Why Jazz Happened

Marc Myers, Author
Marc Myers. Univ. of California, $34.95 (266p) ISBN 978-0-520-26878-4
Open Ebook - 266 pages - 978-0-520-95398-7
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-283-64636-9
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On February 26, 1917, a group of musicians calling themselves the Original Dixieland Jass Band assembled in the studio of the Victor Talking Machine Company, played two songs into a long metal horn that served as a microphone, and a few weeks later made history by releasing the first 78-rpm recording of jazz. In this energetic and captivating tale, Wall Street Journal music contributor Myers enthusiastically chronicles the many social, political, legal, and monetary forces outside of music that shaped the evolution of jazz. With impeccable timing, Myers provides a steady backbeat of stories of the development of music from bebop, jazz-classical, and West Coast jazz, to spiritual jazz, jazz-pop, and jazz-rock fusion. While jazz could never have developed without the brilliant musicians whose stories he narrates—from Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie to Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock—the rise of electronic instruments, the civil rights movement, the advent of musicians’ unions, and new recording technologies catapulted the musical form and its players squarely into the evolving history of American music. In the 1950s, as they discovered that more music was needed to fill the longer format of albums, hard bop musicians began licensing their compositions through BMI, making available a greater percentage of original work on these albums. Myers’s first-rate social history, like a great jazz recording, pulls us into its complex rhythms and harmonies, casting its mesmerizing spell. (Dec.)
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