Whitney Balliett’s most recent book is Collected Works: A Journal of Jazz, 1954—2001 (August 2003).

‘In a Mist’

The elusive and altogether brilliant jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke was born March 10, 1903, in Davenport, Iowa, of a comfortable middle-class German family, and died during an attack of delirium tremens on August 6, 1931, in an airless one-room apartment in Sunnyside, Queens. He made the first of his scant …

Mad Genius

Caroline Fraser is an ex-Christian Scientist, as am I, so herewith some notes on her brilliant book, a critical history that not only casts a clear, merciless light on the cloud-cuckoo-land of Christian Science, but also certifies her freedom—and mine. She explains at the outset: I have been a Christian …

War at the Top

Out of print since the Fifties, Guard of Honor won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1949, and, though nearly forgotten now, is, I have long thought, the best American novel about the Second World War—Norman Mailer, Irwin Shaw, James Jones, Harry Brown, Joseph Heller, Herman Wouk, John Horne Burns, …

Swing King

In 1935, the clarinettist and bandleader Benny Goodman, aged just twenty-six, left New York with his fourteen-piece “swing” band and, traveling in a rag-tag group of cars, headed for the huge Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. It was not an easy trip. There were half a dozen dismal, sparsely attended …

On Frank Sinatra (1915–1998)

One day I was dealing with Ella Fitzgerald, and the subject of Sinatra came up and her intruder-mistrusting voice suddenly softened and she said, “Frank. Just this little guy telling this story. That’s all you have to be.”