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The companion volume to the ten-part PBS TV series by the team responsible for The Civil War and Baseball. Continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed works, Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns vividly bring to life the story of the quintessential American music—jazz. Born in the black community of turn-of-the-century New Orleans but played from the beginning by mus The companion volume to the ten-part PBS TV series by the team responsible for The Civil War and Baseball. Continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed works, Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns vividly bring to life the story of the quintessential American music—jazz. Born in the black community of turn-of-the-century New Orleans but played from the beginning by musicians of every color, jazz celebrates all Americans at their best. Here are the stories of the extraordinary men and women who made the music: Louis Armstrong, the fatherless waif whose unrivaled genius helped turn jazz into a soloist's art and influenced every singer, every instrumentalist who came after him; Duke Ellington, the pampered son of middle-class parents who turned a whole orchestra into his personal instrument, wrote nearly two thousand pieces for it, and captured more of American life than any other composer. Bix Beiderbecke, the doomed cornet prodigy who showed white musicians that they too could make an important contribution to the music; Benny Goodman, the immigrants' son who learned the clarinet to help feed his family, but who grew up to teach a whole country how to dance; Billie Holiday, whose distinctive style routinely transformed mediocre music into great art; Charlie Parker, who helped lead a musical revolution, only to destroy himself at thirty-four; and Miles Davis, whose search for fresh ways to sound made him the most influential jazz musician of his generation, and then led him to abandon jazz altogether. Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Artie Shaw, and Ella Fitzgerald are all here; so are Sidney Bechet, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and a host of others. But Jazz is more than mere biography. The history of the music echoes the history of twentieth-century America. Jazz provided the background for the giddy era that F. Scott Fitzgerald called the Jazz Age. The irresistible pulse of big-band swing lifted the spirits and boosted American morale during the Great Depression and World War II. The virtuosic, demanding style called bebop mirrored the stepped-up pace and dislocation that came with peace. During the Cold War era, jazz served as a propaganda weapon—and forged links with the burgeoning counterculture. The story of jazz encompasses the story of American courtship and show business; the epic growth of great cities—New Orleans and Chicago, Kansas City and New York—and the struggle for civil rights and simple justice that continues into the new millennium. Visually stunning, with more than five hundred photographs, some never before published, this book, like the music it chronicles, is an exploration—and a celebration—of the American experiment. From the Hardcover edition.


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The companion volume to the ten-part PBS TV series by the team responsible for The Civil War and Baseball. Continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed works, Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns vividly bring to life the story of the quintessential American music—jazz. Born in the black community of turn-of-the-century New Orleans but played from the beginning by mus The companion volume to the ten-part PBS TV series by the team responsible for The Civil War and Baseball. Continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed works, Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns vividly bring to life the story of the quintessential American music—jazz. Born in the black community of turn-of-the-century New Orleans but played from the beginning by musicians of every color, jazz celebrates all Americans at their best. Here are the stories of the extraordinary men and women who made the music: Louis Armstrong, the fatherless waif whose unrivaled genius helped turn jazz into a soloist's art and influenced every singer, every instrumentalist who came after him; Duke Ellington, the pampered son of middle-class parents who turned a whole orchestra into his personal instrument, wrote nearly two thousand pieces for it, and captured more of American life than any other composer. Bix Beiderbecke, the doomed cornet prodigy who showed white musicians that they too could make an important contribution to the music; Benny Goodman, the immigrants' son who learned the clarinet to help feed his family, but who grew up to teach a whole country how to dance; Billie Holiday, whose distinctive style routinely transformed mediocre music into great art; Charlie Parker, who helped lead a musical revolution, only to destroy himself at thirty-four; and Miles Davis, whose search for fresh ways to sound made him the most influential jazz musician of his generation, and then led him to abandon jazz altogether. Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Artie Shaw, and Ella Fitzgerald are all here; so are Sidney Bechet, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and a host of others. But Jazz is more than mere biography. The history of the music echoes the history of twentieth-century America. Jazz provided the background for the giddy era that F. Scott Fitzgerald called the Jazz Age. The irresistible pulse of big-band swing lifted the spirits and boosted American morale during the Great Depression and World War II. The virtuosic, demanding style called bebop mirrored the stepped-up pace and dislocation that came with peace. During the Cold War era, jazz served as a propaganda weapon—and forged links with the burgeoning counterculture. The story of jazz encompasses the story of American courtship and show business; the epic growth of great cities—New Orleans and Chicago, Kansas City and New York—and the struggle for civil rights and simple justice that continues into the new millennium. Visually stunning, with more than five hundred photographs, some never before published, this book, like the music it chronicles, is an exploration—and a celebration—of the American experiment. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Jazz: A History of America's Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ceef

