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The History of Jazz

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  2,517 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Jazz is the most colorful and varied art form in the world, and it was born in one of the most colorful and varied cities, New Orleans. From the seed first planted by slave dances held in Congo Square and nurtured by early ensembles led by Buddy Bolden and Joe "King" Oliver, jazz began its long, winding odyssey across America and around the world, giving flower to a thousa ...more
Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 480 pages
Published November 20th 1997 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1997)
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Jan 05, 2013 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good read if you've listened to jazz, like it, and already have a bit of background knowledge. If this is going to be your introduction to jazz, then perhaps this isn't the place to start, as there's a fair bit of name dropping and music notation/theory that can be intimidating.

It's well written and a joy to read; it balances biography, a little music theory/jargon, social history, etc. I found it really absorbing. However, I also listened to music most of the way through in order to giv
Jul 29, 2007 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jazz fans
This book helped me consolidate my understanding of the development of jazz. The book strikes a good balance between breadth and depth. Keep your iPod handy while reading.
Nov 18, 2007 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, music
A nice overview of America's most important contribution to the arts. The book is a rather comprehensive survey, so few readers will love every period and movement covered. (I personally felt like the Swing Era would never end.) But it's always difficult, in any survey, to allocate attention in a way that will satisfy everyone. Gioia basically allocates time chronologically, getting to bop halfway through the book. I would have liked to spend more time on the latter half of the century myself, g ...more
Theresa Leone Davidson
Ted Gioia, a writer and music critic, is someone whose opinions I do not always agree with but this terrific book, which chronicles the evolution of jazz, is thorough, well written, and details how each sub-genre of jazz and each of the musicians he writes about has contributed to what the genre as a whole has become today. And he does not write only of the people who are still widely remembered today, like Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald, but of greats who are not necessarily remembered like ...more
David Cowling
Jazz is a tricky subject to write convincingly about. Any attempt to formally mimic its distinctive rhythms is usually doomed to the ignominious failure of word soup – excepting certain kinds of poetry. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the dryness of the pedantic record collector is a peril to be avoided at all costs. Ted Gioia’s The History of Jazz is an illustrious, expansive book, boasting academic clout, but perhaps falling down on the side of the overly neat, finger-clicking connoisseur ...more
Oct 24, 2015 Jody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing thorough historical account of America's most important art form. It is lovingly written and meticulously researched. My main takeaway from the book was how devastating drugs were on the jazz artists all throughout the 20th century and how it really impacted the individual movements in jazz with so many deaths, imprisonments, and unproductive time periods of those artists who had become addicted.

I believe this book serves as a better written document of the history of jazz compared t
Trey Rogge
Feb 23, 2016 Trey Rogge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You definitely need some familiarity with jazz music and a few major jazz artists before reading this. If you already have all that, this book provides a well-written and entertaining story of jazz - musically, socially, and theoretically - from its earliest form, as far as we know, through Wynton Marsalis. Gioia's love for the art form resounds through the whole book (you can tell he lives for Charlie Parker), which is refreshing and often inspiring, but it can be too much when he name drops fo ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
An Excellent & Well Researched Book!
Bett Correa-Bollhoefer
Excellent book for music lovers. Jazz influenced all of today's modern music.
D. Jason
Feb 01, 2017 D. Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, jazz
Solid and informative until it starts going off the rails in the 1950s. Gioia feels it necessary to tell the reader from that point on about his favorite performers and records that nobody else listens to. As the book gets closer to the present, he keeps making stranger and stranger choices of what to include and what to overlook, and it finally devolves into simply listing different acts by geographic breakdown, and inserting his own personal comments on some of them.

