Getting Down to Brass Tacks

My Adventures in the Jazz, Rio, and Beyond

Non-Fiction - Memoir
318 Pages
Reviewed on 05/27/2014
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Free Book Program, which is open to all readers and is completely free. The author will provide you with a free copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. You and the author will discuss what sites you will post your review to and what kind of copy of the book you would like to receive (eBook, PDF, Word, paperback, etc.). To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Review Exchange Program, which is open to all authors and is completely free. Simply put, you agree to provide an honest review an author's book in exchange for the author doing the same for you. What sites your reviews are posted on (B&N, Amazon, etc.) and whether you send digital (eBook, PDF, Word, etc.) or hard copies of your books to each other for review is up to you. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email, and be sure to describe your book or include a link to your Readers' Favorite review page or Amazon page.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Kathryn Bennett for Readers' Favorite

Getting Down to Brass Tacks: My Adventures In The World Of Jazz, Rio, and Beyond by Amy H. Duncan is a book that takes us on Amy’s journey. In the 1950s, she was given an LP of a blind pianist who played jazz, one Alex Kallao. She experienced an epiphany when listening to his music and decided she had to have it in her life. No one taught jazz where she lived so she began to teach herself and by the age of 15 she joined a local musicians union. Follow Amy through her childhood and her exciting life that includes a meeting with Marilyn Monroe and paths she never expected.

What an amazing life Amy H. Duncan has led. Honestly, if I did not know this was an autobiography I might have thought I was reading some fantastic fiction and I mean that in the best way possible! This story is an amazing look into one person’s life and the adventures that she has experienced. Amy H. Duncan is candid and knows how to paint her life story with an amazing and colourful brush. Reading about her astonishing life only makes you want to jump into the pages and enjoy that life with her. The way that she writes is just brilliant and entertaining. I look forward to reading more about what Amy H. Duncan has to tell us. I would read it whether it’s nonfiction or fiction. Her writing style is compelling and I would say if you want a fantastic book to read this year then read this one.


Having just finished reading Getting Down to Brass Tacks, I am ready to read anything Amy H.Duncan writes next! Amy's life story reads like a novel and is written better, and with more insight, than most novels are. I just could not put it down and hope Amy contunes to write about the next chapters in her life -- or delves separately into the many aspects of her life so far: I could read an entire book about each of her passions and inspirations: travel, Brasil, music and even spirituality, which is not usually my "thing." Having sought out and listned to Amy's music, I really hope her next life "chapter" will include a focus on Brass Tacks, her innovative jazz band which -- like the book -- can be enjoyed on both a casual and deeper level. Check out her CD My Joy. Go Amy!!!(and take me with you for the ride)

Kimberlie Chenowith

Like a previous reviewer, I devoured the first 3/4 of this book in one sitting, eager for the next opportunity to return for the final chapters. Getting Down to Brass Tacks is not just a compelling page turner of a story about Amy's fascinating life. It's an exploration of choice, the choice between self-will and release to a greater and very loving power. It's a search for authenticity, following the clues from one adventure to another. Amy's a composer, and my sense is that the book was composed as much as it was written. It reads like a musical score, and I love the rhythms that play out here. It's a multidimensional weaving of time and story, ultimately uniting the contrasting strands of her life into a coherent whole.


"...the essentials of living my life as it was meant to be lived"
I found this book very interesting. It caught my attention so bad that I spent six hours reading straight after downloading it.
Finished reading next day in two or three hours. So to say, it was an 8-hour trip do Amy's adventurous life.
It's a book written in a way that you just can't stop's an easy and interesting way of letting us,
readers, feel we are sitting next to the author and just listening to her stories live.


What a no holds barred life! And how great to read a book that doesn't sound like a movie script! Amy writes like she's sitting across the table from you just talking the day away and that makes her story readable, real and refreshing! She's not kidding about the "Adventures" part of the title either. A must read? Definitely!

Laura M

Amy Duncan knows how to draw you in. With grace and humility, she creates a vivid picture of a life full of music, love, loss, struggle, and triumph. Ms. Duncan takes us with her from her humble childhood in the northeast United States to colorful locations--deftly painted with unique culture and characters--and then on even further to spiritual places and awakenings within that make the story about more than just a very interesting plot! The author's writing is full of wit, wisdom, and poetry. Her writing talents and style are matched by her ability to speak with genuineness, honesty, as well as a crisp memory of places and events that makes you feel you are there with her. Bravo, Amy Duncan! You've written an autobiography that is as fresh and inspired as your music. Can't wait for more!

