We inevitably try to remember the things we have lived through as we go through the last few days of the year or, like around these times, the first days of the new year. To elaborate, it is a judgement of what we have gone through in our private lives, the changes in our immediate surroundings, and the developments in the fields that hold our interest. Lists complied by various media outlets and publications, compilations and reviews all point out to this… We wanted to review 2016 when it comes to the jazz books published in this year.
There actually has been many “solid” jazz books published in Turkish. We have some of the main works translated into Turkish (for example Joachim E. Berendt’s famous Jazz Book was published by Ayrıntı Publishing in 2003) but considering the influx of publication abroad, this isn’t nearly enough. We only had the chance to read three jazz books in Turkish in 2016:
1. Caz Çok Zor, Prepared by: Batu Akyol, Kara Plak Publishing
Have you seen the documentary called Türkiye’de Caz (Jazz in Turkey)? (Let’s remind the reader that if they haven’t, they can do so online.) Directed by Batu Akyol, Türkiye’de Caz documentary can be summarized as putting the spotlight on jazz and jazz musicians in Turkey, their development stages and interactions while drawing parallels with history of Turkey. The shooting for the documentary, which is a work of oral history, started in 2011 and it includes interviews with nearly 50 people. It is the first of its kind in Turkey with its wide scope and structure. The director puts the emphasis on the fact that instead of focusing on the documentary being “the first”, one should worry more about it not being “the last” of its kind. We really hope this film would be “the beginning”, we hoped… And ultimately the sequel come not as a documentary or a film, but as a book. Whatever that didn’t make the cut for the documentary made its way into the book called Caz Çok Zor (meaning ‘jazz is tough’) in 2016. We can continue to pursue the path lead by the witnesses of the journey of jazz in Turkey in this book, especially when it comes to musicians, concerts, albums, festivals and various jazz venues…
2. Caz Felsefesi, Daniel Martin Feige, Dost Kitabevi Publishing, Translated by: Necati Aça
Daniel Martin Feige’s book Caz Felsefesi (’Philosophy of Jazz’), published in Turkish in 2016, is exactly what its name suggests. The author states that it could be categorized as an introductory book. However, he also has a warning; the book isn’t a general introduction to jazz in an informative sense and adds: “This book is an explanation of the philosophical questions that might be raised when looked through the perspective of people who are familiar with jazz, its listeners and producers.” In other words, he draws a philosophical portrait of jazz as an artistic music genre, and also tries to explain how and why jazz is such an interesting subject for philosophical thought. While doing so, Daniel Martin Feige focuses on “jazz and European artistic music traditions”, “opus and improvization” and “musician and tradition”.
3. Takipçi, Julio Cortázar, Delidolu Publishing, Illustrated by: José Muñoz, Çeviren: Pınar Savaş
Julio Cortázar’s novella Takipçi (‘The Pursuer’) was one of the exciting publications of 2016. We published a review of this work already on this platform. We shortly stated this: “Charlie Parker from Julio Cortázar’s pen… It can’t get any better!”
We can include jazz pianist Kenny Werner’s book Zahmetsiz Ustalık (‘Effortless Mastery’), in which he frequently refers to jazz and jazz musicians, to this list. It was published by Pan Publishing and translated by Selma Öğünç.
What was the situation like in other countries in 2016?
We see a more bountiful publication year for books on jazz when we look at the other countries in 2016. Therefore; we didn’t compile all books, but only the “most outstanding” ones here.
A similar event to that between Türkiye’de Caz documentary and the book Caz Çok Zor happened to Nina Simone’s biography. What Happened, Miss Simone?, produced by Netflix, was one of the more interesting documentaries released in 2015. A book was published following the release of this inspiring documentary. This book, which has the same name as the documentary, was authored by Alan Light, who is known for his books on Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and Prince. It was published by Crown Archetype and released on the 9th of February. We wonder if we will get to read it in Turkish in the future!
It is uncertain whether Nina Simone’s biography will ever get translated into Turkish, but maybe a biographical book on Billie Holiday has a higher chance. Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth starts with Billie Holiday stepping into the recording studio for the first time in November 1933. It isn’t described solely as a biography; but also a reflection on her art and its effects on her life. The book, released by Penguin in March 2016, is written by John Szwed, who also has books about Miles Davis and Sun Ra.
John Szwed’s Sun Ra biography is an older book. It was first published in 1998. For those who are looking for a more recent (or more accessible) book, we can suggest Paul Youngquist’s A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism, published in October 2016. Sun Ra, who claims to have come from Saturn and the founding father of Afrofuturism, undoubtedly holds a special place in the hearts of those who remember his tour on Istiklal Street when he visited Turkey on the 15th of April, 1990. Therefore; this biography will definitely interest them.
Speaking of Afrofuturism… One of the outstanding jazz books of 2016 was Karlton E. Hester’s African Roots of the Jazz Evolution (The 2016 version actually was its third edition). As can be understood from its title, this book is a research and analysis of how the roots of jazz came from traditional African music and how it evolved…
The Sound of the North: The Norwegian Jazz Scene, published in the beginning of 2016, looks at a colder geography and is the first monograph about the colorful jazz life in Norway. Written by Luca Vitali and published by Mimesis International, the book also includes a CD with examples of Nordic jazz. Another book with a similar approach was published in 2016, but this time it came from the dead center of jazz. Thomas H. Greenland’s Jazzing focuses on the jazz scene in New York. For those who want a more general approach, we can suggest the book called Jazz Worlds/World Jazz. Edited by Philip V. Bohlman and Goffredo Plastino and published by University of Chicago Press in April 2016, this book emphasizes the fact that jazz isn’t merely an American trademark. The book also pays attention to the sounds coming from countries like Azerbaijan, Armenia and India, and it is the most current literary example to focus on the global side of jazz…
Just like jazz music, there are books that speak directly to our emotions published as well in the year 2016. Gary Scott Beatty’s graphic novel Jazz: Midnight manages to portray jazz clubs in the 1950s and reflect their atmosphere visually as well. Another book emphasizing visuality is The Jazz Coloring Book. In other words, jazz—maybe inevitably— got its share from the latest craze which are adult coloring books! Here are some of the names you can color in thanks to this book: Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong (Satchmo), Chet Baker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis, Fred Estaire, Benny Goodman, Jelly Roll Morton, Diana Krall… Edited by Björn Heile, Peter Elsdon and Jenny Doctor, Watching Jazz: Encounters with Jazz Performance on Screen analyzes jazz performance on the screen, as its name clearly suggests; from movies to TV, from digital technology to online media… It is also described as the first literary work that does this systematically.
Finally, let’s go back to the start and end this article with Ted Gioia, who has always attracted attention by his books on music, and his book How to Listen to Jazz, which is an introduction to jazz.