Book Reviews

  • Dan Vernhettes, Commemoration of the Centenary of the Arrival of the African-American Military Bands in France during World War I: A Historical and Musical Approach (Paris: Jazz’edit, 2017). ISBN 9782953483192. 54 pages. http://www.jazzedit.org/English/Centenaire/Centenaire%201918.html

    Those who heard John Wallace lead the 20 piece period instrument band playing the music of James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hell Fighters at the 2017 HBS Symposium were given a rare treat. That spectacular repertoire, sadly rarely heard today, is recognized as an important link between ragtime and early jazz. Dan Vernhettes’s new book puts some more meat on the bones of this musical story, but more importantly introduces the musical community to little known information about a slew of other Black proto-jazz ensembles that also made their way to France and introduced this music to Europe.

  • Chris Hasselbring and Kirsty Montgomery. Around the World in Twenty-One Trumpets: A Brass Odyssey: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Fundamentals of Brass Playing Using the Natural Trumpet. Skokie, IL: Brass for Beginners, 2017.  ISBN 10-0-9909663-3X. 95 pages. www.brassforbeginners.com

    Those who have seen Chris Hasselbring and Kirsty Mongomery’s presentations at various HBS events or other venues have seen one of the more innovative approaches to music pedagogy in recent times. Incorporating the use of natural trumpets incorporating an interdisciplinary approach to the study of history, they have created a fascinating approach to studying music. The most current incarnation of the book is comprised of 10 chapters divided into three units. The fictional hero of the book is Ragnar, a prehistoric trumpeter who takes the reader through musical and historical adventures. Sound files of musical examples, reference and review material and other resources are online at www.practicecave.com. The site “Hear it online” www.hearragnar.com additionally contains a narrative that reviews historical and musical elements of Ragnar’s tale.

  • Claudio Bacciagaluppi and Martin Skamletz, eds., Romantic Brass. Ein Blick zurück ins 19. Jahrhundert (Schliengen, Germany: Edition Argus, 2015), 321 pgs. ISBN 978-3-931264-84-0. Publisher's website for the book.

    Over the past decade our knowledge of brass instruments in the nineteenth century has come into focus by leaps and bounds. While earlier work fixated on a few major figures—in the trumpet realm for instance the Anton Weidinger circle in Austria and the F. G. A. Dauverné circle in France—to the point of exhaustion, today a new generation of scholars together with a virtual second wind among the older generation now offers breadth and depth

  • John Brookfield. A History of the Port Royal Bands: The Men and the Music of the Bands of the Third Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry and the 2nd Brigade, 10th Army Corps, Department of the South during the American Civil War. South China, ME: Sam Teddy, 2015. Price $37.95; 441pp.

    For enthusiasts and scholars of brass-band music of the American Civil War (1861–65), the few surviving sets of band partbooks are treasured as the clearest windows into what was actually played by bands during that war. While recollections by soldiers who name certain tunes are helpful, these non-musicians usually only recognized certain patriotic airs or the occasional popular song.

  • McCusker, John. Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2012. http://www.upress.state.ms.us/books/1504

    This is an excellent book and leaving aside a short pamphlet put out by the UK jazz magazine Crescendo, it is the only study to be devoted to one of the iconic trombonists of jazz. I use the word iconic in the absence of any other term that properly describes him. He was certainly famous, but was he a great player? Therein lies the rub: why was Ory such a celebrated player when, by the evidence of his recordings, he was not always fully in charge of the instrument he played? Lawrence Brown, another iconic trombonist, refined his technique by playing cello music as a teenager because he “wanted to get away from all that tailgate stuff”—I wonder to whose recordings he had been listening. Brown is universally regarded as a great player; Ory occupies a different place.

    September 1, 2015
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    Foster, John. The Baroque Trumpet Revival. Chandler, Arizona: Hickman Music Editions, 2015. www.HickmanMusicEditions.com.

    Virtuoso Australian natural trumpet player John Foster has presented a vivid picture of the revival of the Baroque trumpet tradition in our modern era. The book begins with some basic information on the history, structure, and literature of the natural trumpet. He then outlines the contributions of some nineteenth and early-twentieth century pioneers, including Xavier Teste, Thomas Harper, Julius Kosleck, Walter Morrow, and John Solomon. Once he gets to Walter Holly he is off and running.

