Friends Along the Way


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A Journey Through Jazz

Gene Lees

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A celebrated jazz writer offers fascinating portraits of friends he’s known during a lifetime in jazz

For more than half a century, jazz writer and lyricist Gene Lees has been the friend of many in the world of jazz music. In this delightful book he offers minibiographies of fifteen of these friends—some of them jazz greats, some lesser-known figures, and some up-and-comers. Combining conversations and memoirs with critical commentary, Lees’s insightful and intimate profiles will captivate jazz fans, performers, and historians alike. The subjects of the book range from the versatile orchestrator and arranger Claus Ogerman to legendary jazz broadcaster Willis Conover, from the gifted young Chinese violinist Yue Deng to undersung pianist Junior Mance. Lees writes about these figures both as musicians and as human beings, and he writes out of a conviction that jazz as an art form represents the highest values of American culture. Inviting us into the lives of these unique individuals, Lees offers an affectionate view of the jazz community that only an insider could provide.

Gene Lees is publisher and editor of the Jazzletter. He is also a song lyricist and the author of more than a dozen volumes of jazz history and criticism, among them Singers and the Song, Cats of Any Color: Jazz Black and White, Meet Me at Jim and Andy’s: Jazz Musicians and Their World, and a forthcoming biography of Johnny Mercer.

“These pieces represent the voice of a generation. Gene Lees’s writings are a kind of last stand for the cultural values that marked a better time.”—John McDonough, Down Beat, Wall Street Journal

“I think of Gene Lees as the Proust of jazz. His accounts of jazz musicians and their world give a sense of intimacy with the jazz scene that no other writer has been able to evoke.”—Eric Nisenson, author of Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest

"This elegiac book pays homage to a rapidly receding past. . . . Friends Along the Way, one of his best and least mannered essay collections, Lees and his friends reflect on their lives and times and music. . . . His best essays display an intelligent and engaging warmth."—Gene Santoro, New York Times Book Review

"The best thing about this book is Gene Lees’s intimate familiarity with the jazz scene during its classic years and with the men and women he befriended along the way."—Irwin Block, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec)

"There’s often something quite sweet about Friends Along the Way. . . . When the subjects aren’t speaking, Lees proves, once again, how well he can write."—Greg Buium, Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“An entertaining and educational read.”—Paul Quarrington, National Post (Canada)

“I admit that I couldn’t put this book down. Addicted, I completed its 360 pages in two settings. . . . Friends Along the Way is an eyewitness jazz history, engagingly and enthusiastically written by someone who was in the right places at the right times. . . . A book to cherish.”—Jazz Review

“Widely regarded as one of the foremost writers on jazz, Gene Lees contributes revealing vignettes of 15 of his favorite artists, including arranger Claus Ogerman, broadcaster Willis Conover and pianist Junior Mance. This book belongs on the shelf of every music lover.”—Lee Milazzo, Dallas Morning News

Chosen as ASCAP’s Deems Taylor Special Recognition Award for 2004 in the Pop Books category
ISBN: 9780300099676
Publication Date: October 11, 2003
384 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
20 b/w illus.
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