A Century of Jazz

Joel Roberts By

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A Century of Jazz Roy Carr
Da Capo Press, 1997

1997 is probably as good a year as any to celebrate the centenary of jazz. Using the earliest known reference to legendary New Orleans trumpeter Buddy Bolden as a starting point, Roy Carr and a team of British writers and editors have compiled A Century of Jazz, a richly-illustrated chronicle and guided tour through the first hundred years of the music that came to be known as "jazz."

The tour begins, naturally, in New Orleans, with the only surviving picture of Bolden and his band. It continues across the decades to most of the expected stops on any jazz itinerary: Chicago in the Roaring Twenties; Harlem in the heyday of the Cotton Club; 52nd Street at the birth of bebop; California for the cool jazz scene; onto Europe, Japan, and Latin America as jazz spreads around the globe; and right up to the present with the emergence of the acid jazz scenes in London and New York. The editors' very inclusive definition of jazz allows for chapters on such wildly juxtaposed topics as the Western Swing of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys; the '70s funk of Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown and Kool &the Gang; and the European free jazz of Jan Garbarek and Lars Gullin.

The book contains over 300 illustrations, including photographs of all the great names in the music, plus album covers, concert posters, and every type of jazz art. Chapters are devoted to all the major genres and movements in jazz and related popular music, and brief bios and discographies are provided for key figures like Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, and Ornette Coleman. Although this is not the place to go for a definitive or critical history of the music, A Century of Jazz does offer a lively and worthwhile overview of jazz in its many forms.


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