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Jazz - dubbed by Leonard Bernstein as 'the only original American art form' - is the music of a subject people moving from the shadow of slavery towards social justice. Its fascination lies both in its musical innovations and in the rich social history to which it bears witness. That history is recounted here from its beginnings to the present day through the lives of twelve great jazz-men, each of whom mastered his musical heritage, and then added to it with a personal contribution. All of these musicians were great twentieth-century composers, but since jazz is essentially an improvised musical language - themes being merely a starting point for the solos which follow - it is in this sense that their composing must be understood. Their story can touch us all: classical music-lovers will come to appreciate the subtle complexities of jazz, and experience the beauty of its raw passion; in the context of popular culture, fascinating lines of development are revealed in the tales of suffering and quiet triumph - for jazz is inextricably linked with the history of American blacks from slavery to civil rights; jazz devotees, too, can learn more of these musicians' vivid world from the testimonies of key witnesses, many recorded here for the first time.