V. D. Hill

Wow!! Just Wow!! What a great, inspiring, entertaining and authentic read!!! The only thing that disappointed me about this autobiography was that I never wanted it to end! Amy Duncan takes us on a whirlwhind tour of her life that could have been easily lived by six people. How she's managed to fit all this into one life is beyond amazing. She tells her us her unique life story in an extremely easy to read book that flows easily and leaves the reader captivated! She has lived it all and we experience it right along with her and can easily relate!! My hope is that there is a sequel to this fascinating life story.

Paula Caracristi

I know I too will enjoy as many books as Amy Duncan can
provide us. Until then, I am grateful that readers like
myself can catch her latest insights on her blog.
Here is today's and it includes a great picture of a little
frog, just "Doing nothing", which is the title for her November
13TH's message. She is entitled I think, at least for a
little while. Her blog is entitled finallygettingdowntobrasstacks
and may be found by entering those words in most internet search
engines I would think, and possibly scrolling down. Enjoy!


Getting Down to Brass Tacks is a personal and professional adventure, vividly described, with twists, turns and a few bumps along the road. Enjoyable read! “I was born for this.” describes Amy’s drive and determination to establish her musical niche.

Montana Man

I so agree with all the positive reviews here! Amy's book is honest, heart-warming, fascinating. Never trite or hackneyed. Her brave handling of a not so happy childhood is absolutely inspiring. Many thanks to Amy for a wonderful read.

Jack Phillips

Life is an adventure and really needs to be enjoyed -- and not feared. That's what I gleaned from my time with this book.
I loved the way she fearlessly pursued the interview with Miles Davis -- the first journalist to get a yes from him -- only to face rejection at his front door. And how she was able to win him. Only a spiritual thinker could pull that off.
What makes this book different from other books I've read by musicians, is that Duncan really seems to understand the spiritual journey. She just doesn't highlight the funny or unusual.
She knows how to conquer the fear that would stop our greatest work. And then she tells you how she was able. So for that reason alone the book is priceless.


Here's a how-to book on living life with courage and spontaneity. Amy doesn't offer instructions; she leads by example. If she's not seizing an opportunity for adventure, she's creating one. Written with humility, insight, honesty, and wit, this story inspired me to embrace life more fully. The combination of an engaging writing style and a fascinating life is a winner. I can't wait to read the next installment in Amy's life.


I just finished "Getting Down to Brass Tacks" by Amy Duncan and I give it five stars. I recommend this book to anybody and everybody. Amy's honest and captivating portrayal of her inner and outer struggles in her life and music gives me courage and inspiration to be true to myself and loving of other believe in my place in the universe.


I couldn't put this book down, it was so interesting - full of humor and inspiring, too. The author invites you into her fascinating life.

Julia Wade

I thank the author, Amy Duncan, for writing this book. I just loved it. It reads like a history of contemporary 20th and 21st century jazz on one level: it’s educational! But it's also a truly entertaining read! The fact that it all comes from Amy’s first-hand experience makes her story compelling and real for the reader.

I also appreciated Amy’s telling of her own spiritual journey and how she has continued to live and practice her spirituality. She tells it simply and matter-of-factly for the casual reader or seeker of truth so that anyone can relate to it naturally. I really love that!

When I started reading the book, I was struggling with a physical ailment in which for three nights I could not get comfortable sitting or lying down. But as I read this wonderful autobiography, I was able to stay still enough, in whatever position, because of focusing on the story and the thoughts that were shared. This book and its ideas were a huge part of my healing process. I was finally able to go to sleep, completely free of the problem.

Getting Down To Brass Tacks is a wonderful read about a life of struggles and triumphs, living fully in the moment always. I am looking forward to the next book!

