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Marc Myers: Why Jazz Happened

Ian Patterson By

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Myers explains the rise of hard-bop, the effect of the civil rights movement on jazz, and the embracing of a greater spiritualism in the music in lucid manner. Another chapter relates the enormous impact of the Beatles, when once again jazz's audience shrunk as record labels, radio stations and clubs rushed to jump on the Brit-pop bandwagon. The rise of the avant-garde is explained as a reaction to conformity and dissatisfaction with the status quo, socially and musically. Jazz-rock and jazz-fusion were, Myers says, jazz's response to electrification, mass amplification and the explosion in rock bands, huge record sales and vibrant audiences.

In the final chapter, the author summarizes trends in jazz since the 1970s, and concludes a highly engaging, thoroughly researched book thus: "Jazz's challenge going forward will be to attract new musicians who are able to find new ways of expressing the music that not only pay tribute to jazz's past but also interpret contemporary life in a way that resonates with new listeners." Recommended.

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