Marc Myers “Why Jazz Happened”

Unsolicited plug!

Marc Myers Why Jazz Happened

I don’t normally post about new books but this one is I think a significant event. Anyone following the daily blog of Jazz Wax (Marc Myers) – link in my blogroll – will be aware Marc has a new book out this week called “Why Jazz Happened”. Marc really knows his stuff and I have learned lots just dipping into the promo’s.  What I have read so far  suggests this is going to be a must-read book for anyone with an interest in understanding the evolution of  jazz 1942-72. That’s my thing exactly and its going to be top on my list for Santa.

The first four of seven “trailers ” are on YouTube, in the form of a couple of minutes introduction to each chapter

1.Myers talks about why he wrote a social history of jazz and the 10 unlikely events that had the greatest impact on jazz and its changing styles between 1942 and 1972.

2.From Ban to Bebop – about the first American Federation of Musicians’ recording ban (1942-1944) and how it inadvertently resulted in the first recordings of bebop by newly formed independent labels.

3. LPs and longer solos – about the market saturation of bebop, the impact of the G.I. bill on jazz, and how the 33 1/3 LP and magnetic tape led to longer solos

4. Hollywood and Hard Bop  –  about the rise of West Coast Jazz, how the 45-rpm and proliferation of independent radio stations helped R&B, and how hard bop emerged as a cross between West Coast trends and R&B’s energy.

5. Bias & Spiritual Jazz: about the deep impact on jazz of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 and the growing artistic frustration and fermement among musicians as large parts of the country ignored the decision or found ways to circumvent it, resulting in spiritual jazz.

6 .Rise of Fusion: about how the Beatles’ arrival in February 1964 caused jazz budgets at record labels to shrink and jazz executives to be shifted to pop-rock divisions. At first, jazz embraced pop, but as rock became an album form and concert crowds grew, so did speaker systems. To keep pace, jazz went electric in 1969 and cranked up the volume in concert arenas. The result was jazz-rock fusion.

7. Future of Jazz: about the reasons behind the slowing pace of jazz’s stylistic evolution. Without a more dynamic visual presence, jazz risks remaining a reparatory form and following in classical music’s footsteps rather than developing new and exciting styles that attract younger audiences.

Editorial Reviews from Amazon

Why Jazz Happened is a fantastic, eye-opening unfolding of the music and musicians who developed this spell-binding art between World War II and Watergate. Marc Myers shatters myths here, and treats jazz history like an epic saga. I lived and breathed this period during my extensive career in jazz, and this book brings a new perspective to the music’s golden era.”–Creed Taylor, multi-Grammy Award-winning jazz producer

“Marc Myers’s Why Jazz Happened is the first wide-ranging social history of jazz, a highly original attempt to portray and understand the music’s evolution by looking at it through the prism of non-musical historic events. The result is a book that will shape the way all subsequent commentators think and write about jazz history.”–Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong
“For newcomers to jazz and the global audience for whom this music is a vital part of their lives, Marc Myers has written a deeply illuminating and engaging portrait of the essence of jazz. He writes from the inside of jazz–the experiences of the musicians themselves, on the stand and in their own lives. This book is full of surprises. I lived and wrote during much of this period, but I found here a lot that I didn’t know.”–Nat Hentoff, author of At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene

LJCsaysLJC Says: I agree with a lot of what Myers says, however, he needs to follow the LondonJazzCollector to catch up on the vinyl jazz scene. If jazz needs a visual element, try holding a beautiful Reid Miles  Blue Note laminated cover. That’s what I call visual!

About the author

Marc Myers is a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, where he writes about jazz, rock, soul, and rhythm & blues as well as art and architecture. He blogs daily at, winner of the Jazz Journalists Association’s Blog of the Year Award.

LondonJazzCollector blogs every few days about collecting jazz on vinyl, the closest thing to experiencing jazz with the musicians-in-the-room. Great!

1 thought on “Marc Myers “Why Jazz Happened”

  1. Aha! Finally I know what to ask Santa for Christmas this year. Reading the Amazon comments from Nat Hentoff and Creed Taylor it sounds much like a ‘must have’.

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