R.I.P.: John Chilton

I finally got a moment to pull his wondrous Who’s Who of Jazz (I got a revised edition in 1979) off the shelf and it remains a remarkable book. Chilton’s knowledge of players and careers, from “Storyville to Swing Street” as he puts it, is astonishing. This was a landmark “shows how little you know” book for me. I bet to this day 2/3 of the players in here don’t evoke an immediate sound in my head. But you gleaned guidance from every entry. And while he is correct to note that number of lines devoted to each entry does not connote importance, you can nonetheless detect who he thinks matters by certain inflections or simply who played with who when and where. The most passionate fans and players like Chilton felt a pressing need to get down the early jazz players before they vanished from history. Who’s Who of Jazz is the enduring reward for us all.

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