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West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960 Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 428 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520217292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520217294
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #888,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Gioia, founder of Stanford's jazz studies program, provides a fresh view of West Coast jazz during its heyday. Avoiding the hackneyed debate over West Coast cool versus East Coast bop, he emphasizes the variety in West Coast jazz in chapters about such talents as cool trumpeter Chet Baker, the muscular-sounding Dexter Gordon, the classically oriented Dave Brubeck, innovative bandleader Stan Kenton, and avant-garde hornman Ornette Coleman. The author attributes this West Coast diversity to the urban sprawl of Southern California and to supportive jazz clubs, critics, and such record companies as Fantasy, Contemporary, Capitol, and Pacific Jazz. Basing his account on numerous interviews, Gioia offers the first comprehensive history of postwar West Coast jazz, which should quickly become a standard. Recommended for general and scholarly collections in American music.
- David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A book that desperately needed to be written and has turned out to be a surprise landmark and masterpiece." -- Bruce and Joel Klauber, Jazziz

"Gioia writes with the musical knowledge of a jazzman and the immediacy of a reporter, in language that has a casual grace." -- Bill Kisliuk, San Francisco Review of Books

"Ted Gioia is very much a West Coast jazz partisan, and his informed enthusiasm and wide-ranging research make West Coast Jazz a highly rewarding and arguable book. . . . Makes a large, disparate, unruly subject not only coherent but also intriguing." -- Chicago Tribune

"While the requisite space is devoted to such cool icons as Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, Gioia also takes an expert, often iconoclastic look at the careers of other West Coast jazz men, both well-known and obscure. . . . Anyone looking for a basic history of the California scene should start with this smart, opinionated book." -- Chris Morris, Billboard

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

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By William Johnston VINE VOICE on April 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
Finally, a book that takes the West Coast jazz movement seriously, instead of as a footnote to the New York Cool school. Gioia has compiled a wealth of information destined to be forgotten about a style that is considered unworthy of being taken seriously by the East Coast-centric, anti-white jazz critics. Mostly white people playing jazz by the beaches of California made no sense to them and still doesn't. Open any history of jazz. Try finding any mention of Bud Shank, Pete Jolly, Jack Sheldon, etc. One of the great movements in jazz was rejected because it did not fit into the steroetype of gritty, dark, and Black-made (compare Blue Note album covers with Contemporary Records album covers). The only one given any attention was Chet Baker, and this was due to his romantic James Dean-like image rather than his brilliant trumpet playing. Don't get me wrong, there were many excellent black participants in the movement, such as Hampton Hawes and Buddy Collette but I do truly believe that there is a racial bias against West Coast jazz. Okay, I am stepping down off my soapbox. This book belongs in the cannon of great jazz history books. It is a well-researched, fascinating journey through the jazz world of Los Angeles primarily, but also the San Francisco Bay Area, starting with a wonderful foray into the the life of Central Avenue, Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray (who probably would have been ignored too had they not left LA). Any fan of the music needs to own it and every jazz critic should be tied to a chair and have it read to him. Then he should be untied and played Art Pepper records all night. Should also be required reading in whatever California public school music and arts programs are left as an essential expresion of the distinct California aesthetic, as important as the architecture of Frank Gehry and the photography of Ansel Adams.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on March 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a highly distinguished book on the history of West Coast jazz, a phenomenon that existed from the mid-40's until about 1960--at least in terms of it being a special brand of jazz distinct from other styles (East Coast, Traditional, etc.).

It developed in the black section of Los Angeles along Central Avenue where clubs abound, and mainly followed the flowering of bebop as created by Bird and Diz and Bud Powell, among others. The Cool School, led by Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan, is dealt with fully, and there are chapters on important West Coast highlights such as the Lighthouse groups, Shorty Rogers, Art Pepper, and Shelly Manne. There are even a couple of chapters on the San Francisco scene, especially Dave Brubeck. Gioia's writing is excellent, scholarly but lively and interesting. A must-have jazz book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
The best book on jazz (or any other topic!) I've read in the past few years. The author manages to sustain a wonderful balance among scholarship, human interest, and serious criticism. I thought I knew something about this topic -- found out I knew very little. The section on Brubeck's early years is, by itself, well worth the price of the book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Karl A. Young on December 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
Ted Gioia is an excellent writer and provides a wealth of information on jazz in post WWII California. I really appreciated the detailed information and anecdotes regarding some of the musicians with whose music I'd had a positive but passing acquaintance, such as Jimmy Giuffre and Bob Cooper. But I ended up feeling like Gioia's strong opinions left me with the feeling that he'd damned west coast jazz with faint praise. One certainly doesn't expect a historian or critic to pull any punches but a lot of Gioia's opinions seemed at odds with what I view as major contributions to the evolution of jazz. I may just be one of those dullards that "likes it all" but I don't see enjoying Bob Cooper and Bud Shank's oboe and flute work as mutually exclusive to enjoying Art Blakey or Albert Ayler. In particular Gioia's attack on the flute as a viable jazz instrument really stuck under my craw and his account of Bud Shank in his later years as even virtually repenting for having used it (and implying that saxophone is the only legitimate woodwind for use in jazz) doesn't seem consistent with what I know about Shank (though he may well have made some passing remark to Gioia that inspired that passage). Also his attack on the Chico Hamilton's quintet recordings seemed geared to find, in my opinion, an undeserved scapegoat for the criticisms of west coast jazz. It just seems outright wrong to imply that a group containing Chico, Buddy Collette and Jim Hall didn't swing because they used a more chamber music oriented approach than the hard boppers. This seems more an intellectual construct than actually having listened very carefully to the music.Read more ›
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