Jazz : The American Theme Song

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Praised by the Washington Post as a `tough, unblinkered critic,' James Lincoln Collier is probably the most controversial writer on jazz today. His iconoclatic articles, and his acclaimed biographies of the jazz greats continue to spark debate in jazz circles. With the publication of Jazz: The American Theme Song, Collier does nothing to soften his reputation for hard-hitting, incisive commentary. Questioning everything we think we know about jazz - its origins, its innovative geniuses, the importance of improvisation and spontaneous inspiration in a performance - and the jazz world, these ten provocative essays on the music and its place in American culture overturn tired assumptions and will alternately enrage, enlighten, and entertain.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 335 pages
  • 147.32 x 213.36 x 35.56mm | 566.99g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195079434
  • 9780195079432

Review Text

Ten philosophical essays on issues in jazz scholarship from jazz-historian and children's author Collier (author of controversial biographies of Armstrong, Ellington, and Goodman, among other works). Collier discusses the rise of jazz in America; the importance of the soloist; jazz rhythm; jazz as art versus jazz as popular music; the contributions of blacks, whites, and Creoles to the birth of jazz; jazz scholarship; and local jazz. He does much to debunk common myths about jazz: that it was created solely by black musicians; that improvisation was always central to performance; and that "swing," or the performer's unique sense of rhythm, is something that can be felt but not analyzed. Collier is unafraid to take on the establishment, attacking many jazz writers as presenting "the same dreary mish-mash of half-truths, guesswork, and ancient myths, many of them long since refuted." He sometimes makes mountains out of the small factual inaccuracies he finds in popular jazz writing, and, while he urges critics to live up to higher standards of academic scholarship, he attacks the academy for "homogenizing" the music as well as for driving away its original popular audience. A jazz musician himself, Collier's at his best when describing how a musician approaches the task of improvising: "The jazz musician at work is embedded in a world of sound that is saying things to him. He is like a naturalist who is able to instantly decipher the sounds coming to him...." Bound to blow fresh winds through the jazz academy - and to please those interested in watching the feathers fly. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About James Lincoln Collier

About the Author: James Lincoln Collier is the author of over fifty books. He has won a Newbery Honors Medal, a Christopher Medal, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. His books on music include biographies of jazz greats Armstrong, Ellington, and Goodman, and his articles on music appear regularly in many leading publications. Collier has worked as a jazz musician around New York for many years, and has played with groups in a dozen nations around the world.show more

Rating details

14 ratings
3.14 out of 5 stars
5 14% (2)
4 21% (3)
3 36% (5)
2 21% (3)
1 7% (1)
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