Marc Myers: Why Jazz Happened

Most of the jazz books that you read focus on either specific artists like Coltrane, Armstrong or Duke, or into specific genres like Bebop or Free Jazz. Marc Myers takes the evolution of jazz from an entirely different and quite fresh angle in that he focuses on the various American social aspects of what actually led to the creation of various forms of the music. He takes the sounds of the eras but looks at it through the microscope of the events like musician’s unions,the G.I. Bill,  the Civil Rights Movement, the draft, Watergate, the long playing record, and even the suburbanization of America as catalysts for the various styles and evolutions of jazz. Fascinating insights as to the reasons that swing turned to bop and then to “cool” and beyond are like a history course on “what ifs.” Little things like the prohibitive expense of union musicians caused big bands to turn into small combos, or the GI Bill giving “legit” education to guys like Bill Holman and Buddy Collette lead to sophisticated West Coast material. The sounds of Dizzy, Bird, Miles, Coleman and Coltrane are both a background soundtrack and a Greek Chorus to the social changes from the Depression to the  WWII era and later.  Fascinating vignettes of musicians, bands, orchestras and songs abound in this epic feeling work that will keep you thumbing through old recordings to see the logical progression of the sounds of America’s classical music.

University of California Press

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