Jazz fans should take a look at Terry Teachout's essay "All That Jazz," a review of Alyn Shipton's A New History of Jazz. Teachout emphasizes that the history of jazz should not be seen in terms of brilliant individuals alone but in terms of groups of people developing the music together.
He closes with a great quotation from Bill Evans: "Jazz is not a what, it is a how." Which reminds me of this great quotation from Thelonious Monk: "It's not the mistakes that count, it's what you do after them that counts."
(Poetry fans should note that the Ted Gioia referred to in Teachout's article is Dana Gioia's brother, who is a jazz pianist and historian. I heard him play a long time ago in Palo Alto.)