidewalks.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Daniel on 29 Dec. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I approached this biography with an open mind - keen to learn more about an entertainer who, when I was a teenager, I had seen and admired in concert on numerous occasions during the forties and fifties, but heard little of since.
The early chapters, that recount Hall's childhood - growing up in an almost condemned tenement block in the tough district of Brooklyn - reveals exactly how Hall's character was formed and show the prime reason why she strived so hard to make her life a success.
Her apprenticeship and early career in show business give an interesting insight into how badly white Americans treated the black community - this section I found illuminating and disturbing, especially the accounts of how open segregation was still operational in certain cities.
When Adelaide hit the jackpot, fame and riches soon took its toll upon her mental and physical stability, but underneath her troubled visage stirred a restless soul with a forceful personality.
I found this book engaging; an eye catching glimpse into one of the most glamorous eras in history and a portrait of a remarkably talented and inspired woman who led an extraordinary life.
However, for all the book's charm there are certain parts in the text where I felt the writer was on a mission, to "set the record straight" so to speak. Certainly, this becomes apparent when he addresses several incidents that have circulated over the years relating to Hall's undervalued and at times unacknowledged influence upon jazz music ... although this is not a criticism of the writers ability to relay a story, just an observation.
Adelaide Hall comes with a first class pedigree and Underneath a Harlem moon comes as a fine tribute.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Barry McCanna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All praise to Iain Cameron Williams for the exhaustive research he carried out in preparing this biography, as evidenced by the annotations, which take up fifteen pages. Adelaide's story is a fascinating one, and when he reports it objectively the author is on solid ground. Sadly, he cannot resist embellishing the facts at frequent intervals, which is when his hold on the narrative becomes tenuous. The situation is not helped by an unfortunate tendency to indulge in purple prose, like this example on p.117 which relates to the impact of the recording of "Creole Love Call" on the careers of both Adelaide Hall and Duke Ellington:

"They would have to wait for history to carve its granite niche before the full importance of the recording would rightfully be recognised".

The text is littered with similar examples, which do nothing to illuminate his meaning, but rather have the reverse effect. The other reservation is that Adelaide's role is cast as somehow pivotal to the development of jazz, which leads to some questionable conclusions. The book is a practical guide to Adelaide Hall's career, but the presence of so many arkward figures of speech means that I cannot rate it as highly as others have done.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A Consummate Read 15 Dec. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I came across this book through a recommendation. I'm so pleased I did.
As an admirer of Duke Ellington's work, I knew of Adelaide Hall, mainly through her connection and early recordings with Ellington, but knew little about the lady herself or her significant achievements in the world of entertainment.
In the books preface, the author, Iain Cameron Williams, claims Adelaide Hall appears in many jazz anthologies as a mere footnote, whilst others abandon her career altogether. With "Underneath a Harlem Moon" Williams attempts to set the record straight by documenting comprehensively her exact relevance and role in the History of Jazz and, in my opinion, succeeds admirably.
Williams's familiarity with his subject clearly demonstrates the amount and depth of research he made in order to unearth the facts. One gets the distinct impression that during the process he left no stone unturned, so detailed is his descriptive. Although Williams's 20-year friendship with Hall must clearly have helped him in appraising his subject's temperament, it must also have allowed him the privilege to see an intriguing side to her character that her fans would not normally have seen. This becomes apparent the deeper one delves into the text.
The book charts in rich detail the life and career of Miss Hall during the frenetic Harlem Renaissance and documents all the colourful characters to emerge from this movement, most of whom worked with Miss Hall at some point in her career. It also gives a fascinating insight into the social history of the Twenties and Thirties when Prohibition, real-life gangsters and sophisticated nightclub culture ruled the sidewalks.
Overall, a hugely enjoyable read made easy by Williams's approachable style of writing and keen interest towards the characters he portrays within the text. A must for all jazz and popular music buffs. The book also contains a sizeable gallery of superb photographs (including one, which must be of great interest to all Ellington fans, a rare previously unpublished photograph of Adelaide and Ellington together, circa 1930.)
"Underneath A Harlem Moon" is surely a contender for best Jazz biography of 2002.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Hidden treasure 28 Dec. 2002
By Jefferson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I can only applaud the writer for the depth of research he obviously engaged upon in order to put forward Adelaide Hall's story and subsequently, I think this book is an important one.