The first half or two third
Oct 25, 2016 Jermajesty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 parts enthralling, 1 part dull
Jan 16, 2017 Moryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Excellent book overall, gives a great overview of the evolution of jazz since its inception. It discusses the biography and style of the main jazz names and the way they and the music evolved.
I very much enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a better understanding of how jazz came to be what it is today.
Babak Vandad
Oct 09, 2016 Babak Vandad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started to play Trumpet after reading 3-4 chapters. So it's a great one! at least for me.
Make sure you have a Spotify account and a tablet/smart phone while reading. and listen to every piece named in the book.
Jan 21, 2017 Raquel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The passion the author feels for jazz translates into a kind of literature near poetry sometimes. An experience of curiosity and knowledge thirst satisfaction, but also a very aesthetic one. The only bad thing is that women in jazz are underrepresented in this book of jazz history.
Nov 05, 2016 Jerrodm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this a lot. The book strikes an excellent balance between descriptions of the music, histories of the key players, and setting the scene and providing context. The book starts with precursors to jazz--marching band music, blues, ragtime and others--and goes through the New Orleans era, the Chicago, Harlem and Kansas City jazz scenes that shaped so much of the early sound, and the later branching out of jazz across the country and the world.

The book provides a useful narrative tha
Rachael Colling
Dec 31, 2016 Rachael Colling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
although incredibly dense, this book is beautifully written.
if you can muster the patience to complete this book, you will find a stunningly comprehensive history of jazz, from its prehistory in the early 1600s all the way through to its fragmentation and modernization in the mid to late 1900s.
May 17, 2013 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, music, jazz
The History of Jazz is a comprehensive book about the history of one of America's timeless genres from its roots in African tribal music through the time it was written (1997). Gioia deserves credit for at least trying to include Jazz Fusion, albeit it gets scant attention outside of Miles Davis's albums. However, the inclusion of Jazz Fusion at all is worth noting considering the stance of some in the Jazz community to simply skip over the 70s and 80s for the most part as if they were a dead ti ...more
Will McGee
Jan 28, 2016 Will McGee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ted Gioia's The History of Jazz is, as I understand, one of the more celebrated texts to attempt a complete overview of jazz music. Its second edition was published in 2008 or so, and keeps up with trends up to that moment.

Ted Gioia's book focuses mostly on players and on trends in the way the music was made, heard, composed, and disseminated, without as much focus on the accompanying history of the world that often pushed or pulled the music in one direction or another. He often introduces a b
Sep 28, 2015 Nelson rated it really liked it
The title at first might seem immodest: _The_ History of Jazz, not _A_ History? Gioia has been at this for a long time, however, and is well-qualified to write such a text. As a boys bumper book of bebop etc this is pretty tight--that is to say, Gioia starts back in the mists of time (New Orleans) and immediately debunks the myth, and then moves forward, making the usual stops (Chicago, New York, Kansas City, Los Angeles). So at one level this might look a bit basic, a tarted-up Wikipedia entry. ...more
May 27, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music-reference, jazz

This was an excellent overview of the topic, one of the best (probably the best, unless I'm blanking on something) I've encountered. Gioia does a great job of balancing the various strains of history -- aesthetic, social/cultural, economic, biographical –- required to fully grasp the topic, resulting in a history that is far more complete than the "great man" surveys that so often pass as jazz histories (looking at you, Ken Burns). That being said, it does tend to devolve into a series of bios n
Mar 02, 2016 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you happen to be new to the subject of jazz history - as I was 17 years ago when I read the first edition of this book, in paperback - then this book is a very good place to start. Back then I had only a minimal knowledge of the big names and movements in jazz history, but I was very eager to expand my jazz knowledge beyond the "smooth jazz" that was ruling the airwaves at the time. This is a great deal of information and I learned so much the first time (and ended up buying a lot of great CD ...more
Aug 09, 2014 Lachinchon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding. Well organized, clear and intelligent prose, this is the best of the many jazz histories that I have read. Of course, a reader’s personal favorite artists may not get much if any ink, but that is a problem intrinsic to any music history; if every artist was examined, the book would end up like the last chapter of this one – basically just a shopping list with no room for explication (my only quibble with this volume). On a personal aside, it does not sound like Keith Jarrett’s conce ...more
I picked this book up when I was trying to decide on a cheaper jazz history to use for a university level course. Gioia's history is a nuanced stylistic history of jazz that maintains his strong voice as a music critic and author. Although I found myself disagreeing with his interpretations at times, it was refreshing to read an account that gave voice to many sides of most of the major debates in jazz history. That strength makes it an excellent choice. I have found that students respond best w ...more
Nov 21, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite simply - the best history of jazz written thus far! Essential reading for even casual jazz listeners. Thorough, scholarly, objective and inclusive, but easy to read with a minimum of esoteric discourse. Even readers without any knowledge of music theory and composition should find it easy enough to skim over the bits about specific chord structures and still grasp the full meaning and import of those passages.