    While I found the authors' style to be both accessible and informative, I would have preferred more social history and music criticism, whereas the book concentrated far more on the specific biographical details of the various artists who helped to create "America's music." As an aside, Jazz was a great pleasure to listen to as an audiobook. Levar Burton's narration was an excellent fit for the material, as he was both warm and engaging, and he often successfully modulated his delivery to indicat While I found the authors' style to be both accessible and informative, I would have preferred more social history and music criticism, whereas the book concentrated far more on the specific biographical details of the various artists who helped to create "America's music." As an aside, Jazz was a great pleasure to listen to as an audiobook. Levar Burton's narration was an excellent fit for the material, as he was both warm and engaging, and he often successfully modulated his delivery to indicate when the author was citing jazz luminaries, including Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and others. Also, the format allowed for snippets of music to be included at various opportune moments, which was quite pleasant.

  2. 4 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    In 2001 I watched Ken Burns' documentary on Jazz and I remember thinking I have to learn how to play the trumpet because Louis Armstrong is badass and I hope to get that companion-book some day. Just a few ears later-I got the book. This was the thickest and (one of the) biggest book(s) I had at the time. Before I read a word of it I spent a few days simply looking at the pictures which there are a lot of. After awhile I started to read it and by two months I had read it. This book fills in a lo In 2001 I watched Ken Burns' documentary on Jazz and I remember thinking I have to learn how to play the trumpet because Louis Armstrong is badass and I hope to get that companion-book some day. Just a few ears later-I got the book. This was the thickest and (one of the) biggest book(s) I had at the time. Before I read a word of it I spent a few days simply looking at the pictures which there are a lot of. After awhile I started to read it and by two months I had read it. This book fills in a lot that the initial run of the documentary left out though, annoyingly, it also gets sketchy with the time-line at the end (like the documentary). Still, this book was and is a very good and detailed read-up on the subject matter. I have long obliterated the bookcover to it and part of the border is exposed showing the cardboard (proof of how hard I initially "loved" this thing) but it is still intact and I do glance over it once in a blue moon. Don't know where you would find this at now but if you wanted to know the history of Jazz in its hey-day this is a good book to check out.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I have always felt connected to jazz. When I was a kid, walking around New Orleans, jazz was ever-present: it spilled out of bars and clubs, people played brass instruments on sidewalks, and it filled the radio airwaves. It has a feel, an identity, that has always seemed singularly unique. This audiobook covers an entire history of the main movements within jazz and showcases running themes: racial inequity, national identity, and the influences that these musicians had on each other and their c I have always felt connected to jazz. When I was a kid, walking around New Orleans, jazz was ever-present: it spilled out of bars and clubs, people played brass instruments on sidewalks, and it filled the radio airwaves. It has a feel, an identity, that has always seemed singularly unique. This audiobook covers an entire history of the main movements within jazz and showcases running themes: racial inequity, national identity, and the influences that these musicians had on each other and their crowds. There is a tragic theme that plays throughout as the author reveals repeatedly the short lifespan of so many jazz musicians. Just when this loss seems overwhelming, we are blasted with light, and hope, for the future from young, contemporary jazz musicians. I listened to this on audiobook and LaVar Burton reads wonderfully; however, it seems like a missed opportunity to incorporate more of the music as the artists are being introduced, especially the early artists that may be less familiar.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    I will be forever indebted to Ken Burns for truly bringing me to jazz. Although this is the companion book to the documentary series of the same name, it holds far more than the video series. The breadth of this volume is a bit intimidating at first, but it reads like a narrative and is absolutely flush with pictures and historical documents. Burns has a fine understanding of the staggering beauty and aesthetic of this truly American art form. And, as it did for me, might open up a lifetime of p I will be forever indebted to Ken Burns for truly bringing me to jazz. Although this is the companion book to the documentary series of the same name, it holds far more than the video series. The breadth of this volume is a bit intimidating at first, but it reads like a narrative and is absolutely flush with pictures and historical documents. Burns has a fine understanding of the staggering beauty and aesthetic of this truly American art form. And, as it did for me, might open up a lifetime of pleasure.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Much more than a coffee-table book, this history of America's music accompanies the Ken Burns TV documentary series of the same name and even higher quality. There is so much to read and see, but of course nothing to hear, is this immaculately researched and presented story. For my liking there is too much emphasis on the early pioneers and not enough detail on the hundreds of stars who currently take the form in a myriad of directions. The same criticism is true of the documentary. However, thi Much more than a coffee-table book, this history of America's music accompanies the Ken Burns TV documentary series of the same name and even higher quality. There is so much to read and see, but of course nothing to hear, is this immaculately researched and presented story. For my liking there is too much emphasis on the early pioneers and not enough detail on the hundreds of stars who currently take the form in a myriad of directions. The same criticism is true of the documentary. However, this book does provide great background on how the form came to be and its origins.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Judi

