Book Review: New Zealand Jazz life, by Norman Meehan

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_new_zealand_jazz_lifeThis is a great read for anyone who is even remotely interested in the NZ music scene, but particularly for those who are keen on jazz. As I look around the Wellington jazz club gigs, I can usually count the number of people under 40 on the fingers of one hand but I KNOW that out there are many who find their jazz kicks at other venues. They should read this book!

Norman Meehan is a jazz musician, teacher, writer, who has interviewed about 40 NZ jazz musos. His criteria were that the interviewees had to be NZ-born, and have produced at least one album.

So it’s a slightly unusual take, in that many of our very talented musicians have left for other countries where, sometimes, it’s easier to make a living from your passion.
That said, the book is about the state of jazz in NZ – how it got to where it is, is it in a good place, where is it headed, is there a New Zealand sound in jazz? All questions to which the interviewees give insightful and varied and highly personal answers. I really enjoyed reading this, as all of the musicians in the book are well-known, and I have listened to many of them live both in NZ and elsewhere.

The passion for making music comes through from all of them, but so does the difficulty of making a living at music in NZ – pretty well impossible to do just from gigs. There are one or two who have managed it, but on the whole NZ jazz players have to have a day job as well. That makes it much harder and that tension and struggle is well-documented in this book. But what comes through most of all is the sheer joy of playing jazz – in whatever form it takes.

There are some wonderful photos by Tony Whincup -sadly not of all of the subjects, as Whincup passed away before the book was completed.

If I have any quibble at all, it’s with the proofing of this book. There are far too many typos which should have been corrected, unusual for publisher VUP.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

New Zealand Jazz life
by Norman Meehan
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776560929

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