A Certain Respect For Tradition
Softcover; 192 pages
Mark Miller is back with another book. The prolific Miller has written seven books since 1982, including the indispensable Such Melodious Racket: The Lost History Of Jazz In Canada and Some Hustling This!: Taking Jazz To The World, 1914-1929, which was published last year.
Miller has been writing on jazz for over 30 years contributing to publications like Coda and Jazz Forum. He was also the jazz critic for The Globe and Mail before he gave that up last year. He has established himself as the doyen of jazz writers in Canada. He has a deep well of knowledge, and there are times when his articles read like miniature lessons in jazz history. This is all to the good, for it gives the reader a wider perspective on his subject.
Jazz is not static and Miller goes beyond its ascetism as he writes about a diverse blend of artists including Cecil Taylor, Christopher Cauley, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Han Bennink and Dave Frishberg. All of them come to life in his profiles, interviews and reviews. His conversational style, and his keen sense of observation, open vivid dynamic visuals. He introduces a Myra Melford concert thus: "Myra Melford positions herself at the piano just below middle C and transports the listener to the front row. Miller also has a wry sense of humour. In reviewing Diana Krall's CD, The Look Of Love, he tucked tongue in cheek to find that "The photo count on Diana Krall's new CD stands at 11, including one shot by Bruce Weber that should appeal to ankle and foot fetishists, a niche market that jazz has ignored for too long.
Cecil Taylor gets the longest story, and a good thing too. His views on music are stimulating and of lasting importance. Interviewed in 1985, Taylor said, "I think of music in terms of possession and trance, and so opened the window to his music and his playing. There is more, much more, all of which paints a vivid picture of Taylor.
In the Preface, Miller calls this book "a celebration of jazz. That it is, in the pith of his insight, in the humour, and in the obvious love he has for the music and its tangents. It is a treasure trove that travels in time from 1980 to 2005, stopping by to visit and muse on some of the most important artists in jazz, and also some who left a less indelible impression. All of which makes for wonderful reading.