    Actually, listened to the audio book as narrated by LaVar Burton - bonus! (Loved when he read Louis Armstrong bits - he really sounded like Armstrong!) Truly enjoyed the narrative arcs as the development and popularity of jazz shifted with each new age - and the effects of prominent performers. All so logical looking back and so entertaining. Would have appreciated more musical bits to illustrate some of the styles/techniques, but excellent overall. Even my 12 year old son enjoyed listening.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    All that Jazz..is a whole lotta fun. Read by Lavar Burton (hello old friend), it reminded me of the old days, watching "Reading Rainbow" with my children, back in the day. I wish that Lavar read more books. Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward do a marvelous job on this history of Jazz. It amazed me how many of these artists that I was already familiar with. This book is very informative, helps you to understand the founding and evolution of Jazz, and is alotta fun.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pedro Dullius

    Livro excelente! E perfeito para ser ouvido em áudio, já que a trilha sonora da história do jazz vai acompanhando a narrativa. Da vontade de voltar no tempo para poder ouvir o auge dos gênios criativos desta era improvisando ao vivo nos locais hoje históricos. Especialmente emocionante quando narra o fim de carreira de alguns dos ícones. A narração interpretada do LeVar Burton só abrilhantou mais a obra.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I enjoyed this book. I listened to the audio version. I will listen to it again I think. I haven't read consistently in a while so I am hesitant to rate books highly that I've read recently. But I did like this one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jason Comely

    Informative and highly entertaining account of key jazz players and the many mutations jazz has made since the 1920s. This never got dull, even for a moment.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sara Hill

    Written like a documentary (as expected by Ken Burns), if you read/borrow the audio book version, LeVar Burton's reading of it is rushed at times.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Goff

    Grand in scope and based on Ken Burns's documentary "Jazz" is an effort to explain the origins and a century of fascination with this truly American art form. While it is certainly a history of jazz it also works more or less as a history of race relations since the beginning of the 20th century. I'm so glad authors Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns decided not to eschew the rough parts of our history and instead weave them into the fabric of this truly original music. The originality of jazz is th Grand in scope and based on Ken Burns's documentary "Jazz" is an effort to explain the origins and a century of fascination with this truly American art form. While it is certainly a history of jazz it also works more or less as a history of race relations since the beginning of the 20th century. I'm so glad authors Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns decided not to eschew the rough parts of our history and instead weave them into the fabric of this truly original music. The originality of jazz is that it takes different influences from so many different parts of the world and sort of mixed them together to make this music. The details and research are there and it shows. Surely the authors have their favorites (sometimes I feel this is a history of Armstrong and Ellington as much as it is jazz). My only real knock on the book is that the authors further the belief that jazz died once Coletrane passed away. Once Coletrane is gone, jazz is dead or at least the book sort of ends there. There are a few obligatory notes about jazz post Coltrane but more than one source is cited as saying that avant garde killed jazz which is where Coltrane was going at the end of his time here. Well I don't really believe that and would have loved to read about some of my heroes like Ayler, Graves, Brotzmann, Art Ensemble Of Chicago, John Zorn, etc. There are brief mentions here and there but once the 70's hit the authors are pretty much done. I don't really feel the avant garde killed jazz as much as rock and the subsequent "fusion" jazz movement. All art forms need the avant garde in order to further the craft along and then when musicians start to take the elements of experimentation and make something slightly more listener friendly the bridging of the popular and experiment take a genre into new territories. Me and Ken Burns will never sit down to lunch, but if we did I am sure that would be a hot topic of discussion for us.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    It has been a long time since I have thought about the music that I fell in love with as a teenager. At that time in my life I was absorbed with jazz, the listening to it, the playing of it, and the reading about it. As adulthood swept me into pursuits no so leisure oriented, tie for listening to music in a serious way was shrunken to almost nothing. When turning on the car radio, I generally opt for sugar-coated music that is easily forgotten. For to listen to jazz, one must bring ones whole at It has been a long time since I have thought about the music that I fell in love with as a teenager. At that time in my life I was absorbed with jazz, the listening to it, the playing of it, and the reading about it. As adulthood swept me into pursuits no so leisure oriented, tie for listening to music in a serious way was shrunken to almost nothing. When turning on the car radio, I generally opt for sugar-coated music that is easily forgotten. For to listen to jazz, one must bring ones whole attention to bear. this of course requires time, which for any modern man, is precious. This book renewed in me the awe and respect for jazz as an art form, as entertainment, and as part of my country's history, a reflection of its much broader march through time. It is a tet version and synopsis of the Ken Burns' documentary of the same name.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Binh Ha