Really, my only complaint about this book is the author's overuse of the phrase "
Adam Campbell
Sep 13, 2013 Adam Campbell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This wonderfully written, jam-packed biography of the entity that is jazz could very easily have been titled The History and Evolution of Jazz. At times, it reads like an ethnography and seems as if Mr. Gioia is an invisible anthropologist or a fly on the walls of time documenting the blossoming of this ever-evolving beast. He explains the differences in styles of jazz such as New Orleans Jazz, Chicago Jazz, Big Band Jazz, Swing, Bebop, Cool, Third Wave, Hard Bop, Free Jazz, Fusion and Post-Mode ...more
Apr 29, 2014 Kenneth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
An incomplete grade in a course I was foolishly talked into marred my transcript while an undergraduate.

I don't like jazz. I have never liked jazz.

The professor jived on and on (during the few lectures I attended) about house parties and eating pig feet with keg beer in the "good old days" of jazz in New Orleans.

This book is a great bore to read. Hipsters who age pathetically after the age of 30 may think that this bizarre celebration of an American style of music is a boast for the coolness
Robert Morrow
A technical manual to jazz that will be of little use to the average reader unless that reader possesses an extraordinarily large jazz collection dating back to the days of ragtime. Musical contributions are only explained in terms of technical musical terms, so if you are also an average reader who did not learn how to read music, the book is next to worthless; how the music makes one feel is virtually ignored. This is a classic example of the style of literature that continues to make jazz sno ...more
Sep 13, 2007 Jordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I particularly enjoyed the first few chapters of this book. It may be that they are better for the lack of source material from the time period. The author feels free to visualize early jazz history as we vaguely understand it to have occurred. He writes a nuanced history that shies from cliche historical labels. This book may not be for the uninitiated in the jazz world, and even for the initiated it bogs down in latter chapters in details, and lists of album titles. For a book its size, it man ...more
Matt Micucci
Jul 26, 2016 Matt Micucci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is pretty much regarded as the ultimate timeline historical overview on the history of jazz, and for novices and people who want to start really getting interested in this fascinating genre of music, it is a must. For those, like me, who know a little bit about it already, it is a welcome refresher, more than anything because it helps contextualize everything and narrow down some of its main points of evolution. Well written, though my edition had a number of baffling spelling mistakes ...more
Jul 20, 2010 Meagan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This history is written with powerful narrative and composes a picture of the history of jazz not simply as facts and details, but rather as a compelling arc of a music and a lifestyle that transformed American culture. Gioia superbly shows how jazz was reflective of American culture, but, perhaps more importantly, how jazz acted as an impetus, driving the culture in new directions. Additionally, this history helps readers keep jazz artists and movements straight, thus serving as both an excelle ...more
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“The resulting amalgam - an exotic mixture of European, Caribbean, African, and American elements - made Louisiana into perhaps the most seething ethnic melting pot that the nineteenth century world could produce. This cultural gumbo would serve as breeding ground for many of the great hybrid musics of modern times; not just jazz, but also cajun, zydeco, blues, and other new styles flourished as a result of this laissez-faire environment. In this warm, moist atmosphere, sharp delineations between cultures gradually softened and ultimately disappeared.” 1 likes
“As recently as the twentieth century, some cultures retained religious prohibitions asserting the “uncleanliness” of believers eating at the same table as musicians.” 1 likes
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