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The Best Gig in Town: Jazz Artists at the White House, 1969-1974

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During his term in office, Nixon held thirteen jazz-related performances at the White House. This book pays homage to that handful of iconic entertainers who graced the East Room stage: singers Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra; pianists Henry Mancini, Bobby Short, and Billy Taylor; New Orleans musicians Pete Fountain and Al Hirt; and the instrumental groups the During his term in office, Nixon held thirteen jazz-related performances at the White House. This book pays homage to that handful of iconic entertainers who graced the East Room stage: singers Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra; pianists Henry Mancini, Bobby Short, and Billy Taylor; New Orleans musicians Pete Fountain and Al Hirt; and the instrumental groups the Modern Jazz Quartet and the World’s Greatest Jazz Band. In assembling these profiles, the author drew on published sources as well as archival taped performances, transcribing everything from Nixon’s introductory and closing remarks to the statements made by the stars to the reaction of the glitterati in the audience. For all the tunes played or sung, Faine provides details on their origins and the comments from attending journalists and critics. To be expected, the entertainers performed their signature songs: Henry Mancini played “Moon River,” Peggy Lee sang “Fever,” Pearl Bailey belted out “Hello, Dolly,” and Frank Sinatra crooned “One for My Baby.” The Best Gig in Town offers a fresh view of the Nixon presidency, one seen through an East Wing window, one rarely seen by ordinary Americans: a view of a White House at play with Nixon as genial and gracious host.


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During his term in office, Nixon held thirteen jazz-related performances at the White House. This book pays homage to that handful of iconic entertainers who graced the East Room stage: singers Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra; pianists Henry Mancini, Bobby Short, and Billy Taylor; New Orleans musicians Pete Fountain and Al Hirt; and the instrumental groups the During his term in office, Nixon held thirteen jazz-related performances at the White House. This book pays homage to that handful of iconic entertainers who graced the East Room stage: singers Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra; pianists Henry Mancini, Bobby Short, and Billy Taylor; New Orleans musicians Pete Fountain and Al Hirt; and the instrumental groups the Modern Jazz Quartet and the World’s Greatest Jazz Band. In assembling these profiles, the author drew on published sources as well as archival taped performances, transcribing everything from Nixon’s introductory and closing remarks to the statements made by the stars to the reaction of the glitterati in the audience. For all the tunes played or sung, Faine provides details on their origins and the comments from attending journalists and critics. To be expected, the entertainers performed their signature songs: Henry Mancini played “Moon River,” Peggy Lee sang “Fever,” Pearl Bailey belted out “Hello, Dolly,” and Frank Sinatra crooned “One for My Baby.” The Best Gig in Town offers a fresh view of the Nixon presidency, one seen through an East Wing window, one rarely seen by ordinary Americans: a view of a White House at play with Nixon as genial and gracious host.

38 review for The Best Gig in Town: Jazz Artists at the White House, 1969-1974

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Following Edward Allan Faine’s “Ellington at the White House 1969,””The Best Gig in Town” details the biggest jazz events held at the White House during the Nixon administration. Nixon is not the first president that would come to mind for making jazz a regular feature there, but he hosted several significant events for this genre. Relatively moderate by today’s standards, Nixon presented artists with political affiliations from both sides, always seeking political gain. Because these events had Following Edward Allan Faine’s “Ellington at the White House 1969,””The Best Gig in Town” details the biggest jazz events held at the White House during the Nixon administration. Nixon is not the first president that would come to mind for making jazz a regular feature there, but he hosted several significant events for this genre. Relatively moderate by today’s standards, Nixon presented artists with political affiliations from both sides, always seeking political gain. Because these events had to be planned as carefully as possible, they are well-documented, allowing the author to tell about the lead-ups, the unfolding, and the reaction that followed, sometimes lasting years, as in the Ellington case. “The Best Gig in Town” is a notable improvement from the previous book (my review can be found in here); it maintains the same excellent level of research, with better storytelling. His interjections don’t take away from the chronicling of this history. Quoting newspaper reviews, he often adds parenthetical context; including transcriptions of what was said at the events, he adds references and visual cues of what happened. The invited artists used the opportunity for protest only in very below-the-surface, hard-to-catch ways. The most surprising choice in this regard was 5th dimension, following New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt’s set, including “Age of Aquarius.” The notable exception was the “Feraci incident,” with the “Oobie-Doobie girl” dropping a banner and calling out the President for perpetuating war. Often the events themselves were controversial, and Faine tells how the artists were chosen, as well as their careers leading up to their White House appearances. Frank Sinatra is on the cover, perhaps because his way of getting to that stage was the most involved. His is a lengthier chapter, presenting the original recorded versions of the songs he is associated with, before the White House performance of each. Military bands or musicians frequently sat in with the headliners, but the longest-enduring jazz presences in Washington D.C. were Dr. Billy Taylor, and Pearl Bailey, a Republican, and an internationally touring ambassador of U.S. culture. Faine’s time in the listening booth has paid off: he possesses an impressively wide knowledge of different instrumentalists and vocalists, making comparisons and describing the unique characteristics of the individuals at these performances. With a conversational and sometimes informal narration, this book flows well and is a fine history of some important moments in jazz. For more reviews, follow my blog at http://matt-stats.blogspot.com/

