Synopses & Reviews
What was the first jazz record? Are jazz solos really improvised? How did jazz lay the groundwork for rock and country music? In Why Jazz?
, author and NPR jazz critic Kevin Whitehead provides lively, insightful answers to these and many other fascinating questions, offering an entertaining guide for both novice listeners and long-time fans.
Organized chronologically in a convenient question and answer format, this terrific resource makes jazz accessible to a broad audience, and especially to readers who've found the music bewildering or best left to the experts. Yet Why Jazz? is much more than an informative Q&A; it concisely traces the century-old history of this American and global art form, from its beginnings in New Orleans up through the current postmodern period. Whitehead provides brief profiles of the archetypal figures of jazz--from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Wynton Marsalis and John Zorn--and illuminates their contributions as musicians, performers, and composers. Also highlighted are the building blocks of the jazz sound--call and response, rhythmic contrasts, personalized performance techniques and improvisation--and discussion of how visionary musicians have reinterpreted these elements to continually redefine jazz, ushering in the swing era, bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, and the avant-garde. Along the way, Why Jazz? provides helpful plain-English descriptions of musical terminology and techniques, from "blue notes" to "conducted improvising." And unlike other histories which haphazardly cover the stylistic branches of jazz that emerged after the 1960s, Why Jazz? groups latter-day musical trends by decade, the better to place them in historical context.
Whether read in self-contained sections or as a continuous narrative, this compact reference presents a trove of essential information that belongs on the shelf of anyone who's ever been interested in jazz.
About the Author
"Whitehead's concise responses deliver the answers that reveal his deep knowledge of the music and sharp style. Even readers who never touched a piano will be able to follow his summation of why bebop was such a radical departure. This book belongs on the syllabus of all introductory jazz courses." --Downbeat, Editors' Pick
"Whitehead is a pithy writer, stylish without getting sidetracked by his own cleverness." -ChicagoReader.com
Table of Contents
1. The Basics
2. Jazz from its origins to 1940: roots, early jazz, the swing era
3. Jazz 1940-1960: bebop, cool, hard bop
4. Jazz 1960-1980: the avant-garde and its aftermath
5. Jazz after 1980: the postmodern period
Suggestions for Further Reading