    September 1, 2015
  • Robert Holden, And the Band Played On: How Music Lifted the Anzac Spirit in the Battlefields of the First World War. Melbourne & London: Hardie Grant Books, 2014, paperback, 288 pages. ISBN 978 1742705620. www.hardiegrant.co.uk

     Robert Holden is an Australian historian, librarian, curator, book reviewer and author. He has written more than thirty books, most of which deal with Australian subjects in the fields of literature, art and design, folklore, and national identity. This book, his first foray into a musical subject, was informed by a fellowship at the Mitchell Library in Sydney that enabled him to study the diaries of ‘Anzac’ soldiers. Additionally, he undertook considerable archival research at other major national institutions, including the Australian War Memorial. Thus the book is well illustrated with original black-and-white photographs from the First World War, worthy of study within themselves.

    December 1, 2016
  • Michael J. Pagliaro, The Brass Instrument Owner’s Handbook (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). ISBN 9781442274013. 213 pages.

    Michael Pagliaro has presented a handbook of 11 chapters that contains a wide range of information on brass instruments, selection, ownership, rentals, care, pedagogy, fingering charts, acoustics, manufacture and assorted details including information on mutes, music stands, lyres, mouthpieces, mouthpiece pullers, cases, tuners, and other minutia.

    December 1, 2016
  • Koehler, Elisa. A Dictionary for the Modern Trumpet Player. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. ISBN 978-0-8108-8657-5. 219 pages. Publisher's website.

    Elisa Koehler new book demonstrates her wonderful ability to convey and explain a wide range of information, some of it rather complex, to both informed and novice readerships. As the book is a dictionary, each of the hundreds of entries is limited in size, but Koehler has nevertheless managed to assemble a wide range of trumpet-related topics including famous players, composers, instruments, organological issues, performance practice, compositions, as well as key concepts and historical events. Drawing on the famous line, “poetry is what poets write,” Elisa Koehler has constructed her dictionary to embrace the totality of the trumpet family as anything that the modern trumpet player plays. Rather than restricting the topic, as some taxonomic endeavors do, she has broadened it.

    March 18, 2015
  • Hobson, Vic. Creating Jazz Counterpoint: New Orleans, Barbershop Harmony, and the Blues. American Made Music Series. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014. ISBN 978-1-61703-991-1. 168 pages.

    In November, 2005 the Historic Brass Society presented a conference in collaboration with the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, “Early Twentieth-Century Brass Idioms: Art, Jazz, and Other Popular Traditions”. At that conference Vic Hobson presented an intriguing paper, “The Blues and the Uptown Brass Bands of New Orleans.” That paper was subsequently published in a Conference Proceedings by Scarecrow Press in 2009. It also served as the impetus for this present book.

    July 14, 2014
  • Bruce Boyd Raeburn. New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2009. ISBN 0-472-03321-2. 342 pages.

    For a relatively young art form, jazz has spawned an immense and remarkably diverse supporting literature. In the mid-1930s, books delineating its origins, founders, foremost practitioners, and stylistic attributes began cropping up. Documenting the already 40-year old music, these books appeared first in France and then America. Amid the growing body of literature certain works have assumed great importance in influencing how later scholars approached jazz. Perhaps no other text exerted as profound an impact on jazz discourse, particularly it’s origin in and subsequent diffusion from New Orleans, as Jazzmen, a collection of articles edited by Charles Edward Smith and Frederic Ramsey, Jr. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1939). The text provided the catalyst for a trend in subsequent histories whereupon swing bands, bebop, free, fusion, and still more styles were woven into the historical narratives as extensions of the original style; evolution through an accumulation of artistic innovations. The idea of progress was anathema to Smith, Ramsey, and many of the record collectors and discographers who had been the earliest advocates of jazz as a distinct art form. For this group of cognoscenti hot music was not just the leaping off point for the jazz art, it was the art itself.

    January 1, 2009
  • Pocket Cornets: Actual Size. A Pictorial Overview of the Smallest Antique & Vintage Cornets Ever Made,. By Nick DeCarlis. Published by the author, 2009. 75 pages hardcover. Information: www.PocketCornets.com and www.JazzCor.net

    This beautifully designed and illustrated book features a detailed examination of many of the instruments from the author’s private collection of several dozen rare pocket cornets arranged chronologically from an 1872 Distin instrument to various Amati, Holton, and Alexander pocket cornets from the 1960s and 1970s. The 8x9 ½ inch page format of this publication enabled DeCarlis to feature beautiful “life size” color photos of the instruments. They are so sharp and clear that I found myself constantly reaching toward the page with my right hand imagining that I could grab the cornet and pull it from the page. Details of length (typically 8 or 7 inches), bell diameter, bore size, key and pitch and serial numbers are given for each instrument featured. There are also numerous photos of related material such as illustrations of the makers, 19th and early 20th century performers holding pocket cornets, instrument cases, original advertisements, and catalogues. A brief historical background is also given along with a description of various unusual design configurations.

