Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Salute You, 27 Dec 2010
This review is from: Playing the Band: The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman (Paperback)
I was very impressed by this entertaining and informative biography of one the greats of British jazz and jazz fusion, Jon Hiseman. While not quite 'warts and all', we do get a clear sense of the author standing back to analyse the various periods and changes in Hiseman's musical life, helped in no small way by his having the opportunity to talk and tease out all the background details with many of the key players in his musical history. While this book is relatively long, there no sense of overdoing things to any point of tedium - space is made to describe and discuss events and developments without prolonging. For these reasons, you will find more clarity and understanding of what makes Jon Hiseman and his long-term colleagues tick, than found in most published musical biographies. If there were any major regrets by any of the former members of Hiseman's bands, they aren't obvious, but rather more hinted at by a sense of omission. Indeed, the honesty of the text makes quite clear which players were hired and fired, but who then invariably speak of their time with Hiseman as being formative and/or educational. Later reunions clearly show that any bitterness was short-lived or even non-existent. Indeed, the most critical of his role here is Jon Hiseman himself, but nevertheless Jon comes across as a comparatively nice guy - albeit somewhat hard-nosed and self-critical, but certainly as a survivor in the tough business of fusing jazz, rock and blues.

I did start to think at one point, that author Hanson was going to over-do Colosseum's original 3 year period, but with 400 plus pages of text in total, there is no shortage of detail about all the other bands forming Hiseman's musical family tree, with plenty to mull over with respect to the post-1972 years . There are individual, but interconnected histories of Colosseum, Tempest, Colosseum 2, Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia as well as the Hiseman family business. This is not just the story of Jon Hiseman alone. In one sense, the neat, continual use of thumb-nail biogs of the key players reinforces the importance of each and every one of Hiseman's bands, both to the author and Hiseman himself. In one particular area of importance we get to understand why Jon & Co. turned to Europe, achieving far more accolades and a large fan base here than in North America: Europe's gain is America big, big loss.
So, I am pleased to report that this is one of the most comprehensive rock/jazz/(blues) biographies I've read in respect of its completeness and balance, due in no small part, I'm sure, to the access Martin Hanson had to the main players and, more importantly, their enthusiastic willingness to talk honestly and openly to him. Thus you are getting the real deal, from the collective horses' mouths, so to speak. All-in-all, this biography has a freshness, which clearly comes from the author's enthusiasm for Hiseman and his music, but without any fawning or gratuitous flattery. I have to add the book is extremely readable - I can't recall at any time flicking through any dull pages attempting to seek something more readable. Finally, I also have a sense of being brought right up to 2010 in the company of musicians who are still working hard and making music that is still very much alive and relevant today.
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