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The History of Jazz (1997)

by Ted Gioia

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629629,204 (3.91)8
Ted Gioia's History of Jazz has been universally hailed as a classic - acclaimed by jazz critics and fans around the world. Now Gioia brings his magnificent work completely up-to-date, drawing on the latest research and revisiting virtually every aspect of the music, past and present.Gioia tells the story of jazz as it had 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, Louis Armstrong, DukeEllington at the Cotton Club, cool jazz greats such as Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's advocacy of modern jazz in the 1940s, Miles Davis's 1955 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Ornette Coleman's experiments with atonality, Pat Metheny'svisionary extension of jazz-rock fusion, the contemporary sounds of Wynton Marsalis, and the post-modernists of the current day.Gioia provides the reader with lively portraits of these and many other great musicians, intertwined with vibrant commentary on the music they created. He 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 rentparties 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 contextin which the music was born.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
An excellent overview. Better-written, more-scholarly, more-comprehensive, and (of course) more up-to-date than Marshall Stearns' The Story of Jazz. Less technical than Gunther Schuller's two-volume history, but never in a way that talks down to the non-musician. Gioia takes a catholic view of what counts as jazz, and seldom seems to grind an ideological axe. The audiobook version is also well-read. [2021-11-22] ( )
  szarka | Nov 22, 2021 |
As chronicled in this work, jazz is currently experiencing a resurgence as artists all over the world are using its elements to launch new musical sounds. Gioia captures this momentum by updating his celebrated second edition by Oxford University Press into a new third edition. In so doing, he continues to push forward scholarship about jazz while providing a tour de force of its history to interested readers.

In nearly 600 packed pages, Gioia analyzes the music of every important jazz artist and her/his place in jazz history. While at times this approach can get repetitive, most times, I left the book to download some music by an artist newly found to me. Gioia could have provided a bit more of an overarching narrative about jazz history in general. Instead, it reads as a list of disconnected artists and movements, but perhaps this is the author’s view of jazz itself.

I have not read prior editions (which were celebrated on their own), but by page count alone, this edition seems longer and more comprehensive than the others. As such, interested readers and fans of the jazz idiom will be grateful for more of a good thing. Everyone is covered – from Buddy Bolden and Scott Joplin to Diana Krall and Norah Jones. As musical instruments, technologies, and cultures have risen and evolved, so has jazz been present for every step of the way, as this book clearly communicates.

This work (written by an American writer, published by a British press about a global phenomenon) stands to reach many audiences. Musicians of high taste are able to cherry-pick elements that might help their musical evolution. Fans are able to extend their musical tastes into new areas with new sounds. Cultural observers are able to reach into the details of musical history. Even a global audience are able to see how jazz continues to impact Europe, Asia, Latin America, and even Africa.

I’m only a fan of both music and history; I’m no musical scholar or musician. Nonetheless, this book bettered my musical tastes. It contains some technical terms about music that I had either to glance over or to look up. It brings to life the music of this genre and the people behind it. Reading a meticulously researched history allows me to place the variegated sounds of jazz into the appropriate cultural context. My music library has grown dramatically as Gioia’s words inspired me to examine certain artists firsthand. Reading this book has been an enriching experience. ( )
  scottjpearson | Oct 29, 2020 |
Quite simply - the best history of jazz written thus far! Essential reading for even casual jazz listeners. Thorough, scholarly, objective and inclusive, but easy to read with a minimum of esoteric discourse. Even readers without any knowledge of music theory and composition should find it easy enough to skim over the bits about specific chord structures and still grasp the full meaning and import of those passages.

Really, my only complaint about this book is the author's overuse of the phrase "piano attack" when describing the styles of individual keyboard performers. It's apt, and a standard turn of phrase in jazz criticism - but it gets really old and rather meaningless after too many repetitions.

If that's my only complaint - then this is as close to a perfect work as anyone could expect!

Also - I've made it a goal over the next several years to create a playlist with every one of the suggested listening tracks he lists at the back of the book! ( )
  johnthelibrarian | Aug 11, 2020 |
I picked up this book to learn about jazz, in a more compact and manageable way than buying albums or downloading decades' worth of mp3s, but it seems music is best learned by listening after all. It's a comprehensive and enjoyable read, but probably much better with a jazz fan background. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
This is the best short (circa 400 pages) history of jazz that I have read. Covering all major styles, schools, and players, it gives a rather complete perspective of the evolution of the music during its first century of existence. A very enjoyable book. ( )
  FPdC | May 25, 2010 |
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Ted Gioia's History of Jazz has been universally hailed as a classic - acclaimed by jazz critics and fans around the world. Now Gioia brings his magnificent work completely up-to-date, drawing on the latest research and revisiting virtually every aspect of the music, past and present.Gioia tells the story of jazz as it had 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, Louis Armstrong, DukeEllington at the Cotton Club, cool jazz greats such as Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's advocacy of modern jazz in the 1940s, Miles Davis's 1955 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Ornette Coleman's experiments with atonality, Pat Metheny'svisionary extension of jazz-rock fusion, the contemporary sounds of Wynton Marsalis, and the post-modernists of the current day.Gioia provides the reader with lively portraits of these and many other great musicians, intertwined with vibrant commentary on the music they created. He 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 rentparties 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 contextin which the music was born.

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