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Dale Keck

    Kindle Unlimited, read this back to back after Serendipity Doo Dah, interesting take on the music of that period in the White House. During his term in office, Nixon held thirteen jazz-related performances at the White House. This book pays homage to that handful of iconic entertainers who graced the East Room stage: singers Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra; pianists Henry Mancini, Bobby Short, and Billy Taylor; New Orleans musicians Pete Fountain and Al Hirt; and the instrumental Kindle Unlimited, read this back to back after Serendipity Doo Dah, interesting take on the music of that period in the White House. During his term in office, Nixon held thirteen jazz-related performances at the White House. This book pays homage to that handful of iconic entertainers who graced the East Room stage: singers Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra; pianists Henry Mancini, Bobby Short, and Billy Taylor; New Orleans musicians Pete Fountain and Al Hirt; and the instrumental groups the Modern Jazz Quartet and the World's Greatest Jazz Band. The book drew on published sources as well as archival taped performances, transcribing everything from Nixon's introductory and closing remarks to the statements made byI the stars to the reaction of the glitterati in the audience. For all the tunes played or sung, Faine provides details on their origins and the comments from attending journalists and critics. To be expected, the entertainers performed their signature songs: Henry Mancini played "Moon River," Peggy Lee sang "Fever," Pearl Bailey belted out "Hello, Dolly," and Frank Sinatra crooned "One for My Baby." Serendipity Doo-Dah: True Stories of Happy Musical Accidents The Best Gig in Town: Jazz Artists at the White House, 1969-1974

  3. 5 out of 5

    patrick

    This book looks at the Nixon White House differently through the jazz performances that he had which were thirteen. The author takes you through some of those from Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Pearl Bailey, and Henry Mancini playing some of his hits, “Moon River”, for example. Al Hirt and Pete Fountain who were both big in the New Orleans Jazz and at one time Al Hirt was part owner of the Saints when they first began. You get a behind the scenes look at the performances and also opinions from the This book looks at the Nixon White House differently through the jazz performances that he had which were thirteen. The author takes you through some of those from Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Pearl Bailey, and Henry Mancini playing some of his hits, “Moon River”, for example. Al Hirt and Pete Fountain who were both big in the New Orleans Jazz and at one time Al Hirt was part owner of the Saints when they first began. You get a behind the scenes look at the performances and also opinions from the journalists and critics that were there as well. I found this book to be very interesting and a much different take and look into the Nixon White House. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 4 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

  4. 4 out of 5

    Keri

    If you are someone who is interested in the Nixon days at the White House, and especially the politics and entertainment side, this is the book for you. Even though this book at first seemed to be about Jazz, there were plenty of politics that surrounded the Jazz and the artists chosen. Edward Allan Faine takes us on a journey with his vast knowledge of a behind the scenes of the chosen ones and Nixon, of course. Each artist had a special reason for being there, as they were chosen very If you are someone who is interested in the Nixon days at the White House, and especially the politics and entertainment side, this is the book for you. Even though this book at first seemed to be about Jazz, there were plenty of politics that surrounded the Jazz and the artists chosen. Edward Allan Faine takes us on a journey with his vast knowledge of a behind the scenes of the chosen ones and Nixon, of course. Each artist had a special reason for being there, as they were chosen very carefully. Faine is highly knowledgeable in this book because of his experiences. I gave this book four stars simply because for my own personal use, it didn't interest me that much. For someone who loved this era, I truly believe they would give it five because it is a well written, thought out book with tons of information that will leave you saying, "Hmmm".

