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Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz Paperback – 25 Oct 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc; New edition edition (25 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019514838X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195148381
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 5.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,374,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Remarkable book ... Astonishingly successful .... It tells the story of white jazz from Tom Brown's Ragtime Band to the big bands with meticulously researched detail and the awareness you would expect from such a noted cornettist and Bixophile. Lost Chords pretty much accomplishes the near impossible task of being simultaneously academic and popular." -- The Jazz Rag

About the Author

B>Richard M. Sudhalter is a highly respected musician, considered one of today's outstanding trumpet players. A noted critic, broadcaster, and historian, he was co-author of Bix: Man and Legend, still cited as the definitive Beiderbecke biography. He lives on Long Island's North Fork.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Dec 1999
Format: Hardcover
Sudhalter's book (sub-titled 'White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz 1915-1945)was bound to be controversial, given the sensitivity of the race question in jazz as in everything else. Since the mid-1930s, when 'serious' jazz criticism began, there has been a prevalent assumption amongst the majority of critics, of the innate superiority of black musicians, with whites cast as (at best) competent imitators.
Sudhalter sets himself the task of redressing the balance but steadfastly avoids 'revisionism' or anything that might give comfort to the 'great white hope' element. He also takes as given the fact that the music industry was "not interested in social reform" and that "its main beneficiaries were white".
If Sudhalter has an 'agenda' it is no more and no less than to urge that we listen to the best white musicians as powerful and creative forces in their own right and not prejudge them by making artificial and divisive comparisons with their black colleagues.
As a professional musician and band-leader, Sudhalter puts his case with the authority that comes of first-hand knowledge of his subject. The book contains some fascinating (and often moving) vignettes of such famous names as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Jack Teagaren as well as lesser-known figures like Adrian Rollini, the Boswell Sisters and the members of the Casa Loma Orchestra. A recurring sub-text is the fact that many 'white' musicians were themselves members of despised minorities, notably Jewish, Sicillian and Native American.
A sensitive look at a difficult subject, immaculately researched and beautifully written. An excellent guide to the entire history of pre-1945 jazz - black and white.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JJA Kiefte on 10 Mar 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
....and many more adjectives that sing this book's praises. Since I cannot possibly improve or elaborate on the excellent and succinct 1999 review, the only purpose of my doodling is to add an extra star to the inexplicable four from the anonymous 'customer'.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating, Readable, Essential, and Anti-Racist 5 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a monster. It's monsterously large, monsterously interesting, and monsterously important. But like most monsters, it can easily be misunderstood. As Mr. Givens, writing just before me has so well expressed, it corrects the sophmoric notion that early jazz was a solely American Black movement.
Unfortunately, it takes a unique record collection to compliment the text as you take in the rich, marvelously written narrative. I have such a collection (both black and white jazz) and it helped emormously to refer to it every few pages. This made reading this book a multi-media tour through my own record collection as well as a reading pleasure. Too bad that CD Mr. Givens mentions was not included with the book -- I would have made the points he makes that much more accessible to people without the music to refer to.
There are many interesting aspects brought up throughout the book. For example, the fact that Sicilians were so important to early jazz, and that white and black jazz, although differing in presentation and performance, evolved together and in relation to one another are two points well and truely made by the book.
As a matter of fact the book is so authoritative that I don't think it can't be successfully critiqued by anyone who does not have years of listening under his belt. I myself went through the early jazz journey, starting with the "jazz is black" point of view when I was in college. A sophomore in fact. We now know that even blues had a white/black evolution as well as jazz. It may be that one has to start at the black is everything perspective to get to the right point of view. I consider people who casually hold that point of view as not completing that journey.
It is also important to note that the book is beautifully written by someone who commands the language as well as the most accomplished novelist.
In any case, Lost Chords is possibly the most important book on jazz written since World War II. I certainly think so.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Excellent commentary on least common side of old debate 16 Sep 1999
By T. Givens - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Mr.Sudhalter has chosen to place himself in the center of the 82 year old debate over whether jazz is only a black innovation in music.

Although at first glance, many will instantly brand the book racist and anti-black, they will find (by actually reading the book) that Mr. Sudhalter is simply stating the case for jazz being both black and white, and he does so extremely well.

He cites actual events and circumstances, musical examples, and quotes from the musicians themselves, both white and black. The book relates how musicians respected and admired each other's talent, regardless of race; how the growth and development of jazz was a truly multi-cultural event in our history.

Mr. Sudhalter shows no lack of respect for anyone, except those narrow-minded jazz enthusiasts who refuse to consider the whole picture of jazz history.

'Lost Chords' just happens to cover the time frame in jazz that I really enjoy, so I was familiar with most of the musicians and music discussed. For those who aren't, I can recommend it as a way to appreciate where your choice of jazz came from, be it 50's jazz or 90's.

And by the last page, you may decide it's time to go buy some of the classic jazz in this book and decide for your yourself. (A companion CD is available, and I highly recommend it to anyone reading this book).
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
More than you have any right to hope for... 3 Mar 2001
By Richard M. Rollo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not a mere antidote to political correctness in jazz criticism; Lost Chords is a prewar cultural history, a lesson in music structure, a history of woodwind instruments, a guide to innovations in guitar tuning, AND MORE. It shows the musicians as human beings with all their failings, humor, drives, hard work, and talent. I especially loved the account of the bass sax --- an instrument that looks like it could double as a moonshine still --- and its usefulness in the early days of sound recording. Sudhalter admonishes us to listen to the music and to make up your own mind. Exactly right. A good place to start is Robert Parker's Bix Beiderbecke Great Original Performances 1924-1930 (available on Amazon) If you have ever heard an early 78 rpm record, you will be astonished at Parker's sound restoration.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Just the facts 14 Feb 2003
By Stephen J. Holroyd - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While a brilliant documentary, Burns' "Jazz" also reinforced the notion that jazz is exclusively an African-American artform. Fortunately, "Lost Chords" does much to blow away that misperception. While never belittling or downplaying the role of those African-American giants in jazz, this book does an outstanding job of profiling all of the individuals and bands who received short shrift from Burns: Steve Brown, who pretty much invented jazz bass playing; the Jean Goldkette Orchestra; Miff Mole; Frank Trumbauer; and may more. And he does so in a way that is both interesting to the casual fan (with anecdotes and such) and the hardened muso (excerpts of scores abound). A scholarly tome, this is a worthy addition for any jazz fan's library. I look forward to Volume II.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Complete pleasure -- spins the reader back to his/her youth. 6 Jun 1999
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The infinite attention to detail makes this a must for the jazz fan of all ages, particularly to one who became a jazz fan before 16 in San Francisco, and had the pleasure of hearing my first big band at the '39 Fair in San Francisco: one never forgets hearing Goodman, alive - and how! for the first time. I am still in communication with friends from that period and I am going to insist they get a copy.
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