Articles currently available on The Atlantic Monthly's Web site
- God's Lonely Man, March 2004
Johnny Cash was a Christian who didn't cast stones, a patriot who wasn't a bully.
- Storming the Home Front, March 2003
Directors of today's war movies, with their insistence on graphic bloodletting and happy endings, should look at the original World War II movies, which were subtly subversive.
- Unironic, July/August 2002
Bill Frisell draws from a wide spectrum of music identified with the American experience—and country music is a persistent echo.
- Ready for Action, January 2002
Despite seeing on television news what used to be confined to action movies, audiences have been flocking to them, perhaps eager for the illusion of control they offer.
- Bill Clinton and His Consequences: All the President's Sidemen, Feb 2001
Savvy enough about rhythm.
- I Hear America Scatting, Jan 2001
The new Ken Burns series on jazz is good television but sketchy history.
- Our Lady Of Sorrows, Nov 2000
Willfully unaware of the facts of her professional life, listeners persist in thinking that Billie Holiday felt their pain.
- Pacific Time, September 2000
Once the novelty wears off, a vacation spot may prove to be more than just another pretty place .
- Charlie Haden, Bass, August 2000
No other bass player since Charles Mingus has seemed so thoroughly joined to his instrument.
Jazz -- Religious and Circus, February 2000
The 1970s get little respect. The bad reputation is undeserved in many of the popular arts -- especially jazz.
Napoleon in Rags, May 1999
Bob Dylan changed the popular music of his time and the music that followed, and the commercial release of a formerly bootlegged concert recording shows how he did it.
Swing and Sensibility, September 1998
Whatever Frank Sinatra sang, he swang, and his musicianship will endure longer than the swagger that today's singers so admire.
Not Singing Too Much, February 1998
A vocal performance by the pianist and songwriter Dave Frishberg is more like a series of witty asides.
The Man From Heaven, June 1997
The songs of Burt Bacharach are enjoying a revival that seems unlikely only at first hearing
Victim Kitsch, September 1996
With its pop sentimentality, Rent neutralizes avant-garde art into a form that
hopeful critics take for Broadway's salvation.
Like Young, July 1996
Jazz has been attracting its first young audiences in decades -- but are they
hearing a music without a future?
Bud's Bubble, January 1996
The seminal bebop pianist Bud Powell absorbed and extended the musical ideas of
Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, and Thelonious Monk. But his genius was a victim of his
- Man with a
Horn, March 1992
As Stanley Crouch has observed, "Dizzy Gillespie carried and projected the moxie,
the curiosity, the wit, and the pathos that enliven the world of jazz." Here Francis
Davis captures the indefatigable vitality of the great bebop trumpeter in an essay
published a year before Gillespie's death.
- Recognition Humor, December 1992
Seinfeld shows why television is today's best medium for
- Better With Age,
At the age of eighty-four, Benny Carter offered audiences "a singular thrill -- the
chance to look back on history as it continues to unfold." In addition to appreciating
Carter's longevity, Davis also recognizes Carter's impressive contributions to jazz
- "Zorn" for "Anger,"
"John Zorn is the only musician I've ever considered suing," writes Davis. Despite
his bad-boy image and the eardrum-shattering volume of his live performances,
Zorn's contribution to recent avant-garde music, especially his interpretations of film
music, cannot be dismissed.
- The Book on Miles,
At age sixty-three, Miles Davis, a man fully aware that "his art and life were already
the stuff of legend," published Miles: The
Autobiography. In this review, Francis
Davis reflects on the life of one of jazz's most important yet
- Bird on Film,
In 1988 Clint Eastwood produced and directed Bird, a movie about the life of
Charlie Parker. Unfortunately, according to Davis, the film "wants to shout 'Bird
Lives!' but winds up whispering 'Jazz is dead.'"
- Born Out of Time,
In an essay anticipating his July, 1996, essay "Like Young," Davis considered the
influence of the then twenty-six-year-old trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the extent of
his influence on musicians his own age and younger.
- Large-Scale Jazz,
In the 1980s jazz composers were seen as the new innovators, relegating improvisers
to secondary status. If one accepts the fact that composition was the key element in
jazz in the 1980s, however, the central figure of the decade was clearly Duke
Ellington, although he died in 1974.
- Creator by Proxy,
Neither an "arranger" (too limited a designation) nor "composer" (too grandiose), Gil
Evans was more of an improvisational translator. His genius lay in isolating and
expanding various source materials, such as "a provocative passing chord, an
insistent rhythmic vamp, or an unexpected melodic ellipsis."
- Ornette's Permanent Revolution,
"All hell broke loose when the alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman made his East Coast
debut, at the Five Spot Cafe, in Greenwich Village, on November 17, 1959." Davis
considers the effect of the revolutionary free-jazz movement spawned by Coleman on
that fateful night.
- The Loss of Count Basie,
"Among big-band leaders only Duke Ellinton exerted more long-term influence upon
jazz and American popular music than Count Basie," observes Davis. Ellington's and
Basie's styles differed greatly, however -- Ellington was a writer of jazz composition
whereas Basie functioned more as an editor.
Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.