How to Listen to Jazz

Ted Gioia. Basic, $24.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-465-06089-4
Pianist and historian Gioia (The History of Jazz) seeks to enlighten those most unfortunate of souls: music lovers whose attempts to understand jazz have been routinely thwarted by what he believes to be the vague, unhelpful criteria used by reviewers. Theorizing that meticulous listening sessions can remove much of the mystery from this nebulous art form, the author walks fans through a crash course in jazz appreciation that’s suitable for newcomers and intermediate listeners alike. Some sections of Gioia’s historical overview read like textbook synopses, and his references to media such as YouTube can sound preemptively out of date, but his prose is nevertheless inviting and often playful, sprinkled with personal anecdotes and barely contained snark regarding the state of modern pop rock. Most valuable is the extensive catalogue of recommendations, not just of the genre’s top performers but of 150 contemporary jazz musicians—a list that new fans can use to kickstart their journey, and experienced ones can reference to keep up with the form’s continuing evolution. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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