Donald R. Dempsey

I love to read. Unfortunately, I rarely have the time to read as much as I'd like. But I made time for this book. I will keep pieces of this story with me. I can't help but shake my head and chuckle when I think of the courage this little lady possessed when she decided to buy a used Volkswagen Van, pack it up with her belongings and daughter, and head for Mexico. (Learning the language and coming up with a game plan for survival could wait until she got there.) So I wasn't at all surprised when she started hopping around like the whole wide world was just her private amusement park later in the book.

I don't want to give anything away to potential readers, but this is wonderful read. A life full of ups and downs. Amy doesn't hold back. The highs and lows are all here. You'll find a few common experiences I'm sure, but I doubt you will have ever met anyone who has lived as much as this lady. I don't know very much about music, other than that I automatically turn up Bruce and the Stones whenever I hear them on the radio. But I do believe music was Amy's truest love, and probably saved her life more than once. I also don't know much about women, but Amy's courage and resilience inspires me.

As a child Amy once told her father she wanted to be a burglar when she grew up. For me, that was prophetic. Her courage, honesty, and life story stole my heart.


This book chronicles in many ways, Amy's lifelong search for meaning. Always music was there, always a yearning for the spiritual was there. Amy came to terms with who she is by embracing both. And she shares what she discovered through wit and pathos. Thanks Amy.

Tim Scott

I just read this amazing book about not only an individual life filled with adventure and passion, but a detailed window into one of America's most turbulent times--the rocking, jazzy, wild 60s and 70s. A writer, jazz pianist and vocalist, as well as a respected international music critic, Duncan shares insights and anecdotes of some of the greatest of the greats of that era--Miles, Leonard Feather, Keith Jarrett-and many more. I really was so engrossed in it--well written and a page turner--I couldn't wait to see what happened next. What a ride--from Boston to Rio--with Mexico and Central America as side trips,
just for the fun of it. Very impressive and very touching at the same time. Can't wait for the sequel!

Les Stein

A great read, for musicians and non-musicians. A journey of self discovery, taking chances and growing, following your heart, regretting it, and moving on to where one wants/needs to be. I would highly recommend it.

Linda M. Moyer

Amy Duncan is a wonderful writer, and her musician's lifestyle has led her to some very interesting experiences. I could relate to many of her experiences since I was a working singer for over 25 years, and her personal life certainly has led her in many directions as well. She has related her story honestly, openly and with wit and insight.

Marcio V. Pinheiro

Once you start reading this book it is very difficult to stop. This is not only because the author writes well. It is also because, so far, she has lived an incredible life. I am glad that she is sharing it with us and I am expecting the next chapters. She confirms my ever present astonishment of how people do cope with what life brings them. It is reassuring to share the author's life!

Dean Wolfe

I'm still reading it- more than half way through. It's an inspiring and funny book full of cameos from jazz greats and unexpected movie stars. Amy has had an interesting life with many unexpected turns and adventures.

Lisa Kristy

If you are looking for adventure and don't feel you have the means or ways to participate, read this book ASAP! Amy will convince you all you need is the heart for adventure. Everything else just shows up!
When I finished this book I felt I had spent a weekend with a new friend, sitting at the table over coffee. Amy's style just brings you into her most fascinating life! I felt I was along for the ride, feeling the failures and rejoicing with the wins.
If you are a musician, especially if you are into jazz, this book would be a special bonus!
Thanks Amy, you relit my yearning to find new far flung adventure!

Voracious Reader

I found this book to be most entertaining and didn't want to stop reading once I started. Amy Duncan's life, starting in New York City, then Connecticut and down to South America is truly a story to behold.
Besides my enjoying her story, I also found the writing to be extremely well done. I'm even impressed with the title, "Getting Down to Brass Tacks: My Adventures In The World Of Jazz, Rio, And Beyond" as it sort of ties everything together, too.
Finally, I would recommend this book to just about anyone, and if you happen to be a musician, you'll enjoy it even more as it's a fascinating journey. You'll find yourself truly inspired!

Merrilee Trost

I am a voracious reader and I don't recommend just every book, but I highly recommend this one. Amy Duncan has lived a crazy and courageous life and she shares that with us in her autobiography. I couldn't put it down...finished it in two days...and have such admiration for this woman. Let her take you along on her adventures...from the East Coast of the U.S. to Brazil and back and back again...through lovers and marriages and delightful daughters and infectious music. You won't be sorry.

