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The Evolution of Jazz in Britain 1880-1935

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The Evolution of Jazz in Britain 1880-1935
Catherine Parsonage
Hardcover; 322 pages
ISBN: 0 7546 5076 6
Ashgate
2005

Parsonage's eminently readable history of jazz in turn-of-the-centuries Britain debunks the notion that Europe has been a uniformly enthusiastic haven for jazz appreciation. Early during its development and export, it had a pretty rough go of it.

What is important to realize is that jazz, before it was marketed as "America's classical music or had appeal to intellectuals, was as vulnerable to trends, ill-informed critics and flippant listeners as pop music. This discrepancy about modern perceptions of jazz are even starker when discussed in terms of British music hall shows, sheet music and radio in practical terms or racial stereotypes and empirical mindsets in theoretical ones. Parsonage's opening section gives a thoroughly fascinating account of how jazz, still nascent in America, was brought to Britain through minstrel shows and Dixieland bands, all of whom received treatment far from what would be the case fifty years later. The second part of the book is full of detailed analysis of the various cultural artifices that would eventually turn into what readers today identify as jazz.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the murky beginnings of jazz, Parsonage's book is valuable aid for comprehension and assessments uncolored by national pride or selective memory.


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