Jazzed in Cleveland
a jazz history by Joe Mosbrook
a special WMV Web News Cleveland series
Part 45 - Jazz Record Guide
Clevelanders are making major contributions to the literature of jazz. The nation's leading introduction-to-jazz college textbook, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis, was written by Shaker Heights resident Mark Gridley. Christopher Page wrote a biography of boogie woogie pianist Albert Ammons. Cleveland drummer Chuck Braman wrote a drum instruction book. Longtime Cleveland guitarist Fred Sharp made contributions of the biography of Django Reinhardt. Former Oberlin College President Fred Starr persuaded the Smithsonian to transcribe many early jazz masterpieces. East Cleveland Public Library Director Greg Reese published a book, Jazzkeepers, which included photos of many Cleveland jazz artists.
Now, there is another important written contribution to jazz. It's a book entitled Music House Jazz: The Essential Album Guide. The guide was co-edited by magazine writer Steve Holtje and Cleveland Heights free lance jazz writer and photographer Nancy Ann Lee.
Lee says, "It's really for people who are new to jazz, recommending what albums to purchase. It's a buying guide of jazz compact discs currently in print."
The guide is a huge paperback book, about 14 hundred pages, two inches thick, and weighs almost five pounds. Included are entries for 1,260 jazz artists, living and dead, with brief biographies of each and suggestions of their most important compact discs. Lee admits compiling all the information was a massive undertaking.
"It took a year from the time I signed on," she says. Lee and Holtje assigned articles on individual artists to a virtual army of jazz writers across the country. "We had 90 writers on the project," she says, "and edited entries from our writers. I edited about half of the book, about 600 entries, and of those 600, I wrote or co-wrote about 200."
Among the 90 writers who contributed to the Music Hound Jazz Album Guide, in addition to Lee, were seven from Cleveland -- John Bitter, George Foley, Chris Hovan, Dan Polletta, Jim Prohaska, John Richmond and Bill Wahl. "I was very lucky to have so many good writers," says Lee. "They are all knowledgeable people who knew their history and the artists they were writing about."
The new Music Hound Jazz Album Guide also includes biographies and compact disc listings for 13 jazz artists from Cleveland: Albert Ayler, Benny Bailey, Add Dameron, John Fedchock, Jim Hall, Chuck Israels, Ernie Krivda, Joe Lovano, Ken Peplowski, Vanessa Rubin, Jimmy Scott, Pete Selvaggio and Dan Wall. Lee says, "I tried to include as many as I could and I apologize to those jazz artists from Cleveland that I didn't get into the book."
Unlike other jazz record guides, the Music Hound Guide includes a compact disc of performances by ten of the artists and photographs of many more, plus listings of jazz publications, jazz Internet web sites, record labels, radio stations, festivals and producers.
Lee says she has had notes from some of the artists that she wrote about in the book. "And they are very pleased about their entries and the overall presentation of the book."
For co-editor Lee, whose work in the past few years has appeared in Down Beat, JazzTimes, Cleveland's Plain Dealer and Free Times, there is a huge sense of accomplishment in being a major contributor to the literature of jazz. "It's a tremendous let down after a very, very intense period of time." she says. "I feel like you would with a new baby, kind of, 'Look, what I made!"
Copyright 1999 Joe Mosbrook
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You can hear radio versions of Cleveland Jazz History on WCPN/90.3 Monday nights at 9:30 and Friday afternoons at 12:30. Mosbrook's 1993 Cleveland Jazz History book, based on research for earlier broadcasts, is available at some Cleveland area bookstores, libraries and the Northeast Ohio Jazz Society (216-426-9900).