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The Oxford Companion to Jazz Hardcover – October 19, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (October 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019512510X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195125108
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 7.4 x 2.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #827,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This new collection of 60 essays surveys the entire history of jazz and purports to contain "a thoroughness found in no other single jazz reference." The essays, written by 59 current jazz performers, writers, and scholars, are much longer than the typical Oxford Companion entry. The average length is 13 pages, although the range is anywhere from 7 to 22 pages. There is one black-and-white photograph per article. The essays provide overviews of different styles and periods. Other topics include the roots of jazz, biographies of performers, examinations of individual jazz instruments, an analysis of the impact of jazz on American culture, and a discussion of jazz outside the U.S. Arrangement is loosely chronological.

Does this volume rival the 1,358-page New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (1988) for the title of "most comprehensive dictionary of jazz ever published"? Possibly. Although the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz is arguably more reference-friendly because of its alphabetical arrangement and see also references, the Oxford book has an excellent index. However, because of the essay format, it is sometimes difficult to find information on a specific performer or term. For this reason, some libraries may wish to consider putting this volume in the circulating rather than in the reference collection.

The scope of the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz and the Oxford Companion to Jazz is similar, although Grove offers unique, unparalleled coverage of jazz nightclubs, festivals, and libraries and archives with significant jazz collections. Unlike Grove, which provides bibliographies and selected recordings at the end of individual entries, Oxford only offers a selected bibliography at the back of the book and an "Index of Songs and Recordings" to facilitate finding where a song is discussed in an essay.

Though Grove was reprinted in 1994, it was not updated. The Oxford book includes a greater number of recent jazz artists. In an informal search for 27 current jazz artists, 50 percent of them were mentioned in Oxford, while only 25 percent were found in Grove. For example, Grove appears to exclude drummers Joey Baron and Dennis Chambers, trumpeter Dave Douglas, and more-mainstream musicians like Joshua Redman and Jo Lovano, all of whom are mentioned in Oxford. Some of the current artists also appear in another Oxford publication, Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (1999).

Libraries with a jazz collection will find this new volume a welcome addition, whether its purpose is to act as a reference resource or provide insightful stack reading. According to Kirchner, the intended audience is everyone, from novices to seasoned jazz aficionados; the book does indeed have a wide range of appeal. Some of the essays are downright scholarly, while others are less erudite in tone (though not in content). Recommended for all university, college, and public libraries with patrons interested in jazz. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review


"Despite the wide range, the focus is clear--the unique American sound of jazz and those giants most closely associated with its creation and production."--Jeff Waggoner, The New York Times Book Review


"This book contains a collection of some of the very best writing available concerning jazz."--Lee Bash, Jazz Educators Journal


"A milestone among publications dedicated to jazz."--Francesco Martinelli, Musica Jazz (Italy)


"More than a treatise on jazz, this book is a compilation of articles on all phases of the music, contributed by musicians and professional writers who speak for the art firsthand. Highly recommended for everyone interested in jazz."--the late Benny Carter


Customer Reviews

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I am in the Rutgers Newark Jazz History and Research M.A. program.
Leon De Vose, II
For those of you who know jazz, I am certain that some of the articles in this comprehensive book will tell you things that you never knew.
Lauren S. Kahn
Go ahead and get started on your master's degree in jazz by buying and reading this five star book.
Eric C. Sedensky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Somewhere on earth there is probably a jazz musician who does not know Bill Kirchner. But he or she must be in deep cover; Kirchner is known and esteemed by jazz people all over the U.S. and abroad. Oxford could not have chosen a better editor for this compact but wide-ranging volume than Kirchner: composer, arranger, saxophonist, historian, record and radio producer, educator, leader of the Bill Kirchner Nonet, and all around class act. The book begins with an astute pairing of historical essays -- Samuel A. Floyd Jr.'s "African Roots of Jazz" and William H. Youngren's "European Roots of Jazz" -- and with vigor and style takes it from there. This is not a mechanical or academic collection. Rather it reflects the savvy, open-mindedness, erudition, and general panache of its editor's musical intelligence. Like the finest of the big bands, the result is unique, quirky, highly flavored and accented -- and not to be missed!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lauren S. Kahn on March 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
OK, I will be up front about this: Bill Kirchner is married to my sister. So, I am biased. He is a very nice guy and my sister is nice too. I wouldn't harm them.
Having said that, my sister (who is also a musician) may be married to the author but I know very little about jazz. I fall into the category of people who have heard about the major musicians but really do not understand improvisation; I can't read music. So, I bought this book as a family obligation and with some trepidation.
Wow! This, I can read! The articles are well written and even a jazz ignoramus like me can understand most of them. If you are a novice as I am, you will learn a lot and also be able to understand more of what you are hearing when you listen to the music. I know I want to buy more DVD's--including Bill Kirchner's, of course.
For those of you who know jazz, I am certain that some of the articles in this comprehensive book will tell you things that you never knew. Others will enhance what you already knew. This book should be in everyone's history library--and not just in the libraries of jazz fanatics--because jazz is the gift America has given to the music world and is synthesized from contributions by many of our immigrant groups.
Enjoy and listen up!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ben Sonnenberg on September 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This a valuable book. How could it not be with more than 800 pages and contributions from such exemplary jazz writers as Gunther Schuler and Dan Morgenstern? But how much better a guide it would be if it also included articles by our best jazz critic, Gary Giddins. I strongly recommend Giddins's Weather Bird and Duke Ellington as supplements to this volume.

Ben Sonnenberg, New York
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Mckee on September 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
This gets three stars due to its lack of material dealing with the current scene. The stuff on the fifties and and earlier is the main focus of this book, with some excellent discussion of particular players. It is Amerocentric, I guess thats understandable as jazz is an American idiom, but there is a lot of great jazz in Europe and Japan too.

Perhaps a better title woudl have been "The Oxford Companion to classic American Jazz."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Sedensky VINE VOICE on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You've bought a bunch of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis recordings, and you've listened to them over and over. You've taken some classes on arranging and improvisation at the local community college. You've honed your chops in a local band or two, maybe even performing on a regular basis. Or maybe, you haven't done anything except become interested in jazz and now you're just naturally curious and inquisitive about it. Maybe you just feel that a broader knowledge of jazz music would help you enjoy it more, so you want to understand: how did jazz get from where it started to where it is today? What musicians played with what other musicians and how did their styles emerge and evolve? How did rags become swing, become be-bop, become post-bop, become free, become modern? What record producers signed which artists and what songs became "standards" and when? In other words, you want to understand jazz history, beginning to end. In that case, this is the book for you.

This book is around 800 pages divided into about 75 different chapters (essays). Each chapter is accompanied by a storied black-and-white photo of a piece of the subject matter, the photos by themself being intriguing and worthwhile. (1,000 words each?) The text covers the history of jazz, more or less chronologically, from its inception up to about the year 2000. It contains many of the stories and anecdotes that most jazz musicians will be familiar with from reading CD liner notes and Googling or Wiki-ing things they were curious about when they heard them, but it will also relate much more back story and lines of interconnectedness that may have been missed along the way.
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