Patrick M. Collins

This book captivates and pulls you into this wonderful, funny and intriguing lady's life. From page one I was captivated and felt a part of her life, like I was a mouse in the corner living it with her. Getting Down to Brass Tacks is such a great title for this book, a story of a jazz musician's life, with its twists and turns, worries and victories. Written with such honesty and the revelation of deep personal thoughts is unusual and it captures your heart and mind. You won't want to put this book down. It has kept me up at night and I love it!!! Highly recommended!!!

Gary A. Gruenewald

This book is a great story about determination in life and the dedication to her vision for herself. The life long dedication to her goal never ceased but sometimes had to be put on the backseat in her journey. In the end she reached her dream and is enjoying life.

Kamran Sabahi

Amy Duncan's Autobiography reads like a suspense novel , when you start reading, it is impossible to stop. Moreover, Amy Duncan's Getting Down to Brass Tacks is a must reading for all passionate artists who are willing to work hard to reach their dreams.


I enjoyed this book so much I really did not want to put it down. A story of courage, strength and Joy..
A wonderful, interesting book!!

Muriel Vasconcellos

It's true. Other reviewers have said they couldn't put this book down, and I had the same problem. Amy's deft story-telling keeps the reader hungry for more. The author's writing is at turns poignant and suspenseful, and always emotionally honest. Her vivid settings are palpable; you feel as if you were right there with her.

I was deeply touched by the stories from her childhood and her portrayal of her parents, each walling themselves off from their special creative daughter in their own way--her mother with a business-like façade that covered up her feelings, and her father with an alcoholic haze that excused him from being engaged. Amy was left to figure things out on her own, and that she did. Jazz piano became her life, and she was already playing gigs when her cohorts were starting to date boys.

For jazz fans, the book is a cornucopia of fascinating tales about the icons and the not-so-great. For lovers of Brazil and its music, there are unique glimpses inside the samba schools, where she played percussion. She didn't say, but I doubt that any other American woman has regularly rehearsed with "passistas" for the big Carnival parades.

One empathizes with Amy at each step as she made her way in the world. Those of us who know alcoholics will resonate with her ambivalence as she tried to connect with her father. Single mothers will see themselves in the challenges she faced to support and care for her two daughters. All readers will appreciate her insights into the human condition.

I highly recommend this book.

Monkey Mom

Knowing Amy from playing in her batucada group, Manhattan Samba, I was anxious to read about her life journey. Not only is she in the category of "great musician," but she can now hold an equal place as a "terrific writer." It is always inspiring to read about an artist's personal journey of passion and the ingredients of their life that brought them to their present place. I loved it and I loved the fascinating details that are woven throughout this very personal biography. "Getting Down to Brass Tacks" is really a wonderful first book and I am impressed !

Rhonda K. Youngblood

Music lovers, yes, you will LOVE this book, this woman's journey. But, even if you're not in the music scene, you will simply appreciate the movement of this book -- the highs, lows, the passion and movement of life, as Amy Duncan reveals the strength and the courage and the joys of the human spirit, as she journeys. This book is amazing for the in-touch feeling you get as many names we all know, famous folks, seems to "show up" and share a part of themselves as they interact with Amy. Cool stuff! Thanks for such a real life clip of what life has been like, Amy Duncan! And, yes, it becomes clear, the beat goes on! Getting Down to Brass Tacks is a real adventure and experience.

Karen Wingoof

I just finished reading *Getting Down to Brass Tacks* by Amy Duncan - and I absolutely loved it! Amy's voice is genuine, honest, and humble - and scrappy, too. Even though her story is uniquely her own, I think most of us can relate, in some measure, to the challenges and struggles in her life, as well as to her triumphs and progress. I enjoyed Amy's stories about her connections with the luminaries in the world of jazz; I was inspired by her passion for music; I found myself laughing out loud when she revealed some of her more embarrassing moments (and I could relate to them); and I found myself tearing up when she shared her daughter's healing of a cut tendon.

*Getting Down to Brass Tacks* is the fascinating, uplifting story of a woman seeking to know and express her "true" self. After you've read this book, you'll feel like you just met a new friend.

Gene Aitken

Unbelievable book, waiting for the next one! Amy, Please contact me <>