First off, let's get the kudos down: Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns deserve far more than simple gratitude for bringing jazz to the limelight with this lavishly illustrated volume. The book features among its 500-plus pictures many of the previously unseen shots of musicians and venues glimpsed in Burns's 10-part documentary, Jazz
. (See our Ken Burns Jazz Store
for the lowdown on the series.) Jazz: An Illustrated History
follows the film episode by episode, and it's filled with rich historical detail in the early chapters. Like the series, however, the book trails off after a certain point in chronicling jazz's history. It gives background aplenty on early New Orleans music, the migration of jazz up the Mississippi to major urban centers, and the developments of swing and bebop. After bebop, the history gets a bit perfunctory. Dozens of major figures get mere sidebar coverage. Little is said of substance on Latin or Brazilian jazz, European contributions to the music, fusion, or umpteen smaller deviations from the mainstream. There are wonderful essays that highlight elements of jazz culture, particularly Gerald Early's consideration of race and white musicians in jazz and Gary Giddins's five-page essay on avant jazz. And there are fine sidebars as well. But developments during and after the 1960s are dealt with primarily in impressionistic guest essays rather than detail-oriented historical narrative. It is, of course, difficult to capture all jazz history in any single volume. So perhaps this ought to have been called Jazz: A Historical Appreciation
, since the hundreds of images certainly create an intense sense of the music's milieu. --Andrew Bartlett
From Publishers Weekly
A companion volume to the new Burns and Ward documentaryDa 19-hour, 10-episode series set to air on PBS in January, 2001Dthis lavishly illustrated history describes the evolution of jazz during the 20th century, focusing on the careers of a key players like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Benny Goodman. In his introduction to the massive volume, Burns writes that his decision to make Jazz was inspired by a comment made by Gerald Early, a writer he interviewed for the authors' last documentary, Baseball. "Two thousand years from now," Early said, "there will only be three things that Americans will be known for: The Constitution, baseball and jazz music." Burns admits he knew next to nothing about jazz before deciding to create "the most comprehensive treatment of jazz ever committed to film," and there lies the work's Achilles' heel. Burns has his conclusionDthat jazz is a metaphor for the United StatesDfirmly in hand before he begins to know his subject. This smugness translates into a rather tepid, conservative view of jazz. Not every subject or musician can be touched upon in one book; however, it does seem strange that such a sweepingly titled volume does not touch upon the musical roots of jazz, e.g. Africa's talking drums, or mention the Lockbourne Airforce Base, where many noted black jazz musicians received training. The entire 40-year period from 1960 forward is relegated to a single chapter, a rather pronounced statement about how the authors feel about more recent achievements. More than 500 illustrations and photos. (Nov. 6)
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