Feature

Also of interest ... in music makers

Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan; Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim; Why Mahler? by Norman Lebrecht; Hi-De-Ho by Alyn Shipton

Frank: The Voiceby James Kaplan (Doubleday, $35)Frank Sinatra’s rise from Jersey saloon crooner to American music’s most influential song stylist is a story that’s been told before, said Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times. But like Sinatra interpreting a standard, James Kaplan makes the familiar seem new, offering an “illuminating portrait of a man who revolutionized his medium.” He examines Sinatra’s personal and professional lives, but he’s best at elucidating why “more Americans carry Sinatra songs in their mental soundtracks than they do any other singer’s.”

Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim (Knopf, $40)“Lovers of musical theater might be tempted to call Stephen Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat the most exciting book of its kind in eons,” said Donald Rosenberg in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The first volume of an intended two-book set, it collects Sondheim’s lyrics along with personal stories and fascinating insights into his songwriting process. “Even when no rhymes are in sight,” Sondheim turns out to be a “remarkable writer.”

Why Mahler?by Norman Lebrecht (Pantheon, $28)Norman Lebrecht’s second book on Gustav Mahler is an attempt to convince the world that Mahler has become, 100 years after his death, “the most influential symphonist of our age,” said The Economist. In addition to his assertion that Mahler deserves a place alongside the likes of Picasso and Freud as a “maker of our modern world,” Lebrecht provides an “idiosyncratic but useful review” of the most important recordings of Mahler’s work. The author’s passion for his subject is infectious, even if it sometimes undermines his credibility.

Hi-De-Hoby Alyn Shipton (Oxford, $30)Though he was “easily the most celebrated African-American entertainer” of the 1930s, Cab Calloway hasn’t been written about much—until now, said Will Friedwald in The Wall Street Journal. Critic Alyn Shipton here traces Calloway from his Chicago origins through his decade-long dominance as bandleader at the Cotton Club in Harlem. This formidable work opens the door for future books on Calloway’s enduring influence.

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