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You want a good book on the history of Jazz? Read Miles Davis’ autobiography, titled simply Miles.

The language is perhaps a little colorful at times, but Miles’ life and experiences basically cover everything you need to know about the evolution of Jazz music.  He’s got tons of cool stories and perspectives, and he constantly drops these little one-liners that put an extremely complex musical idea into a very manageable box, shedding light the elusive definition of what Jazz really is.

I read this book in one day and I rarely do that kind of thing.  That was 7 or 8 years ago, and I noticed it sitting on my shelf the other day and inadvertently burned 45 minutes just looking at the pictures.

Put it on your Christmas list and you won’t be sorry.

A friend of mine just introduced me to a funny book. Kill Your Idols is a collection of essays compiled by a couple of rock critics from Chicago. The book’s aim is to dethrone the alleged “all time great albums” of rock history – albums such as Sgt. Pepper’s, Zeppelin 4, Nevermind, The Joshua Tree, OK Computer, and many others. Each recording gets it’s own essay, written by a critic who finds particular dislike for that record. The book is well-written and quite funny.

I say “funny” because I can only assume these guys are writing with a mostly tongue-in-cheek tone. The notion that rock history’s most influential and moving albums aren’t perfect is certainly not news to anyone (or at least anyone who listens to music closely). But, the idea that the presence of flaws in great records means that those great records aren’t actually great… well, if that really is the thesis of the book, then the writers are betraying themselves to be the idiots that most musicians already think writers/critics are. (Note: I am aware of the irony in my words against critics, given the “critic” tone in my Album of the Week posts. I am comfortable to let the statement stand because I think everybody who reads this blog knows that I’m not a critic – just a musician sounding off about albums I like.)

You should buy the book and read it for yourself, or you can at least read a real review of it here. I’ll leave you with a relevant quote from the great Romantic composer, Jean Sibelius: “Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been erected in honor of a critic.”

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