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Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, August 31, 2007, Music

Jazz Mavericks of the Lone Star State

By Dave Oliphant
University of Texas Press,242 pp., $22.95

There's no denying Texas jazz musicians have played an enormous role in the genre's innovations and development. No one has more thoroughly documented and enthusiastically championed this than retired UT lecturer Dave Oliphant. Like his previous book, 1996's Texan Jazz, these 16 essays, some previously unpublished, examine musical aspects common to Texans while trumpeting the contributions of Lone Star jazz icons. No surprise that Fort Worth-born revolutionary Ornette Coleman receives a couple of well-deserved chapters, but one of the attributes of Jazz Mavericks is the space provided to lesser known but still important jazzmen like San Marcos guitarist/composer/arranger Eddie Durham, the first musician to amplify a guitar, and trumpeter/bandleader/former Austinite Kenny Dorham. One intriguing chapter discusses the role of Texans like Budd Johnson and Jimmy Giuffre in non-Texan Woody Herman's influential Herds. The author finds jazz and literature a fecund subject but limits it here to Texas writers and poets. Often overlooked by scholars is the place of Western swing within the larger historical context of jazz, but Oliphant examines the birth of this Southwestern phenomenon through Milton Brown & the Musical Brownies. Well-researched with mountains of documentation, Jazz Mavericks tends toward the academic, not the best point of entry for a genre novice, but those with a firm grounding in the music will find some real insight. (Dave Oliphant will be discussing Texas jazz, spinning discs of the same, and signing copies of Jazz Mavericks at BookPeople, Friday, Aug. 31, 7pm.)

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