  5. 4 out of 5

    C. Michael

    The Best Gig in Town: Jazz Artist at the White House 1969 -1974 Edward Allan Faine 229 Pages ISBN: #9780985795245 IM Press 2014 There is something puzzling and curious about a book documenting jazz performances at the White House specifically during the Nixon Administration. A thoroughly divisive historical figure, President Richard Nixon, has on only rare occasions since his resignation, been treated in a positive, or even neutral, light. Author Edward Allan Faine seizes the proverbial bull by The Best Gig in Town: Jazz Artist at the White House 1969 -1974 Edward Allan Faine 229 Pages ISBN: #9780985795245 IM Press 2014 There is something puzzling and curious about a book documenting jazz performances at the White House specifically during the Nixon Administration. A thoroughly divisive historical figure, President Richard Nixon, has on only rare occasions since his resignation, been treated in a positive, or even neutral, light. Author Edward Allan Faine seizes the proverbial bull by the horns treating these circumstances in the White House between 1969 and 1974 as historical artifact. Author Faine previously published Ellington at the White House 1969 (IM Press, 2013) addressing {{m: Duke Ellington = 6521}}'s 70th birthday party held there, more than likely stimulating the genesis of this present book. He opens The Best Gig in Town: Jazz Artist at the White House 1969 -1974 with a reprise of that earlier book and, using the same approach, describes the thirteen jazz-related performances held at the White House during his presidency. Framed, thusly Faine is able to devote specific attention to an interesting assortment of talent that might not otherwise received treatment within a single article. "Jazz" performances at the White House during this time included, singers Pearl Bailey, {{m: Peggy Lee = 8659}}, and {{m: Frank Sinatra = 4364}}; pianists {{m: Henry Mancini = 9018}}, {{m: Bobby Short = 4297}}, and Billy Taylor; {{jny: New Orleans}} musicians {{m: Pete Fountain = 6793}} and {{m: Al Hirt = 7652}}; and the instrumental groups the {{m: Modern Jazz Quartet = 9482}} and the World's Greatest Jazz Band. There exists a likelihood of quibbling regarding whether Pete Fountain and Al Hirt can be considered jazz musicians, but to not do so harms the book's premise. Impressive is the depth of author's research and the detail with which he describes these artists and their performances. Faine additionally provides background on the songs performed and includes comments on the performances by writers in attendance. As such, Faine's book provides a visual and aural snapshot of the period, one that grows dimmer and more misunderstood the further we get from it. Of Nixon, it helps us to remember that he was human after all, flawed as we all tend to be. It also shows the President in a more relaxed and genial environment that he would ultimately find himself at the end of his presidency.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Connie Anderson

    NetGalley gave me a copy of this book to read and give my honest review. First, I wish to commend Mr. Edward Allan Faine for painstakingly researching this excellent, comprehensive book!! Your work paid off!!! I admit I was not a big Jazz fan before I read this book. I liked the ones I saw on tv as a kid, etc. However, this book will make a Jazz mini-aficionado out of anyone who likes music! You don't have to like Nixon OR politics. This is not a book about Nixon. He is a player, but not a main NetGalley gave me a copy of this book to read and give my honest review. First, I wish to commend Mr. Edward Allan Faine for painstakingly researching this excellent, comprehensive book!! Your work paid off!!! I admit I was not a big Jazz fan before I read this book. I liked the ones I saw on tv as a kid, etc. However, this book will make a Jazz mini-aficionado out of anyone who likes music! You don't have to like Nixon OR politics. This is not a book about Nixon. He is a player, but not a main character. Mr. Faine was able to find details about the 13 Jazz performances that the Nixons' did invite to perform in the East Room of the White House for visiting dignitaries, etc. I felt like being a fly on the wall! You get to experience the performances: who was in the band, what their background was, what they played that night and anything that they said or did. You get to read critiques from audience members as well as members of the press. (Yes, Nixon did chose his performers in order to gain more votes). We find out who the performers' influences were, where and who they played with, and other biographical information (some of which I don't know if anyone has heard before, like some tidbits about Frank Sinatra, and I studied him very extensively ). Mr. Faine details almost all of the performances in great detail, down to when Peggy Lee went off-stage after the middle of the show and chugged down cognac and came back on to perform with slurred words. Why one or two performers did not choose to play certain songs. There are so many valuable tidbits in here. The book even talks about the tone of the music, and how they got the hoity-toity audience to nearly jump out of their seats, wanting to jive along! I found some of the songs on a music site and was able to hear what they sounded like. Now I am absolutely hooked!!!! I know you will love it as much as I did!! My favorite parts were the history of the players and how they got to where they were at and what they did on stage. My not so favorite part was basically nothing at all. I just couldn't sit down and read it all at once, though. That is ok, because you come back fresh and rearing to go again!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Cobb Sabatini

