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Mister Granz always did it with verve
on 16 November 2013
A wonderful visual cornucopia for jazz fans of a certain age. I'm surprised that a book like this hasn't been published before considering the importance of Norman Granz to the politics of jazz let alone the stunning amount of the music he recorded. There was slightly similar book included with the ten CD PolyGram box set: 'The complete Jazz at the Philharmonic', released in 1998. That book was CD size with 224 pages with about seventy-eight devoted to Granz and JATP (the rest of the book was about the tracks and musicians).
This latest title, with four hundred pages, is a much more ambitious look at the man and his music. The first few pages have a quick overview about the origins of jazz then the pages come alive with a detailed description about the start of JATP and the various tours in the US and overseas during the forties and fifties. These are all annotated with dates, locations and musicians. The rest of the pages look at the various labels Granz ran. Two things break up the book's basic text: spreads with biographies with a page size photo of several dozen musicians; dozens of LP covers. I think it's safe to use the term 'jazz greats' for all those who have biographies here. For me the covers are one of the strengths of the book because they show the talent of David Stone Martin who probably did a few hundred covers for Clef, Norgran and Verve. He did the trumpet player illustration which is sort of a JATP logo. As well as the personality photos and LP covers there are plenty of other pictures and ephemera.
The book runs up to the late nineties (the last biography is for Diana Krall) and page 371 mentions Granz's ability to repackage the music via his Pablo label though he sold it to Fantasy in 1987. The Verve sound lives on through releases organized by Richard Seidel, especially the 'Ultimate' series. With about 1200 images throughout these pages book designer Steve Russell had quite a challenge but it all pulls together beautifully though there is one annoyance, many of the pages have no numbers and it can vary between blocks of six to nines pages which makes using the index useless sometimes.
This is a thick, chunky look at jazz history revolving round one man and author Richard Havers has done a wonderful job making Granz's life (1918--2001) come alive. Anyone who lived with JATP and Verve over the decades will love this book.