    This book is a great foundation for those who are interested in knowing more about the history of Jazz. Respectable in size, come with a great deal of photos, and all the more exciting accompanied with the jazz music itself (I like to listen to the artists as I read about them) Though I can get the sense that the author is in favor of some artists than the others, he did make an effort to create equal grounds for each. After all, one can only do so much when writing a book about history, and not This book is a great foundation for those who are interested in knowing more about the history of Jazz. Respectable in size, come with a great deal of photos, and all the more exciting accompanied with the jazz music itself (I like to listen to the artists as I read about them) Though I can get the sense that the author is in favor of some artists than the others, he did make an effort to create equal grounds for each. After all, one can only do so much when writing a book about history, and not wanting to make it an encyclopedia. Still, It did its job guiding me on what and how to learn more specifically about jazz . All in all, a wonderful read. Worth every bits of the time and effort spent.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Troy Soos

    This is an excellent history of jazz, especially of the music’s early years. Many books on jazz can be as difficult to follow as a bebop chord progression, but Ward’s text is clear and well-written. Throughout the book, the development of the music is presented in the context of America’s social, cultural, and political history. The volume is profusely illustrated with photographs from the PBS documentary. Fans of modern jazz might feel slighted (the past forty years are summed up in a final cha This is an excellent history of jazz, especially of the music’s early years. Many books on jazz can be as difficult to follow as a bebop chord progression, but Ward’s text is clear and well-written. Throughout the book, the development of the music is presented in the context of America’s social, cultural, and political history. The volume is profusely illustrated with photographs from the PBS documentary. Fans of modern jazz might feel slighted (the past forty years are summed up in a final chapter), but overall “Jazz: A History of America’s Music” provides a coherent introduction to the style and vivid portraits of the musicians.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ronn

    This book is the companion piece to Ken Burns' JAZZ series shown on PBS a few years back. It is well written, loaded with historical photographs, and as complete as possible for a book of its size. Pretty much the same things, both good and bad, that were said about the series can be said about the book. There are some omissions that I personally consider serious [barely a mention if any of Red Allen, Groove Holmes, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass], but on the whole, it's probably about as good a histo This book is the companion piece to Ken Burns' JAZZ series shown on PBS a few years back. It is well written, loaded with historical photographs, and as complete as possible for a book of its size. Pretty much the same things, both good and bad, that were said about the series can be said about the book. There are some omissions that I personally consider serious [barely a mention if any of Red Allen, Groove Holmes, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass], but on the whole, it's probably about as good a history as you could have without it becoming an encyclopedia.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Aryn

    This was an outstanding history of the origins, migration and evolution of jazz (the history is stronger on the early side). A good, easy read and provides what I think is important information on a truly American form of music filled with many of the tensions and negotiations of American history.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Clay Stevenson

    I listened to it on tape and thought that the information was mostly interesting. However, I thought that they could have presented it in a more palatable way. It often felt like the authors just strung facts together without any real connectivity. Levar Burton has an awesome voice though and I never got tired of his tone.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jihad Lahham

    I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Easy to read style makes the information quite accessible.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jay Quinn

    ♡♡♡

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Good info, but this books and the Ken Burns movie (especially) are pretty much the gospel according to Wynton Marsalis.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Klawitter

    A gorgeous book!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brock Williams

    audio

  24. 4 out of 5

    Heber

    The fascinating story of fascinating music. I listened to the audio version and was disappointed that there weren't more soundclips, but otherwise a highly recommendable book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Johniz Mamish

    Loved it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bjm Index

    2

  27. 4 out of 5

    William

    A well-rounded and balanced view of the history of jazz and its greatest artists. Even for those without an appreciation of the music, the stories of the musicians are worth the read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sweetgrass

    A must have

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin X.

    Read it many times after watching the Ken Burns Jazz. They go together.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Great Read!

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