    I won a proof of The Best Gig in Town by Edward Allan Faine from Goodreads. I wanted a copy of The Best Gig in Town for my son who is passionate about jazz. As a lover of history, I was also curious about the book. This book does not dissapoint. Not only is the reader treated to a behind the scenes look at the Nixon White House and Nixon's reasons for inviting various performers to East Room, but also Faine provides wonderful close ups of the artists, including quotes from fellow musicians, I won a proof of The Best Gig in Town by Edward Allan Faine from Goodreads. I wanted a copy of The Best Gig in Town for my son who is passionate about jazz. As a lover of history, I was also curious about the book. This book does not dissapoint. Not only is the reader treated to a behind the scenes look at the Nixon White House and Nixon's reasons for inviting various performers to East Room, but also Faine provides wonderful close ups of the artists, including quotes from fellow musicians, reporters, and fans. As each chapter focuses on the performers chosen for individual state affairs, readers learn about historic firsts, surprising embarrassments, and, for this reader, the humorous side of the embattled president. Best of all, the author brings to life the jazz music performed in the East Room of the White House. Faine's descriptions of voices and songs are so well done the reader is virtually snapping his fingers and humming along. The Best Gig in Town is loaded with interesting mini bios of artists and the history behind selected songs. Faine further discusses the influences upon the composer and, in turn, the influences of the piece on both the performers and the audiences. A book for history buffs and jazz fans alike, The Best Gig in Town by Edward Allan Faine is one fascinating read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kim Murphy

    I bought The Best Gig in Town when I saw Mr. Faine at a recent street festival. The book centers on jazz performances (as well as a few others) at the White House during the Nixon era. It's an entertaining read on how some of the performers got the gig. Yes, in many cases politics was involved. I enjoyed reading about the vast array of talent, from Henry Mancini and Al Hirt to Peggy Lee and Pearl Bailey. Also, if you never thought of Frank Sinatra as a jazz artist, you will think again. I bought The Best Gig in Town when I saw Mr. Faine at a recent street festival. The book centers on jazz performances (as well as a few others) at the White House during the Nixon era. It's an entertaining read on how some of the performers got the gig. Yes, in many cases politics was involved. I enjoyed reading about the vast array of talent, from Henry Mancini and Al Hirt to Peggy Lee and Pearl Bailey. Also, if you never thought of Frank Sinatra as a jazz artist, you will think again. Impressive research and Mr. Faine's love for his topic shines on every page.

  9. 4 out of 5

    bananya

    i won this as a goodreads giveaway. what a great perspective of a specific period in time. this slice of history provides such a fly on the wall feeling of so many jazz greats that visited the Nixon white house. super interesting when you place the stories up against everything else that was going on in the world. i like. i like alot.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Betty

  11. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  12. 4 out of 5

    Preston

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Pike

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Fantom

  16. 4 out of 5

    Angela Stockton

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julia Conway

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Cole Marie Mckinnon

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Reader

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vykki

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sylvie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Debra Jeakins

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cal Littlehales

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kevin. McKernan

  25. 5 out of 5

    June

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Santiago

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

  29. 5 out of 5

    Richard Randall

  30. 5 out of 5

    Miosoti Negron

  31. 4 out of 5

    Seanna Yeager

  32. 5 out of 5

    Laureen (Ms. Bibliophile)

  33. 5 out of 5

    Katie Harder-schauer

  34. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  35. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  36. 4 out of 5

    Laureen

  37. 4 out of 5

    Cindie Harp

  38. 4 out of 5

    Velda

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