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How to Listen to Jazz Hardcover – May 17, 2016
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How to Listen to Jazz fills an important and obvious gap by offering a sensible and jargon-free introduction to what Gioia calls the most joyous sound invented during the entire course of twentieth-century music.' The book deserves a place alongside such classic works of jazz criticism as Martin Williams's The Jazz Tradition, Will Friedwald's Jazz Singing, the books of Gary Giddins and Gioia's own The History of Jazz. His prose is brisk and well-paced, with many surprising insights along the way.”
How to Listen to Jazz is a packed and useful introduction to the medium with suggestions and aids for the listener who wants to gain entrance to a rich and complicated body of work. Gioia aspires to bare my own process of listening' by, among other things, proposing various strategies for making the music more available.... Before getting very far in this little book, you feel you are in good hands.”
[How to Listen to Jazz is a] satisfying new book.... A radiantly accomplished writer, a busy blogger and a pianist who has recorded several albums, Mr. Gioia conveys his passion for the music with vivid description and shrewd judgements, concentrating principally on the recordings made by jazz musicians rather than on details of their personal lives.... One of the best features of the book is a set of music maps,' as Mr. Gioia calls them, that serve as a guide to individual recordings.”
New York Times Book Review
In How to Listen to Jazz, the music critic and historian (and pianist) Ted Gioia confesses: I've offered both praise and putdowns to make an artist over the years, but I've never actually outlined in detail the standards I apply in making these evaluations.' His new book is an effort to correct that, and to teach casual listeners how careful listening can demystify virtually all of the intricacies and marvels of jazz.' As part of his instruction, Gioia points readers to certain recordings, including inferior ones. You can perhaps learn more about swing from listening to the bands that fail to achieve it,' he writes.”
Mr. Gioia could not have done a better job. Through him, jazz might even find new devotees.”
[Gioia] walks fans through a crash course in jazz appreciation that's suitable for newcomers and intermediate listeners alike... His prose is...inviting and often playful... Most valuable is the extensive catalogue of recommendations, not just of the genre's top performers but of 150 contemporary jazz musiciansa list that new fans can use to kickstart their journey, and experienced ones can reference to keep up with the form's continuing evolution.”
Dan Morgenstern, Director emeritus, Institute of Jazz Studies and author of Living with Jazz
As jazz enters its second century, becoming more multi-faceted apace, