Why Jazz?: A Concise Guide

Oxford University Press
Free sample

What was the first jazz record? Are jazz solos really improvised? How did jazz lay the groundwork for rock and country music? In Why Jazz?, author and NPR jazz critic Kevin Whitehead provides lively, insightful answers to these and many other fascinating questions, offering an entertaining guide for both novice listeners and long-time fans. Organized chronologically in a convenient question and answer format, this terrific resource makes jazz accessible to a broad audience, and especially to readers who've found the music bewildering or best left to the experts. Yet Why Jazz? is much more than an informative Q&A; it concisely traces the century-old history of this American and global art form, from its beginnings in New Orleans up through the current postmodern period. Whitehead provides brief profiles of the archetypal figures of jazz--from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Wynton Marsalis and John Zorn--and illuminates their contributions as musicians, performers, and composers. Also highlighted are the building blocks of the jazz sound--call and response, rhythmic contrasts, personalized performance techniques and improvisation--and discussion of how visionary musicians have reinterpreted these elements to continually redefine jazz, ushering in the swing era, bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, and the avant-garde. Along the way, Why Jazz? provides helpful plain-English descriptions of musical terminology and techniques, from "blue notes" to "conducted improvising." And unlike other histories which haphazardly cover the stylistic branches of jazz that emerged after the 1960s, Why Jazz? groups latter-day musical trends by decade, the better to place them in historical context. Whether read in self-contained sections or as a continuous narrative, this compact reference presents a trove of essential information that belongs on the shelf of anyone who's ever been interested in jazz.
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About the author

Kevin Whitehead is the longtime jazz critic for National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" and has written about jazz for many publications, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Down Beat, and the Village Voice. He is the author of New Dutch Swing (1998), and his essays have appeared in such collections as Da Capo Best Music Writing 2006, Jazz: The First Century, and The Cartoon Music Book.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jan 5, 2011
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Pages
184
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ISBN
9780199753109
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Language
English
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Genres
Music / Genres & Styles / Jazz
Music / Instruction & Study / Appreciation
Music / Reference
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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“In this book I hope to reach a new audience with the positive message of America’s greatest music, to show how great musicians demonstrate on the bandstand a mutual respect and trust that can alter your outlook on the world and enrich every aspect of your life–from individual creativity and personal relationships to conducting business and understanding what it means to be American in the most modern sense.”
–Wynton Marsalis

In this beautiful book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning musician and composer Wynton Marsalis explores jazz and how an understanding of it can lead to deeper, more original ways of being, living, and relating–for individuals, communities, and nations. Marsalis shows us how to listen to jazz, and through stories about his life and the lessons he has learned from other music greats, he reveals how the central ideas in jazz can influence the way people think and even how they behave with others, changing self, family, and community for the better. At the heart of jazz is the expression of personality and individuality, coupled with an ability to listen to and improvise with others. Jazz as an art–and as a way to move people and nations to higher ground–is at the core of this unique, illuminating, and inspiring book, a master class on jazz and life by a brilliant American artist.

Advance praise for Moving to Higher Ground

“An absolute joy to read. Intimate, knowledgeable, supremely worthy of its subject. In addition to demolishing mediocre, uniformed critics, Moving to Higher Ground is a meaningful contribution to music scholarship.”
–Toni Morrison

“I think it should be in every bookstore, music store, and school in the country.”
–Tony Bennett

“Jazz, for Wynton Marsalis, is nothing less than a search for wisdom. He thinks as forcefully, and as elegantly, as he swings. When he reflects on improvisation, his subject is freedom. When he reflects on harmony, his subject is diversity and conflict and peace. When he reflects on the blues, his subject is sorrow and the mastery of it–how to be happy without being blind. There is philosophy in Marsalis’s trumpet, and in this book. Here is the lucid and probing voice of an uncommonly soulful man.”
–Leon Wieseltier, literary editor, The New Republic

