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The Jazz Ear: Conversations over Music by…

The Jazz Ear: Conversations over Music (2008)

by Ben Ratliff

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Not as enthralling as Ratliff's previous book about John Coltrane, but all the same, some decent conversations about jazz and music in general with eminent jazz musicians like Diane Reeves, Maria Schneider, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Sonny Rollins & Wayne Shorter. There are listening lists following each segment plus a discography of notable music written and/ or performed by Ratliff's interlocutors. Nevertheless, a CD or DVD would have been a welcome complement to this compilation. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
This is a fabulous collection of interviews with a variety of jazz musicians, including Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Guillermo Klein, Dianne Reeves and Ornette Coleman. But this is not a series of transcripts. Ben Ratliff captures subtle inflections of character in these conversations centered around a shared listening experience. Ratliff sits down with each musician to listen to music of others, and in so doing, reveals how these artists react to and dialogue with their musical influences. Sometimes the "set list" from one of these visits creates an intriguing link between the interviewees (such as Joshua Redman's experience with listening to Sonny Rollins, who is interviewed in the third chapter). In addition to the observations made by the musicians, Ratliff's ability to unobtrusively insert himself as both commentator and investigator makes this a superior reading experience to most "meet-the-artist" type books.
What I appreciated most was the variety included in these listening sessions. Sacred Harp, Kyrgyz music, Frank Sinatra, Rachmaninoff, Wagner...all of it is fair game for these musicians, who unapologetically cross the lines of categorization to search for organicism and authenticity as both performers and listeners. The questions of how perfomers/composers listen is one that is underexplored, and I would hope to see more of this type of study incorporated into a discussion of compositional and improvisational aesthetics. ( )
  rebcamuse | Apr 10, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805081461, Hardcover)

An intimate exploration into the musical genius of fifteen living jazz legends, from the longtime New York Times jazz critic

Jazz is conducted almost wordlessly: John Coltrane rarely told his quartet what to do, and Miles Davis famously gave his group only the barest instructions before recording his masterpiece “Kind of Blue.” Musicians are often loath to discuss their craft for fear of destroying its improvisational essence, rendering jazz among the most ephemeral and least transparent of the performing arts.

In The Jazz Ear, the acclaimed music critic Ben Ratliff sits down with jazz greats to discuss recordings by the musicians who most influenced them. In the process, he skillfully coaxes out a profound understanding of the men and women themselves, the context of their work, and how jazz—from horn blare to drum riff—is created conceptually. Expanding on his popular interviews for The New York Times, Ratliff speaks with Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Branford Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, and others about the subtle variations in generation, training, and attitude that define their music.

Playful and keenly insightful, The Jazz Ear is a revelatory exploration of a unique way of making and hearing music.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:52 -0400)

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"In The Jazz Ear, Ben Ratliff composes a remarkable collection of his conversations with fifteen of jazz's lions as they listen to music that inspires and teaches them. By following how each artist hears music, Ratliff unearths what each musician believes jazz is for."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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