How To Listen to Jazz
by Ted Gioia
Basic Books © 2016, pp. 254 with index and end notes
Let me state personal bias at the beginning of this review. Ted Gioia’s The History of Jazz is on my list of all-time favorites. He published The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire in 2012 and an earlier book West Coast Jazz is considered one of the classics in jazz literature. Now that we have established my opinion, we can proceed.
As the title suggests, Mr. Gioia proceeds, in basic and clear language, to explain for the novice the essence of jazz. Written for the layman, he takes the reader through the basic elements. Titles of each chapter will give an idea of the make-up of this book. They are: The Mystery of Rhythm; Getting Inside the Music; The Structure of Jazz; The Origins of Jazz; The Evolution of Jazz Styles; A Closer Look at Some Jazz Innovators; and Listening to Jazz Today.
He offers suggested listening for each chapter. Now that most people have access to streaming services such as Spotify (and numerous others), YouTube, and option of purchase of individual tracks on the internet, listening options are easily accessible.
Gioia gives his personal list of 150 jazz artists active today in early or mid-career whom he considers worth looking out for.
This book can be recommended for the jazz novice and is a survey, not a definitive exposition of the jazz art. Those whose opinions are clearly fixed or those seeking intimate details of a particular jazz artist will not find this book helpful. But for those seeking guidance and are just beginning to explore the world of jazz, this is a good starting point.
Permit this personal reference, Ted’s brother Dana was Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts (2003-2009). Dana Gioia came to Pensacola during that period to make a financial presentation ($10,000 as I recall) from the NEA to the Pensacola Symphony. I was invited to that ceremony and when introduced I told him that I was acquainted with the work of his more-famous brother. (Smile).