Book Review: Readings
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., Dec. 29, 2006
The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records
by Ashley Kahn
Norton, 324 pp., $29.95Impulse Records was the one jazz label that best reflected the social, political, and cultural turbulence of the 1960s as well as the spiritual awareness of the era. With their distinctive orange-and-black gatefold album covers and the financial backing of its parent company, ABC Records, to afford first-rate production values, Impulse set the standard for jazz aesthetic excellence. A roster that included saxophonists John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and Pharoah Sanders, made it the home of the music's ferocious avant-garde. The 1960s was also a time when the most important jazz pioneers were still alive, and Impulse recorded the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, and Earl "Fatha" Hines. In marking the 45th anniversary of Impulse Records, writer Ashley Kahn has admirably documented the eclectic label's rise and fall from the early Sixties through the late Seventies. Coltrane was by far the most important artist, and his music forged the identity of the label. That and his relationship with producer Bob Thiele provide the book's focal point. Kahn gets substantial input and perspective from many on the label's roster, as well as producers and executives. Reams of useful documentation and a complete 1961-77 Impulse discography make this a particularly worthy addition to any jazz library.