Karen Wilkin, Giorgio Morandi (Rizzoli, $35). If you want to get up to speed on Morandi, this lavishly illustrated monograph, published in 1998, is the place to start. The most lucid and sensible of present-day art critics, Wilkin explains with perfect clarity why the Italian painter’s soft-spoken, deceptively repetitive tabletop microcosms rank among the greatest achievements of twentieth-century art. Look first, then read–then look again (TT).
Archives for October 12, 2008
Louis Jordan and His Tympani Five (JSP, five CDs). After Fats Waller, Louis Jordan was the great exponent of good-time small-group jazz whose entertainment value cunningly concealed its musical sophistication. A superb alto saxophonist who had a knack for singing (and picking) comic songs, Jordan put together a “jump band” so appealing that it was successfully marketed to blacks and whites alike, in the process leaving an indelible stamp on both R&B and early white rock and roll. This budget-priced, gorgeously remastered five-CD box set contains all 131 of the recordings Jordan and his combo cut for Decca between 1938 and 1950, not a few of which topped the charts. Like Waller’s recordings, they never fail to hit the spot–especially after a long, tiring day at the office. Listen to them in tandem with John Chilton’s excellent 1994 biography of Jordan (TT).
Joseph Epstein, Fred Astaire (Yale, $22). The latest addition to Yale’s “Icons of America” series is a 198-page tribute to America’s greatest dancer by one of America’s best essayists. Witty, thoughtful, concentrated, and astute, Fred Astaire goes a long way toward conveying the essential quality of an intensely private man who only seems to have come fully to life in the studio. Unlike most commentators, Epstein also pays proper attention to Astaire’s singing, but most of the book is devoted to his dancing–and, no less interestingly, the persona he projected in his films and TV appearances. After Arlene Croce’s indispensable 1974 monograph on the Astaire-Rogers films, this is the Fred Astaire book to have if you’re only having two (TT).