James Lincoln Collier is a trained historian who has studied and played jazz and is, unlike many music critics, able to understand the technical aspects of the music about which he writes. His essays ar invariably well researched and carefully thought out, and he has studied in depth many areas of jazz history that other jazz writers have examined only superficially.
In “The Inevitability of Jazz in America,” Collier discusses the development of jazz in its historical context, shedding much light on this quintessentially American form of music by examining the social forces that helped to shape it. In “The Rise of Individualism and the Jazz Solo,” Collier focuses on the shift from the emphasis on collective playing in early jazz to the emphasis on the individual player and the jazz solo in later jazz. Although later jazz soloists prided themselves on never playing a solo the same way twice, for example, it was common practice among earlier jazz artists to repeat solos. The chapter “Hot Rhythm” is particularly interesting because it discusses the fact that jazz rhythm, although it is viewed by many jazz writers as being the most important element of the music, has almost never been seriously examined by musically literate critics. Collier points out that numerous jazz writers have paid lip service to the importance of rhythm in jazz while avoiding serious discussion of the subject. In addition, the comments that some well-known critics have...
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