Like the jazz music he is interpreting, author Francis Davis is a seasoned twenty-year pro who be-bops and riffs over the pages with an insightful and obvious love for the genre. His essays touch on Miles, Bobby Short, Streisand, and others, stringing together the lives of these musical giants in a lucid and sophisticated style. At the same time, his probing and honest compositions touch on the worlds in which they've been forced to live, the poverty-ridden tenements and the racist catcalls representing everyday elements of these extraordinary people.
While the focus here is on the musician, the book is appended with several stories on the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Jack Kerouac, and Mort Sahl, non-players but, in approach and spirit, very much of the freeform, let-it-fall-where-it-may attitude of the jazzer. He says of "Seinfeld", for instance, "...is the only show for which I could imagine the novelist Nicholson Baker someday writing a script..."
What are truly engaging are his own views on the role of the critic. A monthly columnist for the Village Voice, a contributing editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and a regular contributor for The New York Times and The New Yorker, Davis is justifiably proud of his work.
He reveals, "... music journalist at its highest level is a valid literary genre." Typically, music critiquing falls somewhere below cereal box captioning as an artform. But Davis raises the bar with a sublime and seductive selection of essays, and if anyone ever pops you with the quip that "All critics are frustrated musicians," just send them out to buy this book.