There’s a new book out by music writer Marc Meyers that takes a different run at the story of jazz, and it’s worth checking out. Meyers has written a great mass of articles for The Wall Street Journal about jazz, including many to-the-point interviews, and he also has a masters in US history from Columbia University. So Why Jazz Happened has the pedigree of promise.
Like a good journalist, Myers focuses on a clear story, backed up by copious interviews with sources that certainly know what really happened. One criticism I have of the book is that it’s maybe too narrow and defined—almost as if it doesn’t want to muddy the clarity of the argument it’s making, despite that fact that—c’mon man—there’s never one reason why things happen in the arts.
That said, Why Jazz Happened makes its points like a snazzy lawyer in the courtroom: zip, zam, zot. And here’s the book in a nutshell: since World War Two, a series of non-musical events in the culture had a huge impact on the direction of jazz, with changes in business practice, technology, recording format, and social developments pushing the music to places it might not otherwise have gone. Each of Myers’ arguments constitutes a chapter in the book, and each illuminates a part of the story of jazz that has only partly been told before—and never with this focus.
Read the entire column here: Why Jazz Happened