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Jazz: The First Century by John Edward Hasse, editor

John Edward Hasse assembled capable writers, including Michael Brooks, John Litweiler and Kevin Whitehead, to contribute chapters to this coffee-table book, and numerous others to write sidebars. The principal writers involved come off pretty well, and no overview this general can be very enlightening to those of us who have read many of the same books as the authors, but I do think there’s a lot of room for improvement in Jazz: The First Century.

Two basic problems keep cropping up. One is the modern post-TV, post-Internet format that presents everything in cute little boxes, literally and figuratively. The artsy (I guess) layout of the photos and colored screens on half the pages are merely distracting, but the USA Today-style graphics are obnoxious, and the sidebars are too short to be satisfying, though not too short for some tedious ax-grinding. The main articles laid out, like old schoolbooks, with bold-faced headings, which the text illuminates. Thus, we are told early on in big, bold letters of ^New Orleans’ Six Jazz-Creating Conditions^, half of which existed in not just the Big Easy but any large African-American community, while the others are linked with the evolution of jazz only by implication (and why six, anyway?). I doubt Hasse would have come up with this sort of thing were he not committed to the clumsy format.

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