cover image The Jazz Standards: 
A Guide to the Repertoire

The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire

Ted Gioia. Oxford, $39.95 (528p) ISBN 978-0-1999-3739-4

Jazz pianist and historian Gioia (Delta Blues) surveys 250 influential 20th-century compositions, including Broadway show tunes, movie songs, and original pieces by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and other composers. Each two-page entry serves up a chatty, fact-filled review of the tune’s birth pangs—Louis B. Mayer almost cut “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz!—and a breezy analysis of its musicological mojo. (“Someone to Watch over Me,” the author avers, draws its wistful warmth from the all-black-keys pentatonic scale.) But Gioia is interested less in a melody’s first incarnation than in its afterlife as a template for jamming, riffing, and free-form stylistic variation, epitomized by John Coltrane’s saxy reinvention of “My Favorite Things.” He therefore includes critical appreciations of each standard’s best and most emblematic arrangements, along with a list of recordings. Gioia writes with an endearing blend of erudition and opinionating—”Come Rain or Come Shine” ’s spare tune “isn’t a melody, it’s a musical starvation diet”—that makes the book both a delightful browse and a handy reference and roadmap for jazzophiles. (July)