Jazz is the most colorful and varied art form in the world and it was born in one of the most colorful and varied cities, New Orleans. From the seed first planted by slave dances held in Congo Square and nurtured by early ensembles led by Buddy Belden and Joe "King" Oliver, jazz began its long winding odyssey across America and around the world, giving flower to a thousand different forms--swing, bebop, cool jazz, jazz-rock fusion--and a thousand great musicians. Now, in The History of Jazz, Ted Gioia tells the story of this music as it has never been told before, in a book that brilliantly portrays the legendary jazz players, the breakthrough styles, and the world in which it evolved.
Here are the giants of jazz and the great moments of jazz history--Jelly Roll Morton ("the world's greatest hot tune writer"), Louis Armstrong (whose O-keh recordings of the mid-1920s still stand as the most significant body of work that jazz has produced), Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club, cool jazz greats such as Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Lester Young, Charlie Parker's surgical precision of attack, Miles Davis's 1955 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Ornette Coleman's experiments with atonality, Pat Metheny's visionary extension of jazz-rock fusion, the contemporary sounds of Wynton Marsalis, and the post-modernists of the Knitting Factory. Gioia provides the reader with lively portraits of these and many other great musicians, intertwined with vibrant commentary on the music they created. Gioia also evokes the many worlds of jazz, taking the reader to the swamp lands of the Mississippi Delta, the bawdy houses of New Orleans, the rent parties of Harlem, the speakeasies of Chicago during the Jazz Age, the after hours spots of corrupt Kansas city, the Cotton Club, the Savoy, and the other locales where the history of jazz was made. And as he traces the spread of this protean form, Gioia provides much insight into the social context in which the music was born. He shows for instance how the development of technology helped promote the growth of jazz--how ragtime blossomed hand-in-hand with the spread of parlor and player pianos, and how jazz rode the growing popularity of the record industry in the 1920s. We also discover how bebop grew out of the racial unrest of the 1940s and '50s, when black players, no longer content with being "entertainers," wanted to be recognized as practitioners of a serious musical form. Jazz is a chameleon art, delighting us with the ease and rapidity with which it changes colors. Now, in Ted Gioia's The History of Jazz, we have at last a book that captures all these colors on one glorious palate. Knowledgeable, vibrant, and comprehensive, it is among the small group of books that can truly be called classics of jazz literature.
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From Kirkus Reviews:
Ted Gioia is a critic, historian, pianist, composer, and record producer living in Palo Alto, California. He is the author of The Imperfect Art, winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, and West Coast Jazz.
Gioia, musician and critic, winner of the ASCAPDeems Taylor Award for The Imperfect Art (not reviewed) takes on a daunting task, tracing the history of jazz from preCivil War New Orleans to the embattled music of today--and does a creditable job of it. Jazz's history has been written by entirely too many mythographers and polemicists. Gioia, mercifully, spares us the myths and polemics. ``The Africanization of American music,'' as he calls it, begins farther back in American history than New Orleans's aptly named Storyville red-light district around the turn of the century; he starts his narrative in the slave market of the city's Congo Square in 1819, and when it comes to Storyville, he offers hard facts to puncture the picturesque racism that finds jazz's roots in the whorehouses of New Orleans. Indeed, one of the great strengths of Gioia's account is the sociohistorical insights it offers, albeit occasionally as throwaway sidelights, such as his observation about drumming as an avatar of regimentation more than of freedom. He is particularly good in explaining how the music was disseminated and shaped by new technologies--the player piano, the phonograph, radio. He is also excellent at drawing a portrait of a musician's style in short brushstrokes. His prose is for the most part fluid and even graceful (although his metaphors do get a bit strained at times, as in his comparison of Don Redman's ``jagged, pointillistic'' arrangement of ``The Whiteman Stomp'' and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle). Although Gioia is much too generous to jazz-rock fusion of the '70s and '80s and probably gives more space than necessary to white dance bands like the Casa Loma orchestra, if you wanted to introduce someone to jazz with a single book, this would be a good choice. (9 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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