    January 1, 2009
  • The Trumpet Book by Gabriele Cassone. Zecchini Editore www.zecchini.com Pub. 2009 ISBN 978-88-87203-80-6. 336 pages. $75. With accompanying CD. Website: www.thetrumpetbook.com

    When I received the original Italian language edition of Gabriele Cassone’s La Tromba (2002) some years back, I thought that it was not only the most beautifully published book on the trumpet (over 400 exquisite color photographs on glossy large format paper), but perhaps the most beautiful book on any musical instrument I’ve seen. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Italian is about on par with that of the great Louis Armstrong. When on one of his many tours of Italy and asked how his Italian was, the great trumpeter responded, “Oh fine, pizza!!” I may be able to order a few more types of food but now we have the English translation of Cassone’s wonderful book and it is even more beautiful than the original Italian edition. There are additional photos and some photos enlarged and made slightly brighter.

    January 1, 2009
  • Edward H. Tarr, The Trumpet, Trans. S.E. Plank, Revised and Enlarged Limited Edition. Hickman Music Editions, 2008. 176 pages. $49 hardbound, $35 soft cover.

    Ed Tarr’s excellent book on the trumpet has gone through a fairly extensive publishing journey. It was first published in German in 1977, went through a few editions then finally appeared in English translation in 1988. The latest edition, revised by the author, has been published by the noted trumpet player, editor, publisher, and teacher, David Hickman, in a larger size format. The book remains a wonderful overview of the history of the trumpet and its updated material adds to its significance to the field.

    January 1, 2009
  • Kurt Dietrich, Jazz 'Bones: The World of the Jazz Trombone; Advance Music, 2005. ISBN 3-89221-069-1. 612 pages. 

    I admired Kurt Dietrich's Duke's 'Bones (1995), which provided an imaginative and in some ways unique approach to the study of a particular performance tradition: the tradition initiated by Nanton, Tizol and Brown that formed a legacy for the many others who occupied their chairs in Ellington's band. I was struck by the empathy Dietrich had with the players. It is not merely that he admired them - this was not mere adoration: he seemed to be able to read their styles and idioms in terms that derived from the way they were, rather than what he was able to observe from available sources.

    January 1, 2009
  • Jazz Survivor: The Story of Louis Bannet, Horn Player of Auschwitz, by Ken Shuldman. London and Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2005. ISBN: 0-85303-476-1 (paper). Pp. 70. $18.50.

    In the Museum of Jewish Heritage/A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City is displayed a large-bell Bb trumpet on permanent loan. The owner had been Louis Bannet. An inscription in the exhibit information informs the viewer that it was that actual trumpet that gave Bannet the strength to live through the unimaginable horrors of Auschwitz. Musicians often have a strong tie to their instruments but few can be credited with life-saving power. This and many other aspects of Louis Bannet’s life are effectively related by Ken Shuldman, but perhaps of even greater interest to readers of this Society is the examination of how jazz was embraced by one of Europe’s early proponents of this music.

    January 1, 2008
  • Guide to the Euphonium Repertoire: the euphonium source book
    Eds. Lloyd E. Bone Jr. and Eric Paull under the supervision of R. Winston Morris. Indiana University Press, 601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404-3797, USA. ISBN 0-253-34811-0. 589 pages. 2007. $75.

    Since 1996 tubists have turned to The Tuba Sourcebook when researching anything to do with their instrument’s repertoire, players or composers. Guide to the Euphonium Repertoire is a companion volume in identical format for players of the companion instrument.

    January 1, 2008
  • Origins and Development of Musical Instruments by Jeremy Montagu. Published by Scarecrow Press, 2007. 
    ISBN 13: 978-0-8108-5657-8. Cloth 280 pages $75.

    Jeremy Montagu has been remarkably productive since his retirement as the curator of the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments in Oxford. He has written four books, three of which are of immediate interest to members of the Historic Brass Society and have been reviewed in these pages; Timpani & PercussionMusical Instruments of the Bible, and this present publication. He has also written a recent book on reed instruments of the Montagu Collection. The book under discussion here describes the creation, use, and development of musical instruments from the Stone Age to our present day. Montagu presents a fascinating way of telling the tale of instruments that is quite different from many other studies on this topic. He presents ways in which many different cultures use instruments and uses those examinations as a spring-board for discussion on how and why various instruments developed. Performance practice, social and cultural traditions as well as detailed descriptions of instrument design are all given full attention by Montagu.

    January 1, 2008