Ain’t But a Few of Us: Black Music Writers Tell Their Story

Duke Univ. Dec. 2022. 320p. ed. by Willard Jenkins. ISBN 9781478019039. pap. $27.95. MUSIC
A myriad of Black journalists and authors speak about their experience writing about jazz in DC Jazz Festival artistic director Jenkins’s (African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston) latest. The book starts with a spirited roundtable discussion among music journalists about the reasons only a few Black music writers cover jazz. They ponder whether it is the lack of access or exposure to that genre as youth, the limited financial gain, the lack of support by media outlets, or all of the aforementioned and more. Unfortunately, the book loses its momentum with several chapters of mini-autobiographies grouped by the various contributors’ vocations. Many of these stories are monotonous and do more name-dropping of musicians than discussing their lives or opinions on the state of jazz. Luckily, the last third of the book is an anthology of previously published music reviews and commentaries written by seminal music journalists. These articles bring back the roundtable discussion’s charge and provide much needed background about the history of jazz and its music reviewers.
VERDICT Recommended as a secondary purchase for academic libraries, especially those with music and journalism programs.
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