A Review of The Wonder of Jazz – Music That Changed the World
It’s brave to write about music. It’s certainly courageous to write about jazz – a genre that sometimes struggles to achieve the market share its fans think it should have. Sammy Stein accepts this challenge in the book The Wonder of Jazz.
Do I Have A Stein Book For You!
That’s right: along comes the book, The Wonder of Jazz – Music That Changed the World, from Sammy Stein. Obviously, it is about jazz music. Stein covers history; past and current quandaries of jazz musicians; the many circles of people who surround jazz ranging from fans to promoters to pundits; and the ways that jazz has influenced culture (and visa versa).
I think my first awareness of Sammy Stein was when I discovered the book Pause, Play, Repeat: The real impact of Covid-19 on musicians. Like The Wonder of Jazz, this book relies on first-hand experiences of musicians to frame the story. Even as the pandemic seems to be waning, Pause, Play, Repeat continues to be another worthy read.
In Jazz, Stein really knows her subject: inside and out. This is apparent from the first words of the book. She covers the inception of jazz, the sometimes bumpy roads by which it gained a hold in the music world, and a variety of thought-provoking trends. Along the way, she cites many authors connected with this genre of music.
Jazz Lovers Unite
As if her own knowledge and those citations weren’t enough, Stein also turns to input from numerous jazz musicians, managers, and promoters. Along the way, she discusses the many artists who changed the face of jazz and drops every familiar name along with a few who are not as well-known.
In particular, this book shines a light on the women of jazz. This is not surprising given Stein’s other books, notably Women in Jazz. Clearly, she is an advocate for women who perform jazz music. And rightly so.
Along the way, this author never misses a chance to demonstrate how jazz impacted society and culture. At every historical and contemporary turn, Stein capably depicts jazz’s deep influence on the world around it.
Get Your Jazz Here
If you are looking for unimpassioned writing about this subject, you may want to read elsewhere. The pages of The Wonder of Jazz are full of devotion to this musical idiom. As you turn each page, you’ll find that Stein demonstrates both her knowledge of the subject of jazz and her advocacy for the musicians who play it.
At the same time, Sammy Stein does not hold back where jazz culture needs to mature. In addition to the need to highlight women players, she outs a few dangerous ties that jazz has held during its history. Notable in this regard is her critique of drug use among jazz players.
All Due Consideration
Here’s the bottom line: I think you will enjoy reading this book and adding it to your library. This is already true for me. Every page is dense with the boisterous joy and occasional sadness that is jazz. I’m sure I will refer back to it often.
After reading the book, be sure to refer to the recommended recordings and dictionary at the end. These are a helpful resource, especially if you are just getting into jazz.