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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.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.