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January 15, 1958 - Image 13

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Wednesday, January 15, 1958


Page Thirteens

Wednesday, January 15, 1958 THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE Paae Thirteen

'A Handbook of Jazz'
It Serves as a Guide to both Concepts and Players

A HANDBOOK OF JAZZ. Bar- reveal the artist's emotions and
impressions of life, or the cater-
ry Ulanov. New York, 195": wauling of immoral, illiterate mu-
Viking Press, 239 pp. $3.50 sicians from dives and bordellos.
More than anything else, jazz
By P tHIIf UNCK elicits a personal response -which
Daily st5f 1Wrir is never the same in any two
JAZZ MEANS many things to people. For this reason, jazz does
,,any people. It is a form of not lend itself readily to precise
music which can be, according to definition such as Barry Ulanov
the point of view one takes, a trys to make in A Handbook of
sincere and significant attempt to Jazz. Similarly, precise criticism

of Ulanov's book is not possible
because of the many lights in
which his opinions can be viewed.
Ulanov has attempted to write
a book which in one volume ties
the history, the schools, the mu-
sicians and the value of jazz into
a unified whole, In this he has not
quite succeeded, and indeed it
seems hardly probable that any
author, no matter how gifted,
'HE BASIC FLAW in any work
of this kind lies in the neces-
sary attempt to describe the sound
of an instrument or group of in-
struments in words. Just as it
is impossible to convey the sound
of middle C on a piano in words
to someone who has never heard
the note, it is even more im-
possible to tell the qualities of a
passage or even a single note
played by Louis Armstrong or Roy
Thus Ulanov, whether or not
he realized it, had to presuppose
some familiarity with jazz or at
least a small amount of technical
knowledge of playing some 'form
of music. The book, then, becomes
somewhat vague to a person who
has not had any connection,
whether passive or active listen-
ing, with jazz.
faults, the book does a good,
if somewhat opinionated, job of
guiding the novice through the
basic concepts of jazz and the
people who play it.
A Handbook of Jazz is organized
in four major parts-a short his-
tory of jazz, an introduction to
some of the technical points of
jazz, philosophy on jazz in gen-
eral and information about a
number of impo-tant individuals,
past and present, in the field.
Ulanov considers the most im-
portant parts of jazz knowledge
to be knowledge of the history and
development of the many fields
and schools of jazz.
He is one of the first writers
not willing, to state categorically
tlat jazz developed from the Negro
slaves in the South who brought
their native African rhythms to

the United States, combined them
with hymns to produce spirituals,
and then trooped to Storyville in.
New Orleans to bring forth Dixie-
PROPONENTS of this theory
point to the rhythms and mel-
odies of jazz and say that only
Africa could have produced them.
Ulanov, on the other hand states,
and correctly, that native music
in Africa is not given to much in
the way of melody and that jazz
has never approached the intricate
and quite un easurable beats of
a corps of African drummers."
The history, as a whole, falls
short of being in any way com-
plete. In the few pages he devotes
to history, Ulanov can no more
than sketch an outline of jazz in
the last 60 years. Ulanov is not
above referring to people he has
never mentioned before in his
history and often. leaves gaps
which he obviously expects the
reader to know instead of at
least partially explaining his refer-
When writing what he calls a
"capsule history," Ulanov cannot
skip entire fields of jazz-boogie-
woogie for example-and he
should not skip through other sec-
tions of his "history" with no more

than a passing glance. He is per-
fectly entitled to pass judgement
on anything he pleases, but in
that case he shouldn't call his
opinions "history."
AGAIN in explaining the Instru-
ments used by jazz musicians,
Ulanov requires a certain amount
of familiarity with music in 'ex-
plaining the ranges of the various
instruments. At one point, he re-
fers to the fingering systems used
on the clarinet-a comment which
lacks real significance for anyone
who has no experience with clar-
On the whole, his chapter on
instruments comes close to being
ridiculous. At the beginning of
the chapter, he explains that cer-
tain Instruments are those used by
jazz musicians. Then, in the course
of his discussions, he lists all the
instruments used by the perform-
ers of classical music.
At the end of the chapter he
comes out with a debatable quota-
tion made in 1926 to the effect
that most classical musicians
would willingly ,desert classical
music if they were able to play
wel enough to play jazz. In this,
he breezily ignores the possibility
that classical musicians may be
See JAZZ, Page 14

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