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Various Artists: RCA Victor 80th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

The first five CDs of RCA’s invaluable and entertaining history lesson dramatize the compression and speed with which jazz matured into music of artistic substance. The last three are a reminder of how, since the late 1960s, the music’s course has slowed or, perhaps, stabilized. This massive collection begins with the first jazz recording, “Livery Stable Blues,” made in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. It ends with Antonio Hart’s “Uptown Traveler,” recorded in 1994.

Hearing it in sequence, the listener is stimulated to think of time-lapse photography of phenomena in the natural world, a flower opening or a supernova expanding. In less than a decade, jazz advanced from the primitive hokum of “Livery Stable Blues” to the harmonic sophistication of Bix Beiderbecke and Joe Venuti in Jean Goldkette’s band. In another ten years, the seeds of bebop had been planted. Comparable development in classical music took a couple of centuries.

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