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The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire Hardcover – July 6, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Which is best: interpretation or song? In any case, jazz and standards are forever locked in loving embrace. A finely researched work." --Sonny Rollins

"A monument to taste and scholarship" --The Atlantic

"If you look up just one title in The Jazz Standards, before you realize it you will have spent an intriguing hour or two learning fascinating and new things about old songs that you have known most of your life." --Dave Brubeck

"This history is fascinating, a reminder that jazz is at heart a vernacular medium in which the most essential skill for a musician may be the ability to think on his or her feet...What makes 'The Jazz Standards' so engaging is just this sort of anecdotal texture, Gioia's ability to write as an inhabitant of both the tradition and the read 'The Jazz Standards,' then, is not unlike listening to Gioia play his way through this music, sharing not just what he likes (and dislikes) but also what he knows." -- The Los Angeles Times

"This excellent and entertaining resource would be a fine addition to any library's music collection. It serves as an informative guide to the standard jazz repertoire and would be useful for both novices and aficionados of jazz history. Its best place, however, may not necessarily be on the reference shelves but, rather, out for circulation." --Booklist

"This book should be in the library of every gigging jazz musician and every serious jazz fan; to the extent that these 250-plus pieces remain in the repertory, it will be relevant for years to come." --Library Journal

"Warning: this book is addicitive." --Dallas Morning News

"Gioia writes with an endearing blend of erudition and opinionating...that makes the book both a delightful browse and a handy reference and roadmap for jazzophiles." --Publishers Weekly

"What a useful and informative book The Jazz Standards is! Explaining the jazz repertory in a way that is accessible for the jazz beginner yet stimulating for the aficionado, Ted Gioia shows once again why he is one the best jazz writers around today." --Gerald Early, Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters, Washington University in St. Louis; Editor of Miles Davis and American Culture

"It's a book to be browsed and enjoyed at leisure. The facts are illuminating, and so are the opinions....The book is wise, often funny--and it always accomplishes the highest mission of writing about music, which is to send you back to the music with wide-open ears." --Kansas City Star

About the Author

Ted Gioia is a musician, author, jazz critic and a leading expert on American music. His previous books The History of Jazz and Delta Blues were both selected as notable books of the year in The New York Times. He is also the author of West Coast Jazz, Work Songs, Healing Songs and The Birth (and Death) of the Cool.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199937397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199937394
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.7 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ted Gioia is a pianist, critic and music historian. The Dallas Morning News has called him "one of the outstanding music historians in America." Two of Gioia's works have been named notable books of the year by the New York Times, and three others have been honored with the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award. In addition, Gioia was one of the founders of the jazz studies program at Stanford and formerly served as editor-in-chief of, a major music web portal.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Ursiform on June 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is exactly what it claims to be, a guide to what the author considers the central repertoire of jazz. As he explains in his introduction, which is about his history and his teaching of younger jazz musicians, the book is designed to help a musician learn the repertoire he or she needs to get and keep a job. This is not a history of jazz, nor a comprehensive encyclopaedia of jazz works. It is about the 250 or so works the author considers central to the jazz repertoire.

Each work included is covered in 2-3 pages of detail. You learn who created the work and why. There are the early recordings, and how the work waxed and waned over time. Discussion of who played it, how they played it, and who didn't play it. How tempos and approaches to the work have changed over time. And how it is seen today.

Each section ends with a list of suggested recordings over the years.

As an example of what you can learn from this book, consider the following two successive entries. The Basin Street Blues were named after a street which had changed name by the time the song appeared; the name was changed back to Basin Street because of the song. The Beale Street Blues were named after a Beale Avenue; its name was changed to Beale Street because of the song. Cool!

This is a long book, and probably only jazz musicians, jazz scholars, and jazz fanatics will enjoy plowing through the book cover to cover. Many others will enjoy browsing it to find out more about their favorite songs, or to check on something they heard. Keep in mind that it is an in-depth look at key works, not a comprehensive survey, and you should be satisfied.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Roochak on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It's important to remember that Ted Gioia chose not to write about 252 great songs, but about 252 musical packages of raw material for great improvisations. He attempts to answer the question of why jazz musicians like to play these particular songs over and over again, and his succinct (1- to 3-page) essays on each tune do a very good job of explaining the attraction for lay listeners.

What turns an "exercise in frustrated phraseology" like "Come Rain or Come Shine" into such a memorable song? How do the monotonous phrases of "Falling In Love With Love" fall into such an irresistible groove despite themselves? The author claims that his song selection represents the most frequently performed and recorded tunes in the repertoire, and the result is an almost equal division between Broadway/Tin Pan Alley and jazz originals from "Tin Roof Blues" to "Wave." (Plenty of Monk, Ellington, and Jobim, but no Radiohead or Nick Drake -- not yet.)

I love the historical anecdotes that Gioia provides as well. Bill Evans's New Jersey accent finally produces a plausible explanation for the title of Miles Davis's "Nardis," while the story of how a half million audience members turned "Muskrat Ramble" into a giant singalong at Woodstock (where Country Joe McDonald renamed it the "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag") is a masterpiece of bleak humor. This is a fun book to pull down from the reference shelf. Fun and musically enlightening.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Peter R. Snell on September 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book for musicians and for anyone interested in the jazz standard repertoire. Gioia has intriguing histories of over 250 standards, with a good dose of personal opinion and experience mixed in.

The listings of recordings are excellent. I found that a simple a two-page description of a tune can turn into an odyssey. I tracked recorded versions, compared, looked at printed versions and generally deconstructed and reconstructed chords and melody lines to get inside particular tunes. For example, listening back-to-back to a widely interpreted tune like Blue Moon is an eye-opener, from The Bad Plus's out there 2000 version, to Ellla Fitzgerald's lampooning of the Marcels' absurd best-selling doo-wop version to Tommy Dorsey's terrible attempt at corn to Dean Martin's syrupy version to Frank Sinatra's straight-ahead version with some tasty jazz trumpet thrown in; like a run-on sentence it makes for a crazy ride.

More seriously, take Rollin's Airegin, with some excellent versions by Chris Potter, Wes Montgomery and (of course) Miles Davis. Gioia gives us some insight to the tune, describing the unusual lengths of the ABC structure and how Davis's reconfiguring of one section into an 8-bar F-minor vamp gives us a portent of his later modal work.

Any gigging musician will find themselves bringing the book along with them to dig further into the tunes they are playing. Fans too will appreciate a deeper understanding of the tunes. Gioia plays a nice line between giving musicians a taste of some of the more technical issues without losing the general reader.

Is there Book 2 coming out in a couple of years (hint, hint)? I'll buy it sight unseen.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By S. Kanter on February 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had received this book as a gift in hardcover and loved it. Being a jazz musician and teacher, I found it fascinating and invaluable. I wanted the Kindle version so I would have it on my iPad for easy reference.

After downloading, however, this seems to be a PDF, not a Kindle book. It doesnt fit the page, doesnt have the same
features as Kindle books.

What gives? Five stars for the book, one star for Kindle version,
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