Early Jazz

A Concise Introduction, from Its Beginnings through 1929

By Fumi Tomita

Subjects: Music, Music - Textbook, Popular Culture, American Studies
Series: Suny Press Jazz Styles
Hardcover : 9781438496382, 240 pages, February 2024
Paperback : 9781438496375, 240 pages, August 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-08-02

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Table of contents



1. Ragtime and Traveling Shows

2. The Blues

3. New Orleans and Early White Bands

4. King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton

5. The New York Scene: The Small Groups

6. Stride Piano

7. The New York Dance Band Sound: From James Reese Europe to Duke Ellington

8. Louis Armstrong

9. The Chicagoans and Bix Beiderbecke

10. Other Pioneering Soloists

11. Territory and Other Bands

12. Vocal Jazz

13. Jazz around the World


A concise history of early jazz, from its major innovators to its unrecognized heroes.


Early Jazz is an overview of the beginnings of jazz from its nineteenth-century roots through 1929, when elements of the Swing Era began to emerge. It is the first book on early jazz history in over fifty years and fills a compelling need for an update that reflects recent research. With a broad definition of jazz that encompasses the artistic and the commercial, the book's inclusive tone allows for a wide spectrum of musicians, including not only pioneering African American and white musicians but also those who are commonly skipped or skimmed over in jazz history textbooks—lesser-known sidemen, prominent instrumentalists, entertainers or novelty performers, women, vocalists, and American jazz musicians who introduced jazz on their travels around the world. Twenty songs are analyzed in depth, but no musical knowledge is required to understand or to read Early Jazz. The book is written as an introduction for fans, students, musicians, historians, scholars, and anyone who is interested in this fascinating era of jazz history.

Fumi Tomita is Associate Professor of Jazz Pedagogy and Performance at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the author of The Jazz Rhythm Section: A Manual for Band Directors.


"…Early Jazz is a history of jazz from its nineteenth-century roots through to 1929, when the Swing Era began to emerge. It's the first comprehensive history of early jazz since Gunther Schuller's classic title from the 60s, and Tomita sees his book as in some ways an update of it. Unlike Schuller, Tomita fully embraces entertainment as well as art … The book is overall a very enjoyable read." — UK Jazz News

"Tomita presents a richer concept of early jazz. Instead of looking for a rarefied art form through the lens of hindsight, he hears the popular elements and folk idioms crucial to the music's development (aspects that its contemporaries likely recognized). Far from diluting or compartmentalizing the story, his approach expands the narrative to include a broader range of musicians and factors … Early Jazz is a welcome introduction to a lot of great music." — Vintage Jazz Mart