Tony Outhwaite

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Books in Brief

End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival Is Undermining Its Rise, by Carl Minzner (Oxford University Press; 296 pp., $29.95).

Back in the 1980s, there was reason to hope that China would succeed in reforming, or at least softening,

Your Pink Hat Is Transphobic
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Your Pink Hat Is Transphobic

If Madonna were a standard white person, her appearance at the August 2018 MTV Video Music Awards—at which she delivered a rambling, self-referential soliloquy about the influences she’d absorbed from Aretha Franklin while costumed in an alarming getup that

Teddy Wilson and the Swing Era Vocalists
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Teddy Wilson and the Swing Era Vocalists

Midway through Billie Holiday’s plaintive 1941 recording of “Jim,” there is a short piano solo barely 25 seconds in length—not even a full 32-bar chorus—by Teddy Wilson.  “Jim” is largely forgotten today, but Wilson’s lightly swinging interpretation of the melody

Monumental Stupidity
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Monumental Stupidity

There is a scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest in which the characters look out at a brooding Mount Rushmore from the dining-room terrace of the Sheraton-Johnson Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota (since renamed the Hotel

John di Martino
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John di Martino

In the early days of his career in 1982, jazz pianist John di Martino was a member of the house trio accompanying such internationally famous vocalists as Billy Daniels and Keely Smith at Steve’s Lounge and Elaine’s Lounge, two of

Unlovable Losers: The Left in Perspective
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Unlovable Losers: The Left in Perspective

Not long after last fall’s presidential election, an entire wall in New York City’s Union Square subway station was plastered with hundreds of protestors’ Post-it notes, hailed by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration as “subway therapy” for the losing side,

Alex Smith
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Alex Smith

Just after 6 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, February 7, 2016, a tuxedo-clad Alex Smith sat alone on stage at a grand piano near the 50-yard line in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, set to accompany Lady Gaga as

For Those Who Have Ears
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For Those Who Have Ears

For some time now, Ted Gioia has been one of our leading jazz and music critics.  He, along with Gary Giddins, Bob Porter, Marc Myers, Bill Milkowski, Will Friedwald, and several even younger critics and historians like Ricky Riccardi, has

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Not Your Mother’s Weasels

At the United Nations in the fall of 2009, Barack Obama acknowledged, with customary self-regard, “the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world,” no doubt referring to his pledge about the receding oceans, healing the planet and reviving the

Tommy Flanagan
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Tommy Flanagan

Early one evening in the mid-1980’s, jazz pianist Walter Bishop, Jr., who in 1951-52 had performed and recorded with star bebop alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, was having a bad first set at Bradley’s, New York City’s premier jazz piano bar. 

A Master Accompanist
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A Master Accompanist

Few jazz pianists are “accompanists” as gifted in knowledge, technique, and taste as Norman Simmons, able to back vocalists with consummate skill in chording, passing notes, and background lines, but also wise in the use of space.  “A pianist is

Jimmy Rowles
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Jimmy Rowles

In person, jazz pianist Jimmy Rowles was a cutup, a card, a madcap presence, a piece of work.  After coming east from California in 1973, he would appear often, sometimes for weeks at a time, at Bradley’s, The Cookery, The

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Herman Foster

Late in 1961 the pop-jazz singer Gloria Lynne was booked into one of New York City’s top jazz supper clubs, Basin Street East, on Manhattan’s East 48th Street, where she was to record her first live album.  The emcee announced,

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No Apologies for Jazz

When the 30-year-old blind British jazz pianist George Shearing came to America for good early in 1949, he ran into fellow transplanted Brit Leonard Feather, a prominent critic, producer, promoter, and songwriter, who suggested that the pianist enlarge his trio

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No More Blues

Where is the blues in jazz when we need it?  Throughout most of its history jazz was a blues music, at least until the avant-gardists of the 1960’s tried to burn down the cathedral in their trumped-up revolution against American

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Forgotten French

Last October, the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to French novelist J.M.G. Le Clézio, the 13th French writer to win since the award’s inauguration in 1901 and the first to win since avant-garde novelist Claude Simon in 1985. 

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Boogaloo Down Broadway: The Charade of Liberal Change

Here it is 2008, and everything else is old news.  The provisional and absentee ballots, recounts, scores, and statistics of 2000-2007 are all in the history books, along with Afghan and Iraqi elections and constitutions, insurgencies, hurricanes, disgraced mayors and

The Diner’s Refrain
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The Diner’s Refrain

With former president Bill Clinton settled into his new headquarters on New York’s 125th Street, in central Harlem, the danger for the culinary crowd is that he may now take to hanging out at Sylvia’s, the famous soul-food restaurant barely

Renaissance Frauds
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Renaissance Frauds

Former Vice President Al Gore distinguished himself by a number of colorful claims, including his invention of the internet, his status as inspiration for the plot of Love Story, and his crime-busting investigations that pulled the covers off Love

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Jazz Standards

The new millennium brings with it the formal end of jazz’s 20th century, although serious historians recognize that some elements of the music trace back to roughly two-thirds of the way through the 19th. Yet even with the undeniable brilliance

Storytellers and Fakers
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Storytellers and Fakers

A writer, asked during a literary party what her new novel was about, turned on the questioner with an expression combining irritation, indignation, and pity, and replied, “My novels aren’t about things!” Some time later, this same writer would denounce

Great—and Famous
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Great—and Famous

The late 1940’s and early 1950’s were the heyday of rhythm-and-blues. Singers like Charles Brown, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Amos Milburn, James Brown, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and others like them were becoming acknowledged masters of the genre, all with readily

A Hothouse of Goofiness: The American Book Industry
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A Hothouse of Goofiness: The American Book Industry

The renowned American jazzman Charlie Parker, introduced to Jean-Paul Sartre in a Paris club during the 1949 jazz festival, reportedly said, “I’m very glad to have met you, Mr. Sartre. I like your playing very much.” According to writer Boris