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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
All That Jazz
Sure, Jazz: A History of America's Music, is lushly illustrated, each page displaying a photograph more rare than the one preceding it. Sure, even the most ardent jazz enthusiast will find information and images in the companion book to the upcoming PBS series that would make him or her salivate. But treat Jazz as a coffee-table book at your own risk: As soon as guests get their hands on this highly readable book, you can kiss conversation goodbye!
The award-winning team of Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns -- whose past efforts brought Baseball and The Civil War to life -- weave the stories of myriad musicians, personalities, styles, and schools into an engaging and singularly American tale. The result is a thoroughly entertaining tribute to ingenuity, creativity, and good ol' American music.
Beginning at the dawn of the 20th century, the narrative traces the path of jazz from its birth in New Orleans gumbo and its progression through big band, swing, bebop, fusion, acid, and avant-garde. The unifying aspect of this sprawling account is provided by the musicians, whose stories are really the saga's heart and soul. Of course, greats like Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and others are given ample attention. Their life stories and extraordinary contributions to the music are recounted with a mix of reverence and affection.
But the pages of Jazz are also populated by a roster of supporting players -- musicians and singers whose names and music might be recognizable but whose legacy is slight in comparison to acknowledged masters like Satchmo, Bird, and Lady Day. Their stories add a level of accessibility to the book and to the music. They remind the reader that jazz is for everyone -- not just the masters, not just the elite. And this message of accessibility is the defining mark of Jazz, both the book and the TV series.
Contributions from such renowned jazz authorities as Gary Giddins, Albert Murray, Stanley Crouch, and Gerald Early are an added treat.
With Jazz: A History of America's Music, Ward and Burns not only succeed in documenting one of America's finest artistic achievements in engaging prose and priceless illustrations; they also triumph in bringing this art form to life and making it available for all to hear, appreciate, and stamp their feet to. Jazz is a remarkably joyous celebration of America's aptitude for change and discovery and of our music.