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June 11, 2011 1:30 am

The History of Jazz

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The History of Jazz, by Ted Gioia, Oxford University Press, RRP£12.99, 528 pages

 

Ted Gioia’s erudite history of jazz opens with an elderly drummer playing at a slave dance in 19th-century New Orleans’ Congo Square and closes with a portrait of a restless global music that is happy to call any address its home. In between, Gioia, an author, critic and musician, strides purposefully through the development of jazz from its pre-bellum origins to its post-modern incarnation.

First published in 1997, The History of Jazz expertly outlines the main aesthetic movements, using biographical sketches of the main players to flesh out detail alongside some often bitter social context – US racial politics and music-business economics. This updated edition also notes the wane of post-modernism and rounds up the global currents that confirm jazz as a music of flux and fusion.

The mass of information is structured by a strong linear narrative and is carried along by Gioia’s poetic turn of phrase. One of the best, and most even-handed, surveys of jazz and its literature.

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