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New Early-Jazz Writings Anthology

For those of you who, like me, sit around and wonder what Frank and Burt Leighton had to say about jazz in the January 6, 1922, edition of Variety, then do I have a book for us: Jazz in Print (1856-1929): An Anthology of Selected Early Readings in Jazz History is a fascinating new collection from Pendragon Press’ Musicological Series.

Editor Karl Koenig (pictured) states, “This anthology was compiled to help the scholar working on the origins and evolution of jazz,” and based on the bare-bones design (an oversized hardcover with no dust jacket or photos) and $75 price tag, academia is the primary audience. But even casual fans of early jazz will be sucked into the varied accounts of writers who were wrestling to figure out what the hell was going on with music. From celebratory promotions to edgy condemnations, the chronologically arranged Jazz in Print (1856-1929) covers the spectrum of reactions.

The sharper folks might be wondering why the book starts in 1856. That’s because pre-jazz black music is traced, from funeral accounts in 1856 to minstrelsy in 1869 to ragtime accounts in 1899 to a 1917 article about the etymology of the word “jazz.” While many of the articles are less than enlightened-racially or musically speaking-they present jazz, and America, in all their messy infancy and glory.

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