cover image The History of Jazz

The History of Jazz

Ted Gioia, Author Oxford University Press, USA $40 (480p) ISBN 978-0-19-509081-9

Thorough in its criticism as well as its chronology, Gioia's (The Imperfect Art) may be the most comprehensive (and readable) undertaking of jazz scholarship in recent memory. Contrary to pianist Jelly Roll Morton's famous claim that he invented the genre, Gioia traces jazz's origins to the slave dances of early 19th-century New Orleans. In the tradition of Leonard Feather and Nat Hentoff, Gioia considers jazz America's lone indigenous art form, but not without acknowledging the foremost importance of its ""Africanization."" Gioia documents the genre's evolution from the 19th century to today's hip downtown New York scene. Chapters detail each of the genre's major stylistic shifts, profiling unsung innovators as well as celebrities of each era from Louis Armstrong to Charles Mingus to the Marsalis brothers, Gioia's brief biographies serve to introduce the reader to the musicians' important work. The author's academic approach to Charlie Parker's drug-fueled artistic decline or Bud Powell's mental illness may not satiate fans of celebrity gossip, and the book's appendix of recommended recordings is lacking in sufficiently detailed catalogue information. After (and during) The History of Jazz, readers will surely want to search out more than a performance or two. (Nov.)