The Hero Violinist; Hentoff’s Jazz Essays

Book Notes

Volume CV, No. 5May, 2005

Bill Crow

“Molly and the Sword,” by Robert Shlasko, illustrated by Donna Diamond, Jane and Street Publishers, 2004,

Here is a children’s book, for seven-year-olds and up, with a musical theme.

At the beginning of the story, Molly is courageous and self-sacrificing in support of her family during a time of war in her country.

Later, she learns to play the violin, overcoming the local prejudices against the artistic aspirations of young women, and becomes proficient enough to be invited to play at “the most famous music hall in the world” in the “country to the north” with which her country had previously been at war. Her performance anxiety is allayed by the prince she met at the beginning of the story, who reminds her of her courage at that time, and helps her regain her composure and play her best. The story ends happily, with the audience applauding and cheering. The implicit morality is uplifting, and the handsome illustrations make the characters come to life.

“American Music Is,” by Nat Hentoff, Da Capo Press, 2004.

Nat Hentoff began his love affair with jazz at the age of eleven in Boston. At 19 he had become an interviewer of jazz musicians on his radio program on station WMEX.

A writer for and associate editor of Down Beat magazine in the 1950’s, and co-editor of the Jazz Review during the four years of its remarkable life, Nat came to know and appreciate hundreds of jazz musicians, and wrote about them with great understanding and interest.

He began writing a weekly column for the Village Voice in 1957, where he expanded his purview to general social and political issues.

He has continued to write essays on music for the New Yorker, the New York Times, JazzTimes, and the Wall Street Journal.

And the list of books he has written is as long as your arm.

He was recently honored with a Jazz Masters fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Nat has grouped the essays in this book into sections with titles such as: the Jazz Voice (Billie Holiday, Ivie Anderson, Sinatra, etc.), The Blues (Arthur Crudup, Joe Williams, Leadbelly, etc.), The Masters (Jo Jones, Johnny Hodges, Mingus, Ellington, Armstrong, Cecil Taylor, Dizzy, Coltrane, etc.), Ageless Big and Small Bands, The Business of Jazz, The Rainbow of Country Music, Jazz Ahead.

Most of the highly enjoyable pieces in this collection were originally printed in the Wall Street Journal and JazzTimes.