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Book Review: The Giants of Jazz (Reissue)
Author: Studs Terkel
By Matthew S. Robinson
(more articles from this author)
2004-12-31
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Book Title: “Giants of Jazz”
Author: Studs Terkel
Publisher: The New Press
Length: 203 pages
Cost: $22.95 (Hardcover)

Jazz is a complicated phenomenon. Over 100 years after its inception, nobody can tell you exactly when or where that magic event actually took place. In his latest collection of oral history, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel takes a shot and, though it may not include every detail, it is a strong first step.

Instead of trying to ascertain exactly where and when Jazz began, Terkel introduces his readers to a baker’s dozen of some of the genre’s most prominent characters, depicting the lives and contributions of each through historical data, personal anecdotes, spare illustrations and a selective discography. From the tragic tales of Bix Beiderbeck, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker to the triumphs of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman, Terkel investigates the story of Jazz through the stories of some of the people who helped shape it.

While some may debate about who others who might have been included in this collection, Terkel admits to being one of them. "Thirteen lives do not tell the whole story," he says in the final chapter. "Jazz is the music of multitudes." And with the help of Terkel’s well-researched and lyrically-written book, even greater multitudes can now be introduced to its timeless magic.

For more information and to contact the author, and to sign up for the author’s newsletter, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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