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An Ensemble That Knows How to Cook


The proof that scores of jazz musicians can indeed stand the heat in the kitchen--as well as on the bandstand--can be found in "Jazz Cooks: Portraits and Recipes of the Greats," a new cookbook written by Bob Young and Al Stankus. The 200-plus-page volume, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang ($24.95), includes more than 100 culinary specialties (and oddities) from such jazz notables as Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, McCoy Tyner, Ray Brown, Shirley Horn and many more.

Among the recipes: saxophonist Arthur Blythe's version of his mother's tamale pie; Dave Frishberg's Spaghetti al Estuardo, borrowed from former Newsday jazz columnist Stuart Troup; Dave Brubeck's low-cholesterol burgers, with sauce, and Sun Ra's all-vegetarian Moon Stew.

The book is composed of profiles of each musician, including what they grew up eating, a recipe accompanied by descriptive comments and a list of two or three of the artist's records to listen to while eating these comestibles. Most entries are accompanied by a vivid black-and-white photo by Deborah Feingold.

"Al, an old friend of mine from Cambridge and a free-lance food writer, and I interviewed over 400 musicians, mostly when they were in Boston performing, and the project took us about six years to complete," said Young, a free-lance jazz writer for the Boston Herald, who was reached at a vacation spot on Cape Cod. "I asked the jazz-based questions and got the details on recipes, then Al usually called the artists back and got the exact measurements." Stankus tested each of the recipes, added Young.

Some of the interviews were a snap; others, as with Sun Ra, were tough. "I sat with him for an hour and a half, and it was hard to keep him on planet Earth," Young said. "He never did give exact amounts of his ingredients, or cooking time, but he really went on about what he ate as a child."

The most interesting interview? "We talked with Dave Frishberg for about an hour while he waited in line at the Cambridge post office to mail Christmas packages" to his children in Oregon, said Young.

Not everyone who was asked wanted to contribute. Among this group were Toshiko Akiyoshi, renowned for her way around the kitchen, and Betty Carter, who told Young that she only wanted to contribute something completely original, "which is very much like Betty."

However, saxophonist Richie Cole was delighted to offer his version of Jazzabells, a gooey mess made of pineapple preserves, cream cheese, horseradish and apple jelly, among other items--although not at first. Cole asked Young to call him back at his home on the Russian River a few minutes later. "I'm waiting for Judge Wapner's decision," said the altoist, who was watching "People's Court."

Rim Shot: Do you know the name of the lone recording session John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins made in the mid-'50s? Can you recall the nickname of Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington's famed collaborator? Well, if you can answer those questions, you've only got 18 more to figure out in Rhino Records annual jazz quiz. The Westwood-based record store is holding a 20-question test, put together by the outlet's jazz expert and KPFK-FM radio personality John Breckow, and the grand prize is $100. Deadline for entries is Monday at 11 p.m. Information: (310) 474-8685.

In the Bins: Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah's "Americas" (Mesa) shows that the two guitarists have finally found the right balance between compositional interest, bubbling Latin-based rhythms and distinctive, ear-pleasing solos.

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