All these profiles make the reader feel, as one observer has pointed out, that he is "sitting with Balliett and his subject and listening in." The book can be taken as a kind of history of jazz, as well as a biographical encylopedia of many of its most important performers. It can also be regarded as a model of American prose. Robert Dawidoff said of Whitney Balliett"s most recent book, Jelly Roll, Jabbo and Fats, that "few people write as well about anything as Balliett writes about jazz." And the late Philip Larkin wrote in 1982 of the "transcendence of Balliett's prose."
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