Thursday, July 01, 2010

Words and Music x Three

Music sometimes rivals words for my affections, which may explain my unfailing attraction to words used musically. Lately I’ve gorged on Bob Dylan and Aaron Copland, old and relatively new loves, respectively. For Father’s Day my oldest son burned me a CD of his recent favorites, many with New Orleans connections – “Go to the Mardi Gras” by Professor Longhair, “A Certain Girl” by Ernie K-Doe, “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say” by Jelly Roll Moron – and some just good music, like a live version of Van Morrison's “Domino.”. Here are three samples of music and musicians described by writers using literary analogy, all from excellent books:

“So in a sense, Sinatra was [composer Jimmy] Van Heusen’s work, the way Dr. Johnson was James Boswell’s. Tonight you get a great epigram, tomorrow a not particularly funny insult. But this was the guy he was writing both for and about, his model and canvas, so the time wasn’t wasted for either of them.”

[Wilfrid Sheed, The House That George Built, 2007]

“[Tenor saxophonist Zoot] Sims was a musician’s musician; players white and black loved him. If he’d been a writer, he’d be [Richard] Yates or Joseph Mitchell: plainspoken, but just plain better than everybody else.”

[Sam Stephenson, The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue 1957-1965, 2009]

“Henry James would have relished such intricate footwork.”

[Whitney Balliatt describing a performance by pianist Bill Evans, Collected Works: A Journal of Jazz 1954-2000, 2000]

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