Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gioia's Jazz History Thoughtful and Erudite

The History of Jazz - Second Edition
Ted Gioia
Oxford University Press 2011

Ted Gioia has updated his "The History of Jazz" which is welcome for those looking for a concise overview of jazz's development. While the title might be be more accurately titled, "Jazz: A Selective History" Or "A Concise History of Jazz," that is a matter of semantics. Gioia does generally trace what is generally viewed as the music's growth from its origins out of ragtime through its world wide spread. Gioia has updated his earlier history to perhaps give more emphasis to the global developments of jazz.

I give him more leeway in selection of material in such a topics as jazz history than I gave his "Delta Blues," which was highly flawed and omitted seminal figures in his subject matter. While there are unquestionably trends and artists in jazz's development that he might have devoted some space to, but it might have made this volume unwieldly. For example, he could have delved a bit more into some of the early women blues singers recordings, other than Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.

Gioia writes very clearly about the artists and does present what most would agree are the major figures in the music's history such as Armstrong, Morton, Hines, Ellington, Eldridge, Basie, lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Parker, Gillespie, Coltrane, Monk, Powell, Miles Davis and many more. He concisely discusses their lives and music and innovations in a lively and informative way. I was particularly impressed by his discussion of Bill Evans and Evans’ importance and influence on contemporary jazz piano.

Gioia’s discussion of the diversity of jazz around the world today is only an overview and overlooks some currents such as gypsy jazz. I do not know how exhaustive his suggestions for further reading was intended to be but there were some worthy books that were not included (such as recent bios of Lester Young). Gioia has included a listed of performances for suggested listening as opposed to recommending albums. In this respect, I suggest it may have been useful to have presented these in a chronological manner as opposed to alphabetical by artist.

In summary, this is a thoughtful and erudite introduction to jazz history that will be of value to more than jazz novices.

I received my review copy from a publicist or from the publisher.

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