Benny Green On Jazz: Such Sweet Thunder Foreword by Elvis Costello and edited by Dominic Green.

(Published by Scribner, £25).

THIS epic volume is the story of one man's romance with the original American art form.

Here in all their bravery, honesty and disarming enthusiasm are the love letters a collection of reviews, features and obituaries that began in youth and endured right through middle age and beyond.

Benny Green was indeed a special man, and more than qualified to write about that chameleon music called jazz. For his first choice had been the saxophone rather than the pen.

He was the ultimate poacher turned gamekeeper, a man who tasted life both on and in front of the stage. And it was these factors that gave his writing a unique depth and honesty.

His big break came when he made the acquaintance of the legendary critic Kenneth Tynan. Under his patronage, Green rapidly gained a reputation for an incisive style that soon became required reading for fans.

It also meant he rapidly became regarded as an authoritative voice for all those who were involved in the music business.

Benny Green was a rarity, a journalist who could compete with his subjects on an equal footing. This was because of his intimate knowledge of the job the musician's life on and off the road.

There are few luminaries excluded from these pages. Basically a role call of greats, the hall of fame runs from big band specialists Count Basie and Duke Ellington through to the post-bop experiments of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. And plenty more in between.

Along the way he meets the early pioneers that survived into the modern age, men such as Coleman Hawkins and Louis Armstrong. Throughout, Green's prose never tires his writing effortlessly retains its freshness.

Benny Green's son Dominic does a loving editing job on this memorial to his remarkable father, who died in 1998. But on the debit side, I can only gasp in amazement at the employment of rocker Elvis Costello, who daubs a predictably lack-lustre foreword.

For Benny Green was a man who needed no introductions.

John Phillpott.