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Jazz 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz
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76 of 77 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 22, 2001
Those who really want an excellent book on the history of jazz should eschew Ken Burns' incomplete doorstop of a picture book and turn to John F. Szwed's compact and comprehensive volume. In only a little over 300 pages, Szwed succinctly and skilfully covers the entire spectrum of jazz, offering the reader everything and looking askance at nothing. Though opinionated at times (and who could not be, writing a book of this sort), Szwed is never judgmental, and his knowledge of the field and its many aspects is broad and sweeping without seeming superficial. And please note that this isn't just a book for jazz newbies -- I've been a jazz fan for many years, with a huge collection of records, CDs and books, and I still learned a lot. Szwed's illuminative sidebars on individual songs and albums had me pulling out some old favorites and hearing them with fresh ears. This volume belongs on the shelf of every jazz buff.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2004
Professor Szwed's book is aptly titled and provides a fairly comprehensive history of jazz from it's beginnings to the present. He clearly states that no book covering such a diverse genre can escape being incomplete when it comes to recognizing individual artists, nor escape the inevitable opinions and prejudices of diverging thought on direction and contribution. To this end he suceeds handily.

The novice who is interested in jazz, and not yet opinionated enough to have adopted one of the contentious theories of "what jazz is", will find much information on the origins and stylistic forms of jazz music, jazz art and ultimately, jazz life. However, the more seasoned jazz fan might just as easily find himself in mental arguement with the author almost from the git go. This is regretable since it leads to rejection of much of the foundation material important in having a true understanding of the music. To those of us who believe jazz is devinely connected to the blues, much of Szwed's commentary could be viewed as heresy. But, to others who feel jazz includes almost all forms of improvisation the author's keen insite on sociological and twentieth century demographics play particularly well. He goes so far as to dip his toe in the muddy waters of Kenny G's authenticity, though slyly demurs from opining on just what this cretin is actually blowing through his horn (there, I told you jazz opinion can be contentious!). My only criticism of this work is Szwed's listening examples which are carefully detailed and highlighted throughout the book. While they specifically meet the example criteria he is aiming for, many more accessable (read enjoyable) substitutes exist.

All in all, an excellent intro and the best $10 item in the jazz supermarket.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2001
If you saw the Ken Burns series on Jazz and wanted to learn more, this book is a great place to start. While it does not pretend to be exhaustive, it covers the history of Jazz from the beginning to the present, without neglecting contemporary artists in the way that Burns' series did. The book also discusses musical issues in a way that the non-muscian can easily understand. This won't be the last book that you will want to read about Jazz, but it should be the first.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2001
As a 17 year old high school student, I knew next to nothing about jazz before reading this book. John Szwed did an amazing job introducing such a vast musical genre in a simplistic and thought provoking manor. The history, key players, and different "types" of jazz are all discussed in this book. I honestly could not put it down. A must read for any musician.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2000
It's been a very long time since I've read a work of nonfiction as readable and lucid as this. Particularly interesting are the discussions of the African origins of the form and its relationship to Western European music. It doesn't take a lot of energy to read this book, but the rewards make it appear so.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2006
I'd actually give this 3 and a half stars, sort of a C+ in my opinion. Anyway- I've learned a lot from this book and use it more as a reference material than as a "can't wait to read more" type of thing. The author sometimes is a little circular in his opinions too- especially when he tries to define Jazz or a given era. Plus, with something like this, it almost screams for a companion sampler CD, or a publishers website or something. Many times he refers the reader to hard to find or out of print CDs/records (for instance making use of Smithsonian recordings which are not easy to get). On the other hand, I have made a good list of recordings and artists I haven't heard yet, and I feel like I listen with a much more educated ear now- even though I've been a big fan of Jazz for many years. So- it's recommended, but be prepared to do some home work along side the reading in order to actually hear what the book is discussing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2003
This is a great example of how to write an introductory book on a topic that might daunt some people. Szwed presents the major styles, players, and even some of the controversial issues of jazz with clarity and infectious enthusiasm. Just as importantly, he's not afraid to keep it intelligent, unlike a lot of introductory books. Like the subtitle promises, this book really can help you learn and love jazz. It sure fueled my passion for the music.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2001
I am a jazz musician and I have just read Jazz 101. Is a great book of the history and the musicians of Jazz. It explains the major types of jazz and the roots of jazz. It also includes short biographies of the significant jazz musicians who contributed to the styles of jazz. Its a great guide to the listening of jazz.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2001
I am a jazz musician and I have just read Jazz 101. It is a great book of jazz history and jazz musicians. It explains the major types of jazz and the roots of jazz. It also includes biographies of the significant jazz musicians who have contributed to the jazz styles. This book is a great guide to listening to jazz.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2005
I actually read this book from the beginning since I fell in love in it, as to me I'm a singer, rapper, artist and musician. This book tells it all from ragtime started, how swing & big bands got all over across the country, when Miles, Dizzy, Bird, Coltrane, Duke, Count, Satchmo, Billie, Ella, Sarah, Clifford, etc. came out 2day's hottest pioneers of jazz, and how jazz-rap or jazz hip-hop was made. I can't even put it down 'cuz it's good tho. This is recommend who want to know the whole history behind it. Even tho u like jazz, blues, bebop, rap, hip-hop or both. A must.
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