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Bebop Spoken There

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Jazz Read of the Year: McPartland v Burton

Any of our readers who follow "The Sport of Kings" as well as the Music of Kings (and Dukes, Counts Earls and other nobility) will know the feeling. Your horse is ten lengths clear going into the final furlong and already you're visualising how to spend the untold riches that your 50p stake has brought you until, suddenly, from out of nowhere a bay gelding bursts from the pack and is soon neck and neck with your thoroughbred. The winning post draws closer, you close your eyes and...
Well that is how it was for me regarding my Best Jazz Read of the Year. Paul de Barros' biography (written in conjunction with) of Marian McPartland Shall We Play That One Together? was odds on favourite and looked to be running out an easy winner.
It's a great book and one that deserves a place on anyone's jazz bookshelf. However, an unexpected Christmas present brought in a ringer in the form of Learning to Listen: The Jazz journey of Gary Burton. I've yet to finish it but I'm devouring up the furlongs (sorry chapters) and it's anybody's race.
Marian talks candidly about her affair with drummer Joe Morello whilst Burton speaks openly about his agonising search to discover his sexuality before "coming out".
Personal issues aside, they both give revealing insights into musicians they've worked with, and admired or, in some cases, not admired. Burton in particular writes about Shearing, Getz, Davis, Ellington, Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton and others - warts and all!
McPartland is possibly kinder, or maybe her biographer made it seem so. Certainly De Barros portrays this graceful lady as not always so graceful.
The winning post is in sight and a photo finish is certain although, on photos, Burton gets the nod.
Lance.
Shall We Play That One Together? Paul de Barros: St. Martin's Press 2012.
Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton. Gary Burton: berklee press 2013.

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