Music by the Book!

Music by the Book

Music by the Book!

A pairing of music and words
just for book groups!

In Music by the Book!, Tom Moon, author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, pairs words and music just for book groups.

For your next gathering, why not pair a book selection from Reading Group Choices with a music choice from Music by the Book!


This month, Tom suggests some music parings for your discussion of
Hotel onthe Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Jamie Ford.

A key figure in Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is Oscar Holden, the pianist who’s known (mostly to music historians, alas) as the “patriarch of Seattle jazz.” Like similar luminaries in other cities, Holden was at the center of the Pacific Northwest region’s jazz life during the years between Prohibition and the Internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. He worked constantly, and his ability to play in any style set an example for countless younger talents who went on to high-profile national careers – including Quincy Jones and Ray Charles.

Below are a few choices, among many, for music to savor while reading (or talking about) Hotel.

Count Basie and His Orchestra: The Complete Decca Recordings (MCA). If you were even a teensy bit into jazz in the 1930s, you had to pay attention to the fierce swing of the Count Basie Orchestra. This anthology captures Basie’s steam-engine rhythm section at its peak, and shows how the soloists – including the great tenorman Lester Young – took the inspiration of that rhythm to new heights.

Quincy Jones: Quincy Jones’ Finest Hour (Verve). Though he’s best known as a producer (Michael Jackson’s Thriller, et al.), Seattle native Quincy Jones made significant contributions to jazz in the 1950s and ‘60s as an arranger and bandleader. Many of Jones’ individual titles are hard to find, but this compilation offers an excellent overview of his early endeavors. It includes a spectacular studio-orchestra setting for Sarah Vaughan, “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set,” a cheeky big-band version of “Killer Joe,” and the original recording of “Soul Bossa Nova,” which has enjoyed a second life as the Austin Powers theme.

Hampton Hawes: Four!!! (OJC). Every big city has a few underappreciated jazz talents, musicians who, like Oscar Holden, were somewhat ignored during their productive years – only to be championed later. Among the most notable from Los Angeles is pianist Hampton Hawes, who brought an endearing and often sweet sense of melody to the West Coast bebop of the 1940s. This date features Hawes and another underloved genius, guitarist Barney Kessel, tearing up a program of small-group jam session tunes. It’s a reminder that in jazz, not all of the towering achievements were made by big-name legends.

About Tom:

Tom Moon

For the last three and a half years, award-winning music journalist Tom Moon has been searching out peak musical experiences from all genres and every corner of the earth. 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, published by Workman Publishing in August 2008, is the result of his journey. Covering both acknowledged world-culture masterworks (J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations) and recordings that have been unfairly overlooked (Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left), the book is designed to encourage listeners to become explorers.

Moon lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs and an attic full of music outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.