A 40,000-year-long jam with an international cast of players and cultures.
The spirit of scat is definitely alive in the presentation, as each single-topic spread tosses together a busy collage of period images or photos with colored boxes filled with quick takes on a style or genre, significant instruments and technical innovations, and, for (relatively) more recent eras, select composers and performers from troubadour Castelloza to Rihanna. Moving quickly on from prehistoric bone flutes, the more-or-less chronological history focuses on the European and, later, North American scenes but does spare occasional nods for Indigenous and non-Western music. More often it lets distinctive styles from other continents take the stage—following introductions to Wagner and Puccini with a look at Asian opera, for instance, and giving Indipop, Afropop, J-pop, and K-pop quick solos of their own. Hip-hop and house music are invited to the party, but gangsta rap is not, nor is Tupac (or, for that matter, any reference to profanity, violence, or even drug or alcohol abuse). Still, themes of racial prejudice and identity do play through pages devoted to the blues, big bands, R&B, and rock-’n’-roll, and the balance of men and women artists is carefully measured from the outset. Frequent leads to relevant musical selections on the web furnish a soundtrack.
Quick, bright, danceable, and splashy, if only ankle deep. (Nonfiction. 11-13)