The History Of Jazz, By Ted Gioia

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The Independent Culture

Displaying Olympian knowledge of this protean genre, Gioia combines facts and background information in an absorbing narrative that tootles along, from ragtime which peaked in 1909, to the "struts and prances" of vocalist Jamie Cullum (born 1979).

In engaging asides, he informs us that the Lindy Hop dance was named after Lindbergh's Atlantic flight and Django Reinhardt's "Nuages" became "a defiant alternative anthem" in wartime France when "La Marseillaise" was banned.

Yet jazz writing is notoriously contentious and this impressive work is no exception. Gioia bestows a miserly two sentences on Miles Davis's hugely influential album In a Silent Way, while Duke Ellington's revelatory late trio recording Money Jungle is entirely omitted.