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on August 9, 2002
a new history of JAZZ - Alyn Shipton
Continuum - London - New York
Let me put it straight right away : this is a great book and should be in every true jazz lover's library. This book tells you so much about our music that it leaves nearly every history on jazz ever written far behind. Not only it contains a lot of details on the musicians and the music, it is written in such a way it makes you eager to go out looking for the music it talks about. By the way there is a doubble CD that goes with this book containing examples of the music described in the book.
The man behind this book is bass player, researcher, writer, radio man, etc Alyn Shipton. Alyn played bass with a lot of well known English bands over the years. He recorded a.o. with Butch Thompson's King Oliver Centennial Band, was a member of The London Ragtime Orchestra, appeared many times at the Ascona Festival a.o. with Dan Pawson's band, King Oliver Centennial, Bob Wilber and Friends, etc. During the Ascona festivals, Alyn led many symposia on all aspects of jazz.and he also talked to many of the old time musicians he played with and he visited. So Alyn knows what he is talking about.
The "new history of jazz" starts way back before even the word jazz was invented. Alyn goes back to the plantation and slavery days, and he tries to reconstruct the musical live in those days, based on original documents and scientific studies, which where published over the years. There was a rich musical tradition of string bands in many parts of the Southern states. Like many authors, Alyn sees the birth of jazz in and around New Orleans, a city with a very rich musical tradition and past, and most of all a rich social live. You can follow the evolution of and sometimes revolution in the music from there on to the present funk, fusion and otherwhat else. Alyn also takes the time to stand still at the development of jazz music in other countries than the US. I was happily surprised to read his instalment on jazz in Belgium during the twenties and thirties.
Scholars should use Alyn's book to explain their pupils the evolution of music, starting from the present day and go back to the origins of popular music. This way they might give the youngsters a clear view on the origins of the music. This book explains in clear and simple terms the links that exsist between the different styles of jazz, links one has not always seen nor thought off. Chapter after chapter Alyn strips the music from its romantic and sometimes false myths. Each step he makes, he uses sources, both old and so far undiscovered, or overlooked, to make his point. He not only talked to numerous musicians, but he also consulted a lot of books and articles, not only in relation with jazz, but also with the history of the South and the Afro-American community and American history in general. He also uses his background as an accomplished musician to describe in a clear and comprehensive language the changes in the music, the playing of the musicians,etc
Alyn Shipton's book, "a new history of Jazz" is by far the best book I ever read about jazz and it brings a refreshing and new view on this American art form.
Jempi De Donder
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on April 2, 2002
This is an excellent history of jazz. Shipton successfully balances his scholarship with a style that is very readable, even for a layperson. I would recommend getting the Columbia/Legacy 2 CD set "Jazz: The Definitive Collection" since Shipton refers directly to tracks from this compilation throughout the book.
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on February 10, 2003
Jazz is arguably the most important music of the 20th century. But, as significant as jazz is, its history, like the music itself, is an inexact art. In his book, A New History of Jazz, Alyn Shipton challenges the conventional assertions about the development and spread of Jazz, delving deep into the annals of available documented history to provide substance to his treatise. What is known about jazz is that the African-American culture is interwoven throughout the music's derivation and subsequent worldwide proliferation. After this, things get a little less definite.
Lester Bowie (Art Ensemble of Chicago) once asked: "Is Jazz Dead, Yet?" He eloquently answered his own question by saying that although jazz has changed over the years, sometimes radically, the music has survived by virtue of its ability to change, adapting by taking on elements of newly discovered musical concepts. What was once jazz is different now and will continue to change in the future. In other words, in oxymoronic fashion, jazz is dead-- but thriving. Likewise, the uncertain origins of what became "jazz," at this point in history, are fluid and will continue to change as more information is added to the mix.
This newest attempt to uncover the beginnings of jazz has been unflinchingly billed as "The antidote to Ken Burns' Jazz," the PBS ten part series which garnered a great deal of attention in early 2001. The author's desire to go head to head with the most popular presentation of jazz in many years is good for him and good for jazz. Much like Miles Davis' belief that controversy brings attention to the music and gets more people listening--a debate on the details of when, where and how jazz began will accomplish this same goal. Unfortunately, at almost a thousand pages, only the most ardent jazz fan will take advantage of this well written, well-documented history of Jazz.
Mr. Shipton approaches this subject as a jazz historian. Professionally, he is a critic for The Times in London and presents jazz radio programs for the BBC network. It seems that almost any assertion presented in the book is painstakingly footnoted at least once. Admittedly though, since the evolution and spread of early jazz was something that occurred over many years (and it seems many places), the "facts' are sometime imprecise and the same events are often interpreted differently by those observing it. The birth of jazz, like other historical events relies on music, memory and early personal chronicles from inside and outside the circle of the events themselves. In these ambiguous situations, Mr. Shipton lays out his evidence and allows the reader to learn the different possibilities that may or may not lead to a definitive conclusion.
