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Reviewed by Cecelia Hopkins for Readers' Favorite
The Wonder of Jazz by Sammy Stein begins with the history of jazz in New Orleans, mentioning Ragtime, Dixieland, and the complex influences of international music. The author then attempts to define jazz according to structure, improvisation, and relationship to other genres, while also discussing the landmark contributions of key figures like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and John Hammond. Later chapters cover the response of society to jazz and its role at concerts, festivals, and artistic events. It also covers some of the obstacles and barriers musicians encounter. Reference is made to the politics of jazz cliques, which leads to the challenge of involving more women. Stein considers free jazz, the sixties, and jazz protests, while he also recounts family influences. The final chapters discuss the role of the music review and look to the future. A handy list of resources follows.
The Wonder of Jazz by Sammy Stein is an extremely informative and readable volume about music history. The writer acknowledges the range of music and musicians associated with the jazz style, making it clear that the scope is broad. I appreciated the inclusivity demonstrated throughout the book and the discussion of women musicians. I also enjoyed the way the author considered music from a variety of points of view, including historical, social, and personal. The explanations make the information accessible, so it was possible to relate to the information with only a hobbyist's interest and curiosity about music. The book provides the ideal introduction to a unique field.