Jazz Readings

I picked up Jazz: A Century of Change for my plane rides, and it turns out to be an invaluable reading on jazz criticism. From defining the word jazz to the analysis of early jazz, swing era, and bebop to the drug and race issues, jazz scholar Lewis Porter pulls together informative essays and incorporates them into specific topics to illustrate his presentation. One of my favorite pieces is “The Technique of the Jazz Singer” by Richard Rodney Bennett, in which the author uses Billie Holiday to demonstrate what it takes to be a true jazz vocalist. Bennett writes, “I feel simply that a singer who is at his best with jazz accompaniment and who naturally sings freely and ‘swing’ is singing jazz.” In addition to positive articles, Porter also includes negative excerpts to give readers both sides of the controversies, including a letter from Wynton Marsalis responses to the Voice’s jazz critic Kevin Whitehead. A Century of Change is highly recommended for those who are interested in the discussions of jazz beyond the music and the history.