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Poised to become a jazz classic, Gary Giddins' Visions of Jazz: The First Century contains no fewer than 78 chapters illuminating the lives of virtually all major figures in jazz history. From Louis Armstrong's renegade style trumpet playing to Frank Sinatra's intimate crooning, jazz critic Gary Giddins continually astonishes us with his unparalleled insight. In just a few lines, he captures the essence of Louis Armstrong, "He could telegraph with a growl or a rolling of his eyes his independence, confidence, and security. As the embodiment of jazz, he made jazz the embodiment of the individual." 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. Perhaps the most remarkable chapters in the book are those that do pay tribute to the great jazz singers. Billie Holiday profoundly impacted music history, and Giddins eloquently honors 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 jazz. Giddins finally opens the doors of jazz to include these musicians. In addition to this, he devotes an entire quarter of this volume to young, active jazz artists. No other book has so boldly expanded the horizon of jazz and its influences. Visions of Jazz is an evocative journey through the first one hundred years of jazz that will captivate-and challenge-musicians, music critics, and music lovers.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195132410
ISBN-10: 0195132416
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 155mm x 46mm)
Pages: 704
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 18-May-2000
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » 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)


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Author Biography - 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 Oxford.

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