In his engaging new book, Loft Jazz: Improvising New York in the 1970s, Michael C. Heller explores jazz communities in 1970s New York and simultaneously questions concepts of history, memory, truth, and scholarly authority related to the telling of jazz’s past. Loft Jazz is a reflexive ethnography that foregrounds the culling and framing entailed in constructing an historical narrative. Such transparency is the book’s primary strength, lending it a refreshing honesty and humility that contrasts deeply with the “first wave” of jazz scholarship and its often insufferable know-it-all-ism. Jazz scholarship has improved greatly from those early days, and this book is a welcome contrast to—and...

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