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When The History of Jazz first appeared in 1998 it attracted a deluge of superlatives praising its encyclopaedic detail and impressively all-embracing scope, its incisive analysis, its sharp provocation to consider anew the point and purpose of its vast and varied subject and, not least, its engaging readability.

All of those qualities happily remain in this welcome second edition, for which musician, author and critic Ted Gioia has plundered recent research to bring things bang up to date.

Tracing the form’s roots back to the myriad traditions of pre-slavery Africa, Gioia shows how it emerged from the melting-pot of America’s inherited black diaspora to become a force of musical nature, evolving with almost rampant invention as it assimilated every available form of music it encountered while forging its own many-sided, multi-faceted template.

There’s much to cover here, but Gioia’s striking portraits of key figures in the development of the genre and his acute dissection of breakthrough styles balances erudition and enthusiasm with enviable aplomb.

He is especially readable when dealing with the larger than life personalities that dominated and defined jazz during its formative years and seeking to place them into a measurable context. There are insights aplenty into the life and music of such greats as Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and their genre- bending peers and successors like Dizzie Gillespie, arch advocate of ‘modern’ jazz in the 1940s; Miles Davies’ remarkable comeback from heroin-saturated oblivion at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 with a seminal performance of Round Midnight; Ornette Coleman’s dazzling experiments with atonality; Pat Metheny’s intense experiments in splicing together jazz and rock music; and, more recently, the sophisticated musical catholicism of Wynton Marsalis.

In all, Gioia’s deft distillation of jazz’s ever-shifting, perpetually mutating ability to inhabit both the mainstream and the underground is a rich and remarkable achievement, and one that it is hard to imagine being bettered.

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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