“Wynton Marsalis is absolutely the person who should write this book. Here he is, as young as morning, as fresh as dew, and already called one of the jazz greats. He is not only a seer and an exemplary musician, but a poet as well. He informs us that jazz was created, among other things, to expose the hypocrisy and absurdity of racism and other ignorances in our country. Poetry was given to human beings for the same reason. This book could be called “How Love Can Change Your Life,” for there could be no jazz without love. By love, of course, I do not mean mush, or sentimentality. Love can only exist with courage, and this book could not be written without Wynton Marsalis’s courage. He has the courage to make powerful music and to love the music so, that he willingly shares its riches with the entire human family. We are indebted to him.”
–Maya Angelou
(Meredith Music Resource). A "must have" exciting collection of favorite tips from 57 of today's most outstanding educators, performers, and industry pros in the jazz education world. This is an ideal source that contains proven successful suggestions that will not only aid the teacher/director from junior high school to university levels, but the conductor and performer novice to professional! Performance tips on instrument technique, rehearsals, programming, technology, improvisation and much more! Enjoy this quick-to-read enjoyable book that will inform and inspire creativity and improvement at all levels. Sample recipes include: Jamey Abersold, legendary jazz educator and publisher, NEW Jazz Master and LeJENd of Jazz Education Honoree, Advanced Jazz Improve, How to Cook! ; John Clayton, Grammy award winning Bassist and composer, JEN Vice-President Left Hand Bass-ics ; Dennis DiBlasio, jazz saxophonist with Maynard Ferguson and others, arranger, composer, educator, Get Started Improvising by Using a Single Scale-Heat, Simmer, Boil!; Diane Downs, founder and artistic director of the renowned Louisville Leopard Percussionists, All About the Blues! ; Dr. Lou Fischer, co-founder/past president of the Jazz Education Network, performer, composer, author, Big Band Shake 'n Bake Successful Performance Tips ; Dan Haerle, faculty/Regents professor in Jazz studies at the UNT 25 years, LeJENds of Jazz Education recipient, Expand Your Palette a taste of Voicings ; Dave Liebman, NEA Jazz Master, LeJENd of Jazz Education, award winning performer, lecturer, author, Beyond the Music Jazz Education in the Century of Change ; Darmon Meader, distinguished vocalist, arranger, and saxophonist, founder/performer New York Voices, Stir, Don't Shake Recipe for Vocal Improv ; Bob Mintzer, 23-year member of Yellowjackets, Grammy award-winning big band leader and composer of big band music performed globally, Spice Up your Life with Music words from one who knows! ; Dr. Gary Motley, recognized by National Endowment for the Arts, Great American Jazz Piano Competition, and American Composers Forum, Jazz and the iPad Add this to your Menu! ; Dr. Larry Ridley, educator, performer, authors and is founder/executive director for the African-American Jazz Caucus, Inc., (AAJC), Jazz Gumbo, sage advice ; Paris Rutherford, Regents Professor Emeritus of Jazz, Univ. of North Texas 30 years, author, arranger, LeJENds of Jazz Education recipient, Recipe for Arranging Amazing Vocal Jazz Goodies .
One of jazz’s leading critics gives us an invigorating, richly detailed portrait of the artists and events that have shaped the music of our time. Grounded in authority and brimming with style, Playing Changes is the first book to take the measure of this exhilarating moment: it is a compelling argument for the resiliency of the art form and a rejoinder to any claims about its calcification or demise.

“Playing changes,” in jazz parlance, has long referred to an improviser’s resourceful path through a chord progression. Playing Changes boldly expands on the idea, highlighting a host of significant changes—ideological, technological, theoretical, and practical—that jazz musicians have learned to navigate since the turn of the century. Nate Chinen, who has chronicled this evolution firsthand throughout his journalistic career, vividly sets the backdrop, charting the origins of jazz historicism and the rise of an institutional framework for the music. He traces the influence of commercialized jazz education and reflects on the implications of a globalized jazz ecology. He unpacks the synergies between jazz and postmillennial hip-hop and R&B, illuminating an emergent rhythm signature for the music. And he shows how a new generation of shape-shifting elders, including Wayne Shorter and Henry Threadgill, have moved the aesthetic center of the music.

Woven throughout the book is a vibrant cast of characters—from the saxophonists Steve Coleman and Kamasi Washington to the pianists Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer to the bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding—who have exerted an important influence on the scene. This is an adaptive new music for a complex new reality, and Playing Changes is the definitive guide.
 The sound and the fury…

On a dark night in Pennsylvania, a jazz legend met his death. But now, in the heat and light of Las Vegas, the sound of Clifford Brown’s soaring trumpet is coming back to life. Because a man named Evan Horne, who knows all about jazz and pain, is unraveling a puzzle that reaches back forty years to Brown’s last hours—and that has already gotten one person killed.

Horne was called to Las Vegas to authenticate some recordings purported to be the lost tapes of Clifford Brown. But when a murder interrupts his listening session, Horne becomes the key player in a dangerous duet. Carrying a worn old trumpet that may have belonged to Clifford Brown himself, Horne is pursuing the truth behind an audiotape that may be worth a fortune, may be a hoax, and may be just one haunting melody in a killer’s murderous obsession…

Praise for THE SOUND OF THE TRUMPET:

“Well written, plausible, and down to earth; recommended.” —Library Journal

“Fascinating insider information on various aspects of the jazz world. A must for jazz fans, who will appreciate Moody’s grasp of the music.” —Booklist

“When Bill Moody writes about dead jazz musicians, you can hear the blue notes bouncing off the walls.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Moody writes beautifully…a gallery of colorful figures…distinctively pleasurable.” —Publishers Weekly

“For a lively trip into the…world of jazz musicians, and murder, there’s no better guide than Bill Moody.” —Tony Hillerman, author of the Leaphorn and Chee mysteries

 

For a limited time only! Purchase BIRD LIVES! for just $2.99 and get a link to download the first book in this series, SOLO HAND, for FREE!

 

For jazz pianist Evan Horne, things couldn’t be better: His hand has healed, he’s getting gigs at some of the Southern California clubs, and he’s even been approached about a recording contract. He couldn’t have planned it any better. What he never considered, though, was that a murderer was going to add some startling improvisations…

 

The dead sax player was someone many in the traditional jazz community wouldn’t miss; he was, after all, just another Kenny G clone, someone capitalizing on an uneducated public’s willingness to support “smooth jazz” while the heirs to the tradition and music of Charlie Parker—“Bird” to the real fans—were starved for work.

 

It is immediately clear to Horne that the murderer must have known that Parker was one of the greatest and most influential men to wet a reed. That’s the only reason the words “Bird Lives” were scrawled on the wall above the body, the same words that appeared on walls all over the world after Parker’s death…and that soon appear next to a second corpse. With a tie-in like that, it is no surprise that the cops turn to Evan; he’d helped them before when death stalked the music community. This time, though, helping could cost him his future…and his life.

 

Praise for BIRD LIVES!

 

“The jazz esoterica and the unusual serial killer should keep Evan Horne fans reading.” —Publishers Weekly

 

“The witty premise and all the jazz talk will more than satisfy series fans.” —Booklist

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