Gary Giddins is considered one of the leading authorities on jazz. He is the author of many highly-respected books on jazz, including Riding on the Blue Note: Jazz and American Pop (1981), Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker (1986), Satchmo (1988), Visions of Jazz: The First Century (1998), and A Pocketful of Dreams: Bing Crosby and the Making of Popular American Culture (2001). For thirty years, Giddins wrote a jazz column entitled “Weather Bird” for The Village Voice. The majority of the 146 articles included in Weather Bird: Jazz at the Dawn of Its Second Century were first written for his Village Voice column. This exhaustive collection begins with entries written in 1990 and ends with entries from 2003. It is obvious from each of the entries of this volume that Giddins loves jazz and jazz musicians with a passion that burns hot. Whether discussing recent recordings, concerts, or festivals, he writes with an enthusiasm of someone who breathes jazz, who can fall in love with the music all over again whenever a musician achieves something extraordinary.
The author also includes in Weather Bird a number of insightful and touching portraits of such illustrious figures as Ornette Coleman, Cassandra Wilson, Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, and others. While his love for jazz is always present, Giddins is not above criticizing performances and recordings that do not live up to what they should be. In the final essay of the book, Giddins makes the case that jazz is alive and well in the twenty-first century. He is not blind to the ailments, but he also recognizes that there will always be new performers who will be drawn to jazz’s flame like the masters of the last century were. His knowledge of jazz is encyclopedic and anyone who is a serious student of jazz should take the time to peruse the pages of Weather Bird for the wealth of essential information to be discovered.