Visions of Jazz

Visions of Jazz : The First Century

4.16 (282 ratings by Goodreads)
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This text illuminates the lives major figures in jazz history. From Louis Armstrong's renegade style trumpet playing to Frank Sinatra's intimate crooning. The author, Giddins maintains, contrary to the opinion of most jazz enthusiasts, that Armstrongs voice was as much an integral part of creating jazz singing as his trumpet was to creating jazz. Tributes to the great jazz singers are also included. Billie Holiday profoundly impacted music history, and Giddins eloquently honours her "gutted voice, drawled phrasing, and wayworn features". Many artists, such as Irving Berlin and Rosemary Clooney, have been traditionally dismissed by fans and critics as merely popular derivatives of true more

Product details

  • Hardback | 702 pages
  • 160.02 x 233.68 x 53.34mm | 1,133.98g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 11 line drawings
  • 0195076753
  • 9780195076752

Review quote

"The publication of 'Visions of Jazz: The First Century' is a major event because Gary Giddins is our best jazz critic.... 'Visions of Jazz' is the finest unconventional history of jazz ever written--a brilliant, indispensable book.... Gary Giddins will simply bring you pleasure and joy. Who could ask for anything more?"--Alfred Appel Jr., The New York Times Book Review"The definitive compendium by the most interesting jazz critic now at work.... He knows his subject, his prose is interesting and graceful, his judgements are measured and fair, and the only camp of which he is a member is his own.... I find myself constantly hoping to be reaffirmed in my convictions when reading about his--which happens often enough to keep me ever curious about what he well say next. This, it seems to me, is what the relationship between critic and reader should be.... Giddins is always smart, always interesting and occasionally downright surprising.... Without laying out any grand theories, without pretense or pomposity, Giddins smoothly shifts gears and in so doing awakens one to the unexpected.... Unlike too many others inside the little world of jazz, Giddins has an expansive welcoming view of it.... Visions of Jazz is a celebration and reaffirmation of precisely that."--Jonathan Yardly, The Washington Post Book World"Visions of Jazz is Giddins' magnum opus, 690 pages of painstakingly researched devotion that reveal his remarkable catholicity of taste, or rather passion.... Giddins is that rarity, a jazz writer with a genuinely engaging literary style who ranks with other masters of this elusive craft--Otis Ferguson, Whitney Balliett and Gene Lees. He sweeps us along with a felicitous turn of phrase and trenchant wit.... A landmark destined to occupy a permanent niche on the shelf of essential jazz literature."--Grover Sales, The Los Angeles Timesshow more

About Gary Giddins

Gary Giddins is the jazz critic for the Village Voice. Two of his previous books, Riding on a Blue Note and Rhythm-a-ning, are available from more

Review Text

Giddins, a longtime Village Voice contributor and one of our most skillful jazz critics (Faces in the Crowd, 1992, etc.), offers a monumental work of ambition, an attempt to encapsulate a hundred years of jazz history in 79 essays on the music's great creators. Actually, more properly, this is about the progenitors of jazz, benchmark figures and some idiosyncratic characters who helped make it a unique art form. Readers will look in vain for some key musicians - no Sidney Bechet, Ben Webster, Woody Herman, Albert Ayler here. What they will find, however, should more than amply reward: a canny celebration of jazz as a hotbed of intransigent individuality, of creation-on-the-fly. On the threshold of its second century, jazz faces a crisis of historical interpretation. As Giddins writes, "Jazz has been taken up by the academy at a time when only the academy can keep track of it." Giddins has made no attempt to smooth out the complicated wrinkles of the schools, trends, and cycles of which jazz history seems to be made. But, while he brings an unerring critical intelligence to his analyses of the music and a formidable grasp of music theory and practice, his writing has grown so compressed and aphoristic through the years that it now has the burnished weightiness of, say, film critic Manny Father's work. Giddins has become a master of the lightning insight, the unexpected connection (his use of literary analogies is particularly apt). Visions raises some quibbles., and it is not a book to be read straight through, not surprising, given its length and intensity. Occasionally Giddins assumes too much knowledge of his readers. And a discography would help a lot. But this is an important book, one that any serious student of jazz will want to own. Deserves a place on the jazz bookshelf alongside the best of Martin Williams and Francis Davis, and you can't get much better than that. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

282 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 37% (105)
4 45% (128)
3 15% (41)
2 2% (6)
1 1% (2)
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