Books on Jazz?
May 3, 2006 at 9:35 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

Uncle Erik

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Lately, I've spent a lot of time at the bottom of the FM dial. In Los Angeles, that's 88.1, the jazz station. I never disliked jazz, but it never grabbed hold. Until now; it's growing on me.

I just ran a search for jazz book recommendations on Head-Fi, and the last thread was in 2002 and only had about a dozen replies.

Being a bit of an academic, I always read up on things before jumping in. I'd like to find two (or more) types of books:

1. A broad overview of the jazz field, and
2. A critical and authoritative book that lists specific recordings.

Have any of you read books like these? Or is there something else you think I should read? Please let me know. Any and all recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
 
May 3, 2006 at 2:01 PM Post #2 of 12

zumaro

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The Penguin Guide to Jazz is fairly comprehensive, and gives a lot to argue with and think about. It is also good in that while it covers all the predictable bases from the 50s and 60s, it is up to date in its listings, and wide ranging in its geographical reach.
 
May 3, 2006 at 2:18 PM Post #3 of 12

VicAjax

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Back about 12 years ago, when i was decided i wanted to know a little about the history of the music i was listening to, i picked up Jazz: America's Classical Music, by Grover Sales. it's short and easy to read, with a clean chronology that's uncluttered by self-conscious digressions or polluted by unwanted opinions.

it's certainly not the deepest, well-written history. but it's a solid survey that doesn't get overshadowed by the author's ego. and because it's straightforward, it makes other jazz books that much more fulfilling.
 
May 3, 2006 at 5:25 PM Post #4 of 12

Coltrane

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The Penguin Guide to jazz is indeed fantastic. I read it all the time, and the writers do an excellent job on each artist. Its basically 'record reviews' but really so much more. The newest edition (7th I believe) has records listed as 'core collection', albums that are necessary parts of a jazz collections. I agree with virtually all of them

The best book ever written on what it takes to play jazz and the musicians are doing is 'Thinking in Jazz.' A bit technical at times, but great if you are a musician or just wondering about what it takes to 'create' jazz.

There are several compilation books that are quite good. One is called 'Reading Jazz'. It is filled with hundreds of articles about pretty much every genre of jazz. It also includes many biographical and autobiographical accounts.
 
May 3, 2006 at 5:52 PM Post #5 of 12

bwu

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For the "broad overview," one of the more canonical and relatively recent books is Ted Gioia's The History of Jazz, which is pretty excellent (and popular among professors teaching jazz classes in colleges, from what I've heard).
 
May 3, 2006 at 10:49 PM Post #6 of 12

bigshot

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In general, I hate Jazz books unless they're straight biographies. But I do like The Rise and Fall of Popular Music. It's available online for free...

http://www.musicweb.uk.net/RiseandFall/

See ya
Steve
 
May 4, 2006 at 5:53 AM Post #7 of 12

Ferbose

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I started with Jazz for Dummies and it is pretty informative.
To better understand how jazz works, I recommend Jonny King's "What jazz is." It is a little book published by Penguin that tries to explain how jazz actually works on the floor, about improvisation and composition and all that.
 
May 4, 2006 at 3:43 PM Post #8 of 12

bigshot

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An interviewer once asked Louis Armstrong, "What is jazz?" Louis replied, "Man! If you have to ask a question like that, you ain't NEVER gonna get it!"

See ya
Steve
 
May 4, 2006 at 4:32 PM Post #9 of 12

VicAjax

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bigshot
In general, I hate Jazz books unless they're straight biographies. But I do like The Rise and Fall of Popular Music. It's available online for free...

http://www.musicweb.uk.net/RiseandFall/

See ya
Steve



i believe it was Frank Zappa who said, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
 
May 4, 2006 at 9:50 PM Post #10 of 12

bigshot

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Zappa also said that "Rock Journalism" was "people who can’t write, doing interviews with people who can’t think, in order to prepare articles for people who can’t read."

Most jazz criticism is people who over-think and talk instead of shutting up and listening to the music to see what it has to say.

See ya
Steve
 
May 5, 2006 at 1:14 AM Post #11 of 12

s m @

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In the 'other books' category, I'll suggest Miles Davis' autobiography. It's not exactly what you asked for, but moreso than you probably think. This is b/c Davis was around for a large chunk of jazz history.... it definitely provides a lot of insight into what was really going on at the time, and is a very good read.
 
May 5, 2006 at 5:34 AM Post #12 of 12

Steve999

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That's how I got into jazz, when I was about 15 or 16 (i.e., about 28 years ago). There were two stations way to the left on the FM dial (88.5 WPFW and 90.1 WDCU in Washington, D.C.) that played lots of jazz. I think WPFW came into existence right around that time. Soon thereafter I picked up the guitar and became mediocre enough at it to play in my college jazz band when I got into college. I also took some classical guitar lessons in college, and was even more mediocre at that, but I digress.

Unfortunately, WDCU was bought by C-span a few years ago, so now it's all talk, and WPFW plays very little jazz anymore -- it's mostly talk and various types of "world" music, I guess you'd call it. So kids nowadays in the D.C. area don't have the same wonderful opportunity for exposure that I did. Although I do have XM radio and the exposure to jazz on there can be pretty good, but without much of the more adventurous music.

I actually find reading about specific recordings in jazz to be very fulfilling because it's so hard to find someone to have an intelligent, informed conversation with about the music. I lose them at about, "that makes great background music," or "I don't hear any melody," or "you know they don't really make up new solos every time." Or as my wife once said to me when I was listening to some jazz, "could you please put on some real music?"
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So anyway, books I've had that I really liked about jazz are the Penguin Guide, the Rolling Stone guide, the Rough Guide, and the huge New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.

Also, the beautiful write-up that came with the old ~12-side LP Smithsonian jazz collection was extremely accessible in terms of learning about jazz through both reading and listening. I think I've read some posts by bigshot that this collection is going to be re-issued by Smithsonian. I just hope that the same huge booklet (about 12 inches by 12 inches and maybe 50 pages) comes with it. If you are learning about jazz and are at the beginning of the learning curve, this would be close to a must-have, IMHO.

I think if you have one such reference you should have at least two or three, so that you get a feel for what a huge subjective element there is in critically evaluating, or just enjoying, recordings.

By the way, Bigshot, I search on your user name to read your posts on a regular basis. That's how I found this thread! I don't agree with everything you say but I agree with much of it, and certainly the gist of it, and generally it's great reading in terms of both audio and music! So thanks for your posts. I love my ipod, too. But anyway you keep head-fi browsing worthwhile.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik
Lately, I've spent a lot of time at the bottom of the FM dial. In Los Angeles, that's 88.1, the jazz station. I never disliked jazz, but it never grabbed hold. Until now; it's growing on me.

I just ran a search for jazz book recommendations on Head-Fi, and the last thread was in 2002 and only had about a dozen replies.

Being a bit of an academic, I always read up on things before jumping in. I'd like to find two (or more) types of books:

1. A broad overview of the jazz field, and
2. A critical and authoritative book that lists specific recordings.

Have any of you read books like these? Or is there something else you think I should read? Please let me know. Any and all recommendations would be greatly appreciated.



 

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