let's begin at the beginning—no, before the beginning—with the first sentence of the acknowledgments: “This book is an offering to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), an organization that has had a profound effect on my life” (ix). The prose is clear-eyed and unpretentious, virtues in all of Steinbeck's writing, but the sentiment is hardly simple; it is delicately poised. Note the word “offering.” Steinbeck does not dedicate the book to the artists of the AACM, but offers it to them, in gratitude for the “profound effect” they have had on him. The tone is one of care, appreciation, and giving back. Steinbeck writes as a white male musician—a lanky bass player from Nebraska, as it happens—who has unfolded his scholarly and musical life in the vast creative space that the AACM has opened and cultivated for over half a century.1 As he goes on to...

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