on February 23, 2008
Back in 1960, my friend Steve Thomas and I shared a dog-eared paperback edition of "The Story of Jazz," by Marshall Stearns [Oxford University Press, New York, 1956], passing it back and forth between our freshman high school classes. We spent Saturday afternoons at Sol Kessler's record store, listening to LPs (and sometimes buying them), riding city buses to and from home, quoting Stearns and comparing the tone of Goodman's clarinet with Shaw's, Herman's, and Giuffre's.
While our classmates were twisting to Chubby Checker or singing along to the Argyles' "Alley-Oop," we two, young, Central Pennsylvania music nerds were dissecting Brubeck's "Jazz Impressions Of Eurasia." Absorbing the music was the central feature of our jazz education, but Stearns' history was our indispensable textbook. Perspectives developed in those impressionable times - ones that have dramatically affected our subsequent lives - were fed by both the jazz and the words.
I was flooded with such memories as I read Bob Blumenthal's brilliant new book, "Jazz: An Introduction to the History and Legends Behind America's Music" [Smithsonian, 2007, 192 pgs]. Jazzier than Stearns' classic text, Blumenthal's is a genre prologue suited to our times: rich in photos, links, references, and lists of essential music, organized by era. Smartly written by a Grammy Award winning author of album notes, the narrative is positively infectious. It drills deeply enough to interest long-time fans while providing newcomers with everything essential to start their journey.
My own fascination with this incredible music remains intense nearly 50 years after first carving up Stearns' jazz bible with my friend (who is now a composer and performer). I suspect that there are thousands of young people today who will find Blumenthal's "Jazz ... Introduction" just as vital to their own musical educations as we did that old 1950s paperback.
I would encourage parents of teenagers to think about seeding such a process by giving this exceptional Smithsonian guide as a gift. (And, while you're at it, buy a copy for yourself. It's really that good.)
on November 24, 2008
As owner of JazzeOne Production we provide a lot of information about the Jazz genre. Bob's collection is one of the most concise books about the Jazz movement. While it does not tell you everything, it does tell you enough to perk your interest in this style of music. Whether you are an enthusiast, Jazz-o-phile or curious beginner, you will enjoy what you learn from reading this book! ~the JazzeOne
on November 21, 2010
Blumenthal's "Jazz" is as its subtitle states, "an introduction to the history and legends of America's music." It is a very broad sweep, mentioning as many names as seems to be possible from the beginnings of the 20th century to a contemporary point where this reviewer has difficulty relating the music with the term "jazz." It is useful as a vehicle to point one to further reading and research on a musician (e.g., Biederbick) or music (e.g., Fusion). It's not a poor book, being well written, but it's just (barely) an introduction. For a more in depth overview, "The JazzBook" by Joachim Berendt contains more substance.