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Poised to become a jazz classic, Gary Giddins' Visions of Jazz: The First Century contains fewer than 78 chapters illuminating the lives of virtually all major figures in jazz history. From Louis Armstrong's renegade style trumpet playing to Frank Sinatra's intimate crooning, jazz critic Gary Giddins continually astonishes us with his unparalleled insight. In just a few lines, he captures the essence of Louis Armstrong, He could telegraph with a growl or a rolling of his eyes his independence, confidence, and security. As the embodiment of jazz, he made jazz the embodiment of the individual. Giddins maintains, contrary to the opinion of most jazz enthusiasts, that Armstrongs voice was as much an integral part of creating jazz singing as his trumpet was to creating jazz. Perhaps the most remarkable chapters in the book are those that do pay tribute to the great jazz singers. Billie Holiday profoundly impacted music history, and Giddins eloquently hors her gutted voice, drawled phrasing, and wayworn features. Many artists, such as Irving Berlin and Rosemary Clooney, have been traditionally dismissed by fans and critics as merely popular derivatives of true jazz. Giddins finally opens the doors of jazz to include these musicians. In addition to this, he devotes an entire quarter of this volume to young, active jazz artists. No other book has so boldly expanded the horizon of jazz and its influences. Visions of Jazz is an evocative journey through the first one hundred years of jazz that will captivate-and challenge-musicians, music critics, and music lovers.
Gary Giddins is the jazz critic for the Village Voice. Two of his previous books, Riding on a Blue Note and Rhythm-a-ning, are available from Oxford.