Peter Townsend is senior lecturer in the School of Music and Humanities at the University of Huddersfield in England.
Townsend's book is well suited to the casual reader, providing a detailed account of the history and theory of jazz music that is broad and deep but still greatly accessible. He explains the key elements of rhythm, harmony, and improvisation that define the music; the introduction of the jazz solo and famous soloists; and the "swing era," which brought the music to the forefront of popular music in the 1930s and 1940s. He then departs on an exploration of jazz's broader role in American culture--its reflection in other art forms and its influence on nonmusical art forms such as literature, film, and dance. Such theoretical discussions of jazz have often left the casual reader behind, but Townsend's discussion of jazz's influences on writers such as Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac are enlightening and accessible. Townsend challenges the curious reader to go beyond a traditional understanding of what music is and does and look at it in a broader social context.--Ted Leventhal "Booklist"