My dear friend Patti Durham* sent me a copy of two pages from the February issue of JAZZ JOURNAL — Dave Gelly’s monthly column, “On The Other Hand,” which would have been fine reading matter any time. I didn’t expect this bouquet, which I reprint with deep gratitude:
Swing You Cats!
Looking out for the reviews, after publishing a book or having a record released, was always a moderately nail-biting business, but at least one knew more or less where to look. Nowadays, with websites, blogs and so forth, comment comes whizzing in from all directions and without watchful friends to tip you the wink you might miss it altogether. One such friend of mine is Peter Vacher, who fielded a substantial review of my recent book, An Unholy Row, from a more than substantial website called Jazz Lives (“lives” being used as both noun and verb).
It is the work of Michael Steinman, who is Professor of English at Nassau Community College, Garden City, NY, although how he contrives to make time for that I can’t imagine. Not only does his website carry reviews and opinion pieces, it comes up with an endless stream of live video recordings from clubs, parties, festivals etc. uploaded every day or so. There are now around four thousand in his archive. I have only been able to view a small sample of them, but they’re technically OK and most of them are musically excellent. They also reflect the tastes of the author/editor/producer himself, which are well summed up in his list of heroes — among them Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell, Lester Young… You get the picture. Furthermore, they reveal a whole world of small-scale, local activity in the swing-mainstream style whose existence you would never suspect from reading the usual magazines.
There is an atmosphere about Jazz Lives, a literate, clubbable air of genuine dedication. Each posting signs off with the motto: “May your happiness increase.” Mine certainly did when I read Michael Steinman’s glowing review of my book, which proves he’s the right man for the job! Not only that, he also sent for a copy of my previous one, Being Prez, thereby setting a good example for one and all.
Give the site a try: jazzlives.wordpress.com or email Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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To say I am delighted would be inadequate: not only because of the praise, not only for possibly bringing this site to more people who would enjoy it, but because honest gratitude, publicly expressed, is not always easy to find. Blessings on Dave, and Patti, too.
Three postscripts: *Patti doesn’t play an instrument but she certainly does heroic work for those who do and those who appreciate: she is the kind motivator behind the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party after Mike’s death (it’s now the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party). I’ll be there in November, grinning.
And — being a speaker of American English even though I’ve read British and Irish authors all my life — I thought it would be best to look up “clubbable,” even though I thought I sensed its meaning. JAZZ LIVES can’t frequent coffeehouses, even though I am drinking that beverage as I write (the first citation seems to have been Boswell’s 1783 description of Dr. Johnson), but I translate “suitable for membership of a club because of one’s sociability or popularity” into “welcoming” and hope that the idea transfers undamaged across the Atlantic.
If you are swept away by Dave’s praise and would like to meet the phenomenon who does my laundry, types at my computer, and holds the camera — you’d have to be close to New York City on February 24 — here are the details.
And with even more heartfelt enthusiasm, I write:
May your happiness increase!