The History of Jazz
I picked up this book after my friend Garaud MacTaggart recommended reading Ted Gioia on his facebook page. Garaud knows more about music than anyone I know and has good judgment in books. I also thought seeing how someone approaches jazz and its artists might improve my reviews of beer, mead, cider, sake, cheese and oysters. Ted Gioia is a musician, jazz critic, music historian and author of at least 8 books - two, including the first edition of this one written in 1997 and his book on the Delta Blues were selected by the New York Times as notable books of the year. The History of Jazz starts with the prehistory of jazz, takes us through New Orleans into the Jazz Age, digs into Harlem, the Swing Era, Modern jazz, the Fragmentation of Jazz Styles, Freedom and Fusion, Traditionalists and the Postmodernists, and Jazz in the New Millennium. In this work Gioia shows us how to describe something with passion and he comes as close as possible to capturing in writing what the musicians are doing musically. Gioia notes:
"...jazz music is radically different from painting or literature or other mediums in which individuals work alone, in which the influence of others is felt at a distance, as part of a cultural context. With few exceptions, the nature of jazz performance requires group interaction of the highest level."
Fans of jazz and particular artists and styles will learn fascinating tidbits they never knew and will see how different styles ebbied and flowed. Gioia digs into the individual stories, pulling out the triumphs and the tragedies, shows how these interact with the economic and social forces, and how these work in the molding and evolution of various styles. You will also learn a lot about the music, what is going on, what the artists are doing and how to listen to it and get more out of it. For the more casual reader with broader interests I have always thought that you can not understand American history, at least of the last century and a half, without understanding jazz and Gioia shines a bright light on that history and all the social issues through the lens of jazz and its artists. Gioia knows his subject matter as well as anyone, writes well and will have you hunting through your music collection for tunes to play. After reading this book, you will hear the music in a new way.