The subject of jazz is beset by numerous controversies and questions. Is it a type of black music that has been appropriated by white artists and commercial entrepreneurs? Is it a kind of musical abberation that can be located somewhere between folk ...
and what is vaguely called "classical"? Or is it something singular and distinctive? Is it a form of protest against conventional social norms and values? Is it essentially visceral, an emotional foot-tapping experience? Or is it cerebral - more of an intellectual exercise? And - more to the point in this discussion - what of the idea that there is a 'pure' tradition of what is held to be 'true jazz' as opposed to what some see as the ersatz syncopated variety that has been promoted by imitators in order to command a wide audience? And where does pop music figure in all this? These are all arguments that have been offered at various times by detractors and supporters alike. These are all explored in this text with what are felt to be appropriate examples. So this is not exclusively a history of jazz, nor does it concentrate on great personalities (there are numerous texts on these), although both have to be included. It is more concerned with what jazz is about and how it can be appreciated - even by those who don't actually like it. It is about form and structure, and - not least - about skill, both in musicianship and improvisation.