COMMENTS: BEBOP FAIRY TALES

“In Mark Ruffin’s hands, jazz is neither a thing of mystery, nor a distant, misty memory. The music is alive and so are characters who breathe and speak and act out fully realized narratives built on the foundation of jazz legend. These tales may be drawn from the annals of jazz, but they offer enduring lessons of life in America for all of us.”

Ashley Kahn – Author of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece, A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album, and other titles.

“With Bebop Fairy Tales Mark Ruffin is uniting real people in imagined circumstances that fascinate and captivate the reader. You’ll find yourself daydreaming of endless possibilities based on the worlds he’s created, you’ll be craving for more. He’s written a true literary gem.”

Dee Dee Bridgewater – Singer, NEA Jazz Master, 2- time Grammy winner, Memphis Music Hall of Famer

“Bebop Fairy Tales” is a lively volume, full of engrossing tales and true to life stories immersed in the jazz ethic, dressed in the peculiar garments of racial nuances in America and reflections on that most uniquely American pastime baseball, all pointing to the unique impact of jazz on this country’s landscape.”

Willard Jenkins, journalist-broadcaster-festival & concert producer, co-author of African Rhythms, the autobiography of NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston

There have been so many great works of fiction about baseball – “Bang the Drum Slowly,” “The Natural” and “The Great American Novel” come to mind immediately – but precious few about jazz. Mark shows the impact of race on those institutions and on our culture in 20th century America. Baseball, jazz and race. Yes, it’s a book about America.

Lee Mergner, JazzTimes

The author compels us to look at white privilege from multiple angles, and to look at the traumatic malignancy of Black hatred. As well, he nudges us to investigate more closely our own biases – explicit, implicit, or internalized – whether it toward those of another racial identity or the gay and transgender community, all while telling us some impressive facts about legendary jazzers, sportsmen, and the cities they incarnate. Pretty cool.

Terri Lyne Carrington – Founder/Artistic Director, Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice

That he can entertain us with these creations, even as they address harsh reality, is a trick as complicated as the chord sequence John Coltrane introduced on “Giant Steps.” And the ability to strike that balance, to run those changes and dole out the dozens—to stitch the things he loves into the thing that threatens—makes Bebop Fairy Tales a vibrant tapestry about to unfold.

Neil Tesser – Grammy Award-winning journalist, broadcaster, author

THE JAZZ CAT

I have known Mark since 3rd grade, and although he was not a jazz dude then, it did not take long for him to establish roots and start to develop. By the time we were in high school he was already a music aficionado. When our clique had jazz questions, he was our reliable reference. He was also a budding jazz bassist. Fortunately, his passion for broadcasting and production led him away from the actual playing of music. He is a great writer…

Anyway, because of his proactive efforts, we were able to regularly get into one of the premiere Chicago jazz clubs on a regular basis, even though we were only in high school. He managed to work a deal with the owner whereby we could get into the club, sit at a particular table, order soda and food from the waitress, and only move if we needed to go to the restroom from drinking all of that soda. Anything else and we were 86’d. We always behaved, and as a result I (and a few others) got to see live performances by the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Roy Ayers, George Duke, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Phoebe Snow, Ramsey Lewis, Art Porter, The Crusaders, McCoy Tyner, George Freeman and at least 30 more important artists of that day. Heck, I cannot remember all of the great acts we got to sit and watch thanks to Mark’s machinations and passion.

Another thing I need to bring up, he seems to be able to remember what is written on most of the record albums (that’s vinyl) that he has ever seen. I am mentioning that because I really can’t stand him for that… no… wait… I mentioned it because this book is well written and in the places where reality and history intersect it is always very accurate, because of his ‘eidecit musicologist’ memory.

The book? Read it and form your own opinion. I could tell you it was insightful and full of allegory and relevance to today’s troubled times, or I could tell you it was filled with the kind of insight only a jazz veteran like Mark could impart. Or I could just tell you that I am a critical-assed writer and English major and I still found it to be a great read when I sat down and read it from cover to cover. When he finally got to doing it, he really put it down!

But…don’t be a sheep and act like you care what I think. Read Bebop Fairy Tales and form your own opinion after you read it. I think it is excellent.

– Steve Watkins – Former editor of JazzUSA.com and current curator of the JazzUSA.com archive.