During the 20s and 30s Hall stood alongside giants in the entertainment world yet today, for some unfathomable reason, she is almost forgotten.
Whilst reading Underneath a Harlem Moon I had an uncanny feeling of discovering hidden treasure that has lain buried for centuries. Thankfully, the writer�s intent to inform rather than lecture makes for an engaging and rewarding read. I certainly had no knowledge of the fact that it was Adelaide Hall who helped create the whole genre of jazz singing and, remarkably, that Ella, Billie and all the other jazz diva�s that are nailed inside our history books, only followed in Hall�s steps.
Williams accounts vivid stories of the glory, persecution, pain and happiness Hall encountered in order to achieve her goals and in the process brings the subject's forceful personality, talent and human nature to light. Hall's focused ambition, drive and tenacity, along with the extraordinary eventful circumstances of her life will drive anyone's interest. Her painful contact with racism, the wrath of her impresario and mentor Lew Leslie, the continual envy she experienced from her colleagues and many of her so called friends, along with the tiresome neglect she endured from her philandering and money grabbing husband all led to an isolation Hall appears to have suffered from continuously throughout her life. Her only escape was to tread the boards, for it was here she felt at home and could bask in the real warmth, love and affection she received from her audience. The stage became her drug and, from the volume of work Hall performed, one feels it was an addiction she had no intention of ever giving up.
Energetic reading with thought provoking facts and the most fascinating account of the Harlem Renaissance that I have ever come across. Williams has done a great job of packing this book with valid information without making it overly wordy which makes for an easy read that fairly flies by.
I hope I'm correct in saying that Adelaide Hall�s prospects could very easy change with the publication of this book.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The talent of Adelaide Hall 29 Dec. 2002
By Patricia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With a glittering International career that brought her into contact with such icons as Rudolph Valentino, George Gershwin, Maurice Chevalier and Al Capone, not to mention all her renowned fellow black musicians and colleagues from the Harlem Renaissance, one wonders why the name Adelaide Hall is still relatively unknown or charted in our history books.
Her talent was pure ... untarnished by the ravages of [chemicals] and alcohol. She claimed that she was born to sing and entertain, and with an astonishing career that spanned eight decades how prophetic were those words.
To say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book would be an understatement. The book has been written in such an appealing way that at times I actually felt as if I were part of the story as a member of the audience, so realistic were some of the events and dramas that occur within its pages.
I wholly recommend this book and can truthfully say that it's the best biography I have read this year.
5 stars for the writer.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Omitted Diva 2 Feb. 2003
By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When we are asked of jazz vocal pioneers, the names Ethel, Billie, Ella, and Dinah roll off our tongues without contemplation. However, Iain Cameron Williams, in his book Underneath a Harlem Moon, introduced me to a diva who had been omitted from the history books. This diva is Adelaide Hall.
Born on "the rough side of Brooklyn" and raised in Harlem, Adelaide Hall became one of the most famous black Broadway and cabaret stars, rivaling the legacies of Florence Mills, Ethel Waters, and the like. Williams traces her journey from an ordinary gal from New York to a famed singer, dancer, and actress, the world over.
Williams, a friend of the late Hall, has definitely done his homework. I could tell that he had sat with Adelaide many a time while she related her stories to him in great detail. While I understand that Williams was trying to set a backdrop for Adelaide's story, I felt as though too much time was spent on the histories of her surroundings and her contemporaries, such as Al Capone, Josephine Baker, and even the Duke himself.
I feel like the proverbial wool has been lifted from my eyes about where female jazz vocalists really began. I took the time to research Adelaide further, and even got a chance to listen to some of her recordings. I can now see clearly, after having read Underneath a Harlem Moon, getting to know Adelaide, and hearing her crooning voice, the profound effect she had on divas past and present.
Reviewed by CandaceK
The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Underneath A Harlem Moon 15 April 2003
By colin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
By documenting Adelaide Hall's early career, which ran parallel with one of the most fascinating and culturally rich era's in American black musical history, the writer not only paints a vivid and well written account of the real first lady of Jazz, he also cleverly portrays the whole spirit and ethos of the Harlem Renaissance and all the wonderful characters that helped create this movement. "Underneath a Harlem Moon" is one of the finest books that I have read about the 20s and 30s Jazz Age and one that I thoroughly recommend.
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