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The History of Jazz Paperback – December 17, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Beginning with details provided from firsthand accounts of slave dances in the early 19th-century New Orleans, Gioia relates the story of African American music from its roots in Africa to the international respect it enjoys today. Styles that developed in such hotbeds as New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City, and New York are considered along with the artists that personify these styles. With the arrival of more white musicians, such as Benny Goodman in the Swing Era, jazz achieved the height of mass popularity. This was quickly followed by the more experimental modern jazz movement, with artists like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie redefining the music and moving beyond entertainment into the realm of "serious" music. This well-researched, extensively annotated volume covers the major trends and personalities that have shaped jazz. The excellent bibliography and list of recommended listening make this a valuable purchase for libraries building a jazz collection.?Dan Bogey, Clearfield Cty. P.L. Federation, Curwensville, Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 4th edition (December 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019512653X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195126532
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.5 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,049,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anyone purportedly writing a "History of Jazz" faces a daunting task: A complex history of interwoven musical strands, the linkages and evolutions (sometimes skipping a generation), the geographic spread to Europe and elsewhere, the eventual fragmentation of jazz into diverse sounds and approaches, and the opinions of knowledgeable, rabid fans.
Ted Giola succeeds magnificently: This is the best single-volume history of jazz I've seen. While not without some minor flaws (see below), this is a comprehensive, generally very well written, and intriguing story of the genesis and development of jazz. It is a compelling story, and Giola writes without mythologizing jazz, or constantly needing to remind us that this is, indeed, art. The giants of jazz-- Armstrong, Ellington, Parker, Holiday, etc. are critiqued rather than lionized.
Giola proceeds through the now familiar African, American, African-American, and European roots of jazz that emanated first from New Orleans. He traces its developmental routes through Chicago and New York, the Armstrong solo evolution, and the diverse "territory bands" such as those of Bennie Moten and Count Basie.
Fortunately, Giola does not limit himself to a strictly chronological narrative. He interrupts the timeline with revealing excursions into topics such as the development of instrumental styles (e.g., piano, trumpet), and jumps ahead to show the impact of early influences on later styles (e.g., Lester Young and bebop). He also pays attention to cultural, technological, and economic context, without letting these subtexts blare over the music. Giola knows music from the "inside" as well as the outside, and his discussions of jazz technique and harmonic and rhythmic innovations are detailed and precise.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a reasonable library of jazz books (including The Horn by JC Holmes, American Musicians by Whitney Balliett, Reading Jazz by Gottlieb, etc, etc) but my top five are HEAR ME TALKIN' TO YA by Hentoff and Shapiro; FOUR LIVES IN THE BEBOP BUSINESS by A.B. Spellman; STRAIGHT LIFE by Art and Laurie Pepper; THE STORY OF JAZZ by Marshall Stearns; and AS SERIOUS AS YOUR LIFE by Val Wilmer. What do I want in a jazz book? I want information, authenticity, entertainment; and decent writing. Now I have to move Mr Stearns over to make way for Mr Gioia and his HISTORY OF JAZZ for I believe it deserves to be in that exalted company.
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Is there any other book that is as true as this book, when recalling the intricate history of jazz? If there is, it has escaped my eyes and i invite the opurtunity to read it. Ted Gioia is not only articulate in his representation of jazz history, but his facts are documented well above reproach. He even includes a suggested listening section at the back of the book. Incredible book! I am using it as an aid in teaching my highschool class the history of jazz. This book is a necessary investment for any jazz afficianado.
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Format: Paperback
Readers looking for a history of jazz who already know the history might find this book impressive in what it covers. Readers looking for a guide to the history of jazz and jazz styles will, I think, be disappointed. At its best, it covers (not completely, of course) the personnel, songs, and albums of the jazz world from its prehistory to the 1990s, and at its worst it does the same. There is a lot here, looking at it from one viewpoint, and nowhere near enough, looking at it from another. Gioia tried to cram and arrange an encyclopedia's worth of jazz facts into a linear history, and often what he ends up offering is not much more than a list of names and titles and dates, as if the history of jazz were reducible to a collection of liner notes. It isn't quite that bad. He does offer extended discussions on some artists, three examples being Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Cecil Taylor. Such mini-biographies interspersed throughout the chapters save the book from full-stop tedium.

Readers already familiar (through hearing the music) with the myriad variations and changes in jazz over its history will be pleased, I suppose, to find descriptions of the music and its styles written in that strange idiom of music criticism which means almost nothing unless you already know what is being described. At one point Gioia sounds almost like H. P. Lovecraft as he describes Albert Ayler's "darting phrases, hieroglyphics of sound representing some hitherto unknown sublunar mode; tones Adolphe Sax never dreamed of, and Selmer never sanctioned." (353)
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Format: Paperback
The back cover of this Oxford paperback claims that the book is suitable as an introduction to jazz or as an authoritative reference. I must admit that I am neither a jazz officianado nor a complete novice to the world of swing, bebop and fusion, making me incapable of confirming the cover's claims. However, for me, this book filled in the gaps quite nicely.

Most of my knowledge of jazz has come from the radio. The big names keep popping up but lesser known lights get little air time and I am at the whim of the dj's tastes. "The History of Jazz" covers them all, starting at the very beginning - drum circle dances in pre-abolition New Orleans. It then discusses the roots of early dixie land jazz (ragtime, Joplin, and the blues) and then describes the movement of jazz from New Orleans to Chicago and New York. It intersperses lively anecdotes about the fathers of jazz -Jelly Roll Morton was a procurer (pimp?) early on- with music theory and analysis. Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong and Morton all have a section devoted to them. A chapter on the jazz age pays special attention to Armstrong's Hot Five and subsequent career. Bix Beiderbecke's biography is given in detail along with notes on many other famous players of his day. A chapter is devoted to Harlem, stride piano, Waller, Ellington and the advent of the big bands, ending with a description of society and music at the Cotton Club. The Swing era gets a chapter to itself with even more in-depth treatment of big bands and those who led them (Goodman, the Dorsey's etc.). Kansas City style jazz, and european jazz traditions (Django Reinhardt) are also covered. The details of Billie Holiday's life, although well known, make for a sad story.
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