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Faces in the Crowd: Players and Writers

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These meditations on 37 artists, from Jack Benny to Spike Lee, illustrate why Gary Giddins (who writes on jazz for this magazine) is an invaluable critic. Erudite, entertaining, and painstakingly fair-minded, Giddins’ writing is both delightfully vivid (he calls saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ sound ”so capacious you could step into its palm and never see all the fingers”) and refreshingly specific. Though his first love is jazz, in Faces in the Crowd: Players and Writers Giddins handles the fiction of Eudora Welty and the films of Robert Altman with equal passion and expertise.