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Formats
Paperback Details
  • 07/2018
  • 9780692895986
  • 252 pages
  • $25
Upright Bass: The Musical Life & Legacy of Jamil Nasser
George Joyner, Jamil Sulieman, and Jamil Nasser are three names that appear on the records of Phineas Newborn, Lou Donaldson, Ahmad Jamal, Red Garland and many more. These three names identify one jazz bassist, composer, and jazz advocate, who made an indelible mark in the jazz world for over fifty years. Upright Bass chronicles his evolution from a young bassist on Beale Street to a top-flight bassist on the New York Jazz scene. Miles Davis harbored curiosity about the environment that produced Jamil and three Memphis musicians he hired in 1963. Nasser's narrative captures the untold stories of two piano giants Phineas Newborn and Oscar Dennard. He also shares anecdotes about his mentors: Papa Jo Jones, Lester Young, Charles Mingus, Oscar Pettiford, and Ray Brown. Moreover, Jamil describes his decade long tenure with Ahmad Jamal, which included a life-threatening imprisonment in South America. Finally, we learn about his plight as an outspoken jazz artist fighting for greater union representation, the perils of heroin addiction in the music industry, media access, healthcare, and self-ownership.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Idea/Concept: This fascinating and worthy memoir of the late Jamil Nasser, an African American Muslim jazz bassist, provides both an intimate chronicle of his life and career, and a window into the lives of other luminary figures he played alongside. Completed by Nasser's son, the memoir includes detailed accounts of Nasser's development as a musician, his performances, travels, and experiences within the American jazz scene of the 50, 60s, and onward. 

Prose: Nasser's first-person prose is clear, descriptive, and economical. Both exposition and dialogue are equally well-crafted and effectively balanced. Nasser's detailed writing would seem to perfectly capture his father's voice, serving as a testament to  how intimately Nasser came to know his father and his experiences. Nasser's introduction movingly describes his relationship with his father and how the memoir project came to life. Italicized passages, meanwhile, feature quotes and reminiscences from other figures, providing a broader portrait of the jazz world. 

Originality: As a lesser-known musician, Nasser’s unique story is both illuminating and overdue. Powerfully, the memoir also describes Nasser's fellow musicians succumbing to self-destructive behaviors and addictions, something that Nasser decidedly rejected in his own life. Nasser's memoir offers a truly uncommon look into the lives of American jazz artists--both those well known and more obscure--while his Muslim faith and activism further distinguish him as a musician of note and intrigue. 

Execution: Readers eager to gain a behind-the-scenes look at the golden age of jazz, will welcome this memoir. Photos, playbills, chronological discography, and letters add much to the book's authenticity and importance as a work of musical history. 

Date Submitted: January 28, 2020

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 07/2018
  • 9780692895986
  • 252 pages
  • $25

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