I invite you to get on this historical roller coaster that is jazz: The beginnings, the middle and the present are all included here for your consideration. Also, keep in mind the Columbia/Epic/Legacy two-CD collection "Jazz, the Definitive Performances," which is billed as an accompaniment to the Book. It begins with the 1917 recording of (Back Home Again In) Indiana by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and ends with Wynton Marsalis' Freedom Is In The Trying (1995). And, of course, like the book, there is a lot in the middle
Larry Dane-Kellogg is host of JazzCapades, a radio program on WHCJ in Savannah, GA
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on April 21, 2012
The New History of Jazz is excellent reading. So much that is not in many jazz books is included. This book goes shares great detail of many artists that are often overlooked because they didn't make it to the big stage. A must to be added to your jazz library.
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on April 7, 2007
Now in a newly revised and updated edition, A New History of Jazz is the award-winning chronicle of the evolution of this widely beloved form of music, as told by music author, publisher, editor, and critic Alyn Shipton. From the precursors to the first jazz tunes, to variations regional styles, to the "big picture" of the jazz scene that is so easily lost amid tracing its popularity in underground clubs, to the unique and colorful individuals who espoused jazz, to the migration of jazz worldwide, A New History of Jazz strives above all to be comprehensive in its chronicling. Written in a highly detailed yet accessible tone, A New History of Jazz will prove as invaluable to curious lay readers and music scholars alike. Especially recommended for college library and music history shelves.
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on March 30, 2003
Jazz has always been a bit of a mystery for me, and only in the past few months have I made a (thus far rewarding) attempt to really understand it. I have read a couple of more basic introductions (the NPR Guide, the Complete Idiot's Guide) and found Shipton's book to be very well written and researched. It provides a great background, not only on the music, but also on the environment that created jazz. He takes pleasure in debunking some of the myths that have grown up around the music (sometimes too much pleasure), but his arguments are always backed up with research. While giving ample coverage to the giants of jazz, he also introduces the reader to many other figures who have shaped the music. Shipton is opinionated, but it always clear where he is stating an opinion. All in all, I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking to deepen their understanding and curiosity about jazz. The only real shortcoming is that the book only has a small section of photographs. I am now reading the Ken Burns book, and while I'm not ready to offer a judgment on the overall text, the pictures are certainly great--I get to see many of the people and places Shipton refers to in this very good book.
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on September 2, 2007
Outra noite estava eu dormindo e lendo o imenso livro A New History Of Jazz, de Alyn Shipton. Na taça ao lado, três dedos do bastante honesto Cabeça do Pote: um tinto 2001 das lusas Terras Durienses, encontrado por compreensíveis R$20,00 nos mercados de Vila Velha e cercanias. Acordando num susto lancinante ouvi um ruído dramático gerado pela agulha do toca-discos: era minha bisavó colocando Tete Montoliu, The Music I Like To Play, Volume 1 para ouvir. Olhei desconfiado: piano solo?

Não esperava grande coisa de um pianista espanhol cego tocando jazz sem cozinha. Mas confesso a boa surpresa ao ouvir, entre uma ou duas dúzias de clichês da música erudita européia, um pianista cheio de excelente técnica e profundo swing. Se é que podemos fazer tal tipo de análise, ele me soou como uma espécie de Red Garland possuído pelo espírito de Bud Powell. Colorido, veloz e preciso sem perder a emoção. Passeando por clássicos populares, como Don't Smoke Anymore, Alone Together ou Whisper Not, Tete convence até aqueles que, como eu, não apreciam beber um tinto ao som de 50 intermináveis minutos de piano solo. Recomendo ambos, piano e livro, embora Shipton não faça qualquer referência ao grande pianista espanhol em suas quase mil páginas de boa história. Merecia ser citado.
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on October 7, 2003
Alyn Shipton knows more about the history of jazz than any human on the face of the planet, and this book displays his skills at their finest. Shipton is a masterful writer and this belongs on the shelf of all who consider themselves an afficionado. Buy two copies and give one to a friend.
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on October 2, 2002
The History of Jazz! ... I don't think so.
May be it should be re-titled "Alyn Shipton's interpretation of the history of jazz", for as with Ken Burns book of the history of jazz, there are far too many omissions and inaccuracies within its pages. Don't these writer's have copy editors?
Why do writers take on such mammoth tasks only to fall when researching such anthologies? I wonder?
Indeed, Shipton's book fares better then Ken Burns's debacle. Unfortunately, what Shipton lacks is a comprehensive understanding of his subject. The Jazz Age was not just about musicians.
I bought this book hoping to embellish my small but steadily growing reference library. I wish I hadn't bothered.
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