Catherine Parsonage has written the definitive history of jazz in Britain. And it's a great story! Having lived for many years in an American jazz cocoon, I was continually amazed by the multiple responses to the music in the British Isles. And Parsonage's compelling narrative makes it all the more vivid.
Krin Gabbard, Professor of Comparative Literature, State University of New York
In what is certain to become the standard work on the subject, Dr Parsonage highlights both the innovations which were beginning to attract the attention of some musicians, and the wider cultural connotations of the term ‘jazz’ … she has uncovered a rich seam of historical materials which offer fresh perspectives on the early development of jazz in the UK.
Pete Martin, Jazz UK (Available online here)
Overall, Parsonage’s book is a great contribution to our knowledge of jazz, and a much-needed text as far as Britain is concerned. Important as America was, and still is, in the development of the genre, Britain’s history is a fascinating one. And this serious, important, well-researched book is surely the best way of learning it.
Robert Gibson, MusicWeb International (Available online here)
Parsonage’s eminently readable history of jazz in turn-of-the-centuries Britain debunks the notion that Europe has been a uniformly enthusiastic haven for jazz appreciation. For readers who are unfamiliar with the murky beginnings of jazz, Parsonage’s book is valuable aid for comprehension and assessments uncolored by national pride or selective memory.
Andrey Henkin, All About Jazz – New York, April 2006 (Available online here)
The Evolution of Jazz in Britain by Catherine Parsonage is based on a great deal of meticulous, painstaking research. The beginnings of minstrelsy, the availability and subject matter of sheet music dealing with jazz and ragtime, the beginnings of jazz criticism, the popular reaction to touring revues and visits from the likes of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, the social milieu in which jazz was played: all these subjects have been scrupulously examined by Catherine Parsonage in this extraordinarily thorough study of how an apparently ‘alien’ art form established itself in Britain.
Chris Parker, Vortex Jazz Club Book Reviews, April/May 2006 (Available online here)
Catherine Parsonage's "The Evolution of Jazz in Britain 1880-1935" [is] a book so supremely important, its sparing coverage in review is not just regrettable but potentially tragic. ... an incomparable treatise, bursting with authenticated and cited references. ... I really can't recommend this book too highly. Its research sources (cited page by page) are impeccable; its style is readable, its index comprehensive and its information both new and vital. Catherine Parsonage has done British jazz an inestimable favour by favouring a subject (all too often dismissed, in the past, as merely a black-and-white copy of the technicolour American original) with the kind of needlepoint examination which both graces and hugely enlarges it. In my view, very few jazz books anywhere can surpass this one for excellence.
Digby Fairweather, The Jazz Rag, Issue 94 Winter 2006
Like a morning of crisp sunshine, this is a sober, eye-opening approach to the author's stated subject that will never likely be bettered, unless she herself follows-up with a later edition. This is a subject that has sadly been ignored by rigorous jazz historians in the past and the author has come along to sift through all manner of archives and libraries in an effort to get at the truth. She knows her jazz and has enviable brain chops in music theory. ... this work is beyond receiving a charitably good review, for everyone who reads it will spill their coffee in order to howl out, "Wow!" ... If you care about the early acceptance of jazz, this is one neck-tingling read.
Andy Simons, IAJRC Journal, Volume 39 December 2006
... Parsonage in her impressive The Evolution of Jazz in Britain, 1880-1935 ... demonstrate[s] in rich historical detail how the changing values associated with North American jazz, by critics as well as British musicians, intersected with and intensified already existing debates about the impact of modernity, the United States and popular culture in British society. ... such inventiveness and an ear detail ... makes for rewarding reading and contributes significantly to our understanding of the relationship between the origins of jazz in the United States and its subsequent assimilation by musicians in Britain.
Nicholas Gebhardt, Popular Music, Volume 26 Issue 2 May 2007