guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin Picks 3 Books About Living for Music

While I finish up my own next post on my3books, I was glad to receive a new post from my friend and fellow independent sales rep, Teresa Rolfe Kravtin.  You can see Teresa's earlier my3books posts here.

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong
by Terry Teachout
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780151010899 | $30 | Dec 2009

A thorough examination of the life of a music legend and American cultural icon, this story is how one man overcame an enormous amount of personal challenges and societal obstacles, to become who he was meant to be: one of the most original, inspiring entertainers of a generation.

A music history education in one life, Louis Armstrong defined a new style of music in his own likeness. By sticking to what he enjoyed doing most, playing and singing music from the core of who he was, he set a standard that inspired innumerable musicians and listeners alike.

There were many critics along the way during Armstrong's decades' long career. In the end, however, there is no other jazz musician who has achieved the level of admiration and respect for his dedication to his craft. Equally, no other musician has ever left behind a collection of letters, recordings, and documents detailing life in the recording studio, on the road, in the movies, and on TV, as he did.

Author Terry Teachout says in the afterword,

"...this is surprisingly, the first fully sourced biography of Armstrong to be written by an author who is also a trained musician." It is a narrative biography, not scholarly, but interpretive of a life well documented by academic scholars. Additionally, Teachout had access to a wealth of archival material previously unavailable to biographers."

Poet Philip Larkin said of Armstrong, "It is already accepted -- or if it isn't, it soon will be -- that Louis Armstrong was an enormously important cultural figure in our century, more important than Picasso in my opinion, but certainly quite comparable," and further, "an artist of Flaubertian purity, and a character of exceptional warmth and goodness."

For music lovers, those interested in American culture and general entertainment, Teachout's biography of Louis Armstrong will be the standard bearer for years to come.

***

The Pat Metheny Interviews
by Richard Niles
Hal Leonard Publishing Corp. | 9781423474692 | $19.99 | Oct 2009

The Pat Metheny Interviews is an insightfully revealing dialogue between American jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny and Richard Niles, a renowned recording artist, composer, producer and songwriter; a proverbial eavesdropping on a conversation between two long-time friends and musicians.

Richard Niles first met Pat Metheny at Berklee College of Music in 1974. It's hard to imagine that Metheny would take the time and discuss his thoughts on his long career with anyone other than a close friend, given his admitted self-criticism and intense working schedule. As a reader, and a fan from the beginning, I am glad he did. Drawn from a series of interviews Niles made with Metheny on several occasions for a three-part series that originally aired on the BBC in 2007 titled Pat Metheny – Bright Size Life.

Metheny is a rare exception in the contemporary music scene. He is an artist who has had a long recording and touring career, continuing to attract and maintain a large and devoted audience for over thirty years. In The Pat Metheny Interviews, Metheny discusses his need for finding his own means of musical expression through composition. He details his dedication to practicing, his musical inspirations, the issues of sound and melody, addresses jazz as a genre, among other topics. What separates him from many other talented musicians, he attributes to his razor-like focus on what he wanted to do with his playing and knowing how he wanted to go about it from a very early age.

Informal in tone, the question and answer format is mostly easy to follow, even when it gets into discussions of abstract concepts. There are a few sections of musician lingo and music theory references that only musicians might appreciate. One of my personal favorite passages comes from the chapter on melody, wherein there is a discussion of the biological and physical responses to music:

“My favorite way of describing this [responses to music and melody] is that music is actually this gigantic mistake that we’re not actually supposed to know about. That in our sense of the universe around us there’s these tiny little crack that give us a window into everything that we can’t possibly understand because we’re not equipped to understand those things, because we don’t have the tools for them. . . . But somehow music seeps into those cracks and it’s something that reminds us or indicates to us these unperceivable things that are in fact around us all the time. I tend to think of music as something that’s an incredible variation, away from the rest of most human experiences. For that reason I value it even more.”

Interspersed are entries from some of the musicians Metheny has performed with during his career such as Gary Burton, John Patitucci, Lyle Mays, and Jack DeJohnette. Photographs included portray his teenaged years of playing gigs around Kansas City, record company portraits, and tour pictures.

An engaging examination of an enduring musical artist, The Pat Metheny Interviews, is a unique gift of insights from this expressive guitarist and composer.

***

Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues
by William Ferris
University of North Carolina Press | 9780807833254 | $35 | Oct 2009

[Editor's note: We've already featured Give My Poor Heart Ease on my3books earlier this year, so instead of a third full-blown writeup, Teresa would prefer to point you to another book blogger who wrote quite passionately about Give My Poor Heart Ease.]

Check out this beautifully-written review of Give My Poor Heart Ease on BiblioBuffet.  Blogger Nicki Leone's review of the book really captures the spirit and passion and flavor of William Ferris' lifelong pursuit of the blues and the people who make the music come alive.

Here's one short excerpt from Nicki's review to give you the flavor:

"The results of this life-long . . . well, mission doesn’t seem to be too strong a word for it . . . have been brought together into an incredibly powerful book called Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues. A collection of oral histories,  the book looks at some of the people and places at the roots of blues music, starting with the churches in his own community of Rose Hill, and spreading outwards into the countryside filled with people who farmed and fished during the day and played music in the evenings, the men in the prison camps and on work detail in the cotton fields, and the men who ran the radio stations and nightclubs in the towns."

***

Resources for further exploration:

On Pops
> Pops will appear on the December 2009 Indie Next List – “Great Reads from Booksellers You Trust”
> Publishers Weekly *Starred* Review: “Teachout's portrait reminds us why we fell in love with Armstrong's music in the first place.”
> A link to the publisher's web page for the book.
> Author Terry Teachout's long-running blog About Last Night and his somewhat more recent Twitter presence. Crucial!

On The Pat Metheny Interviews
> A link to the publisher's page for the book.

 On Give My Poor Heart Ease
> The Facebook fan page for Give My Poor Heart Ease.
> UNC Press's blog & Twitter presence.
> Our linked-to book blogger Nicki Leone is a fellow bookseller-at-large (to borrow another of her phrases), and writes about books at BiblioBuffet and her own blog, Will Read For Food.