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Perspectives and Objectives
a noted west coast jazzman startled me by asking: "Who is Bessie Smith?" There are also several musical illustrations, with analyses, of solos by performers most of whom have never before been the subjects of this kind of scrutiny in a jazz book.
I have not attempted to present the personal stories of these artists, most of whom were represented in Hear Me Talkin' To Yay edited by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff; nor is there any extensive attention to the African backgrounds and other pre-jazz historic data, since this would merely duplicate the exhaustive documentation in Dr. Stearns' The Story Of Jazz*
The main intent of these chapters is to focus attention on the comparatively small number of artists who are key figures in their respective categories. There is a secondary group in each chapter whose contributions, though of no major significance to jazz history, have given considerable pleasure to fellow-musicians and jazz lovers. Though every artist in the leading group has been mentioned, the inclusions and omissions in the second category have necessarily been to some extent arbitrary, since the number of those who have played first-class solos at some period in the history of recorded jazz runs into the thousands.
After all the dust of critical controversy has settled, it will be found in due course that the musicians whose contributions deserve to be remembered will survive regardless of how they fared at the critics' hands (witness the cases of Gillespie and Parker, both crucified in print at the time of their struggle for a break-through to esthetic acceptance). It will also be found that no matter where we draw the lines between jazz and popular music, classical music, Afro-Cuban, Latin-American and all the other musical forms that impinge upon jazz in varying degrees, the music that has in it an honesty and freshness of conception, allied with conviction and musicianship and integrity in its execution, regardless of whether or not it be called jazz, will survive in the record collections of our children and of the generations to come.
* Nor have I padded the pages with recitals of biographical facts, which can be found in my own reference books, The Encyclopedia of Jazz and The Encyclopedia Yearbook of Jazz,