The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945

Gunther Schuller, Author Oxford University Press, USA $74 (944p) ISBN 978-0-19-504312-9
Twenty years after the publication of Early Jazz , French hornist, conductor, composer, educator and broadcaster Schuller brings forth this 900-page second volume in his monumental ``History of Jazz.'' He is perhaps better equipped to analyze style and technique than anyone else who has written about this music. No previous critic has delineated in as great detail how the various styles developed and coalesced. Schuller devotes 40 pages to Louis Armstrong, 110 pages and 62 musical examples to Duke Ellington. He identifies the unique characteristics of each of the big bandsamong them, Count Basie, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher and Horace Henderson, Earl Hines, Jimmie Lunceford and Chick Webb; of arrangers Mel Powell, Don Redman and Eddie Sauter; of such soloists as Bunny Berigan, Charlie Christian, Roy Eldridge, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, Jack Teagarden, Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson; of the small groups of Nate Cole, John Kirby, Red Nichols and Rex Stewart; even of the ``territory bands'' of the Middle West. He also explicates the contributions of the big white bands of Charlie Barnet, Bob Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller and Claude Thornhill, who, by codifying and expanding upon the innovations of their black counterparts, played as crucial a role and brought jazz to millions who otherwise would never have heard any jazz at all. Schuller's evaluations are original, trenchant and even-handed: He discusses shortcomingsstylistic stultification, topheavy sound, exuberant vulgarity, for exampleas well as achievements. And he demonstrates the gradual atrophying of swing by repetition, formularization, the reduction of improvisation and loss of spontaneity. More brilliantly than anyone before him, Schuller has explained a glorious period in the history of American music. Illustrated. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
Paperback - 944 pages - 978-0-19-507140-5
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