New books on Popular Music

jazzJazz by Herman Leonard
Accurately billed as the “definitive collection of [Leonard’s] work,” this volume gives his jazz photographs the attention they deserve, just months after his passing at age 87. His work has been collected before in smaller books or alongside critical commentary, but a single volume dedicated to his sessions with jazz musicians was missing. Ten years after the beautiful Blue Note Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff, this Leonard edition creates the perfect bookend for jazz portraiture, covering the seminal period of the medium from the 1940s through the 1960s, along with images from the last 20 years-e.g., picturing Wynton Marsalis and a young Trombone Shorty and late photographs of one of Leonard’s favorite subjects, Miles Davis. Compiling rarely seen photographs and his best-known images, this work also features a brief but enlightening interview with Leonard about the techniques of his work and his evolution with cameras. VERDICT Essential for any enthusiast of jazz or photography, this book belongs in every library as a tribute to these loved musicians. (Library Journals)

warpWarp by Rob Young
Since its foundation in 1989, Warp Records has become a synonym for futuristic adventures in sound and vision. “Warp” tells the story of how a small Sheffield dance label grew to foster an international range of artists including Aphex Twin, LFO, Autechre, Boards Of Canada, Squarepusher, Broadcast, Vincent Gallo, Tortoise, Antipop Consortium, Jimi Tenor, Plaid and Prefuse 73, eventually adding film production to its list of credits with Chris Cunningham, Chris Morris, and Lynne Ramsay. Coinciding with the rise of the internet as well as radical new music and multimedia technologies during the 1990s, which placed artistic control directly in the hands of musicians, “Warp’s” worldwide success had much to do with its unique relationship to its artists and a determination to remain independent and in control of its own destiny. “Warp” features interviews with the label’s key artists and co-founder Steve Beckett, sections on the prehistory of Sheffield electronica and “Warp’s” stunning artwork by the Designers Republic, plus many unseen photos, documents, press releases, cuttings and artefacts from the label’s lifespan, together with a complete discography/filmography from 1989-2005.(Book Jacket)

[Medium bookjacket]Serious fun : the life and music of Mike Nock by Norman Meehan
Serious Fun is the vibrant and accessible life story of one of New Zealand’s greatest musicians. Mike Nock’s childhood in 1940s Ngaruawahia and Nelson, and his adventures as a young teenager on the road with the Fabulous Flamingoes, and Maori rock’n’roll pioneer Johnny Cooper, are the stuff of Kiwi legend. In the magic years of 1958 and 1959, still a teenager, he was in Sydney playing with Australia’s best in The El Rocco nightclub, touring with artists of the stature of Coleman Hawkins, and recording his first LP. A Down Beat scholarship to the world’s premiere jazz school, Berklee in Boston, brought him gigs with musicians such Sam Rivers and Tony Williams, and eventually long stints with Yusef Lateef, Dionne Warwick and John Handy. Further highlights of Nock’s stellar international career included the founding in 1968 of pioneering fusion band The Fourth Way, and the classic ECM album Ondas in 1981. Mike Nock moved back south in the mid 1980s, to teach in the jazz programme at the Sydney Conservatorium, and has continued to extend his playing, composing and recording, working solo and with a wide range of jazz combos and classical ensembles. Norman Meehan, a musician himself, gives us a compelling account of the life of this volatile and creative man through a dramatic period in western culture. His responsive and accessible accounts of Nock’s compositions and recordings provide rich insights for musicians and music fans alike. (Syndetics summary)

kings of leonHoly rock & rollers : the story of Kings of Leon by Joel McIver
Seven years after their unprecedented arrival in the UK, they are finally making a name for themselves overseas, thanks to a series of hit albums and singles (peaking with 2008’s anthemic “Sex on Fire”) and a headline slot at Glastonbury in 2008 and at Reading in ’09. No longer indulging in the drugs which were threatening to come between them, the band are older, wiser and in a better position to reflect in their rise to glory. Their’s is a unique tale, from their youth as touring musicians in their preacher father’s church to their discovery by the American music industry and beyond. Joel McIver’s new book, the first ever Kings of Leon biography, digs deep into their history to reveal a band like no other. (Amazon.co.uk)

check theCheck the technique : liner notes for hip-hop junkies by Brian Coleman
“It’s a sad fact: hip-hop album liners have always been reduced to a list of producer and sample credits, a publicity photo or two, and some hastily composed shout-outs. That’s a damn shame, because few outside the game know about the true creative forces behind influential masterpieces like PE’s It Takes a Nation of Millions … De La’s 3 Feet High and Rising, and Wu-Tang’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). A longtime scribe for the hip-hop nation, Brian Coleman fills this void and delivers a knockout oral history of the albums that define this dynamic and iconoclastic art form.” “The format: One chapter, one artist, one album, blow-by-blow and track-by-track, delivered straight from the original sources. Performers, producers, DJs, and b-boys – including Big Daddy Kane, Muggs and B-Real, Biz Markie, RZA, Ice-T, and Wyclef – step to the mic to talk about the influences, environment, equipment, samples, beats, beefs, and surprises that went into making each classic record. Studio craft and street smarts, sonic inspiration and skate ramps, triumph, tragedy, and take-out food – all played their part in creating these essential hip-hop albums.”(Book Jacket)

cohenVarious positions : a life of Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel
Known as the “Prince of Bummers,” Leonard Cohen is a multi-talented poet, singer-songwriter, novelist, and Zen Buddhist whose career has spanned more than forty years and inspired countless other artists. In this critically acclaimed biography originally published in 1996 by Pantheon Books, Ira Nadel draws on extensive interviews with Cohen, as well as excerpts from his unpublished letters, journals, notebooks, songs, and other writings, to offer a full portrait of this enigmatic man and his artistic career. A new concluding chapter brings Cohen’s story up-to-date, including the release of the albumsDear Heather,Ten New Songs,The Essential Leonard Cohen, andBlue Alert, as well as the publication ofBook of Longingand the screening of the documentary filmLeonard Cohen, I’m Your Man. (Syndetics summary)