I am happy to announce that my book, Why Jazz Happened, will be published by the University of California Press in December. The book is now available for pre-order at Amazon here.
In the book, I write about the history of jazz between 1942 and 1972—but with a twist. Instead of approaching jazz history solely from the music's perspective, I have identified 10 non-jazz events that played the biggest roles in changing jazz's direction. I also explain why jazz styles emerged and flourished when they did as a result of these events.
The book begins with the birth of bebop and ends with the entrenchment of jazz-rock fusion. Each chapter looks at why different jazz styles surfaced at specific moments in time by evaluating how technology, politics, labor, business, economics and demographics dramatically helped shape the music.
Here's how the University of California Press' catalog describes the book:
"Why Jazz Happened is the first comprehensive social history of jazz. It provides an intimate and compelling look at the many forces that shaped this most American of art forms and the many influences that gave rise to jazz’s post-war styles. Rich with the voices of musicians, producers, promoters, and others on the scene during the decades following World War II, this book views jazz’s evolution through the prism of technological advances, social transformations, changes in the law, economic trends, and much more.
"In an absorbing narrative enlivened by the commentary of key personalities, Marc Myers shows how events such as the draft, World War II and, later, the G.I. bill, profoundly influenced jazz’s sound, feel, and mystique. He describes the myriad events and trends that affected the music, among them the American Federation of Musicians strike in the early 1940s, changes in radio and concert promotion, the introduction of the long-playing record, the suburbanization of Los Angeles, the Civil Rights movement, the British invasion and the rise of electronic instruments. This groundbreaking book deepens our appreciation of this music by identifying many of the developments outside of jazz itself that contributed most to its texture, complexity and evolution."
I hope you pre-order Why Jazz Happened and have as much fun reading the book as I enjoyed writing it.
Jazz concerts extravaganza. Like what you see in the ad above? The 18-concert and presentation series is being held in Los Angeles on May 24-27. Download the full ad, and the action-packed series will blow your mind. Frankly, I don't know how Ken Poston of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute does it. To download the PDF, go here.
Comic relief. There's no jazz here, just a break for laughs. This is from the Abbott and Costello Show, which ran on TV from 1952 to 1954...
CD discoveries of the week. When the uninitiated hear the words "Cowboy Copas," they assume they are a generic description of a style of Western music—like "Jazz Ballads" or "Rock Anthems." But Cowboy Copas actually was the stage name of Lloyd Estel Copas, a country music singer. Copas was one of country's first stars in the early 1940s. Copas died in 1963 in a small-plane accident while touring (the same crash that claimed the lives of Patsy Cline, her manager Randy Hughes, and singer Hawkshaw Hawkins). Now Real Gone Music has released a vital two-CD set, Cowboy Copas: Complete Hit Singles A's & B's that definitively illustrates the beauty of Copas' voice for King Records. Sample any of the remastered tracks to hear how restorative and appealing Copas' voice was. Quite a dusty-road sense of swing and the sound of slow sunsets and pastoral optimism.
Dar Williams writes a mean song. And sings them beautifully. Her folk-country sound on In the Time of Gods (Razor & Tie) combines earnest, story-rich lyrics with a bar beat and rhythmic, acoustic instruments. Williams' control is extraordinary. She can bring her voice down to a hushed confessional or raise it to an angelic pitch. Best of all, there's a gone-camping warmth to her voice that makes you want to stretch your boots out to the fire. Sample I Am The One Who Will Remember Everything and Write the Number Down. To stream the first track, go here.
Gerald Bonnegrace in Paris has just released a jazz-club album that neatly fuses beats, strong bass lines and groovy Fender Rhodes licks with horns. Think Deodato meets Chicago and Hubert Laws. Instead of simply using horns for riffs, G's Way: Seventy Seven (Sound Sculpture) showcases solos by trumpeter Ronald Baker, Thomas Koenig on flute, Pierrick Pedron on alto sax and Jan Schumacher on flugelhorn. This is party music with a brain. Sample Latin Bubbles and Parissisco. You can give a full listen here.
DVD discovery of the week. When the Beatles formed Apple Records in 1968, it was a division of their larger U.K. corporate entity known as Apple Corps Ltd. The point of the label was to give musicians the Beatles fancied a shot at deserved fame through recordings. Among the artists signed were Mary Hopkin (Those Were the Days), James Taylor, Badfinger (If You Want It) and Billy Preston. But with the group unraveling by 1969, the company needed expert business management. Unfortunately for Apple, its original mission slowly began to deteriorate as bad decisions were made and the Beatles as individual artists became the label's dominant clients. The whole un-Beatles-like story of Apple's decline has been documented in the DVD Strange Fruit: The Beatles' Apple Records. A fascinating look at the corporate go-cart the Beatles built and how Apple became just another artist-eating machine.
Oddball album cover of the week. Since we're on a Zoot Sims kick lately, I couldn't resist this one for Bronjo, which was a short-lived label in the late 1950s that was part of New York's Seeco Records. This LP paired Sims with Bob Brookmeyer and was recorded in January 1956. The cover may illustrate the art of jazz but the dreadful work itself seems to have been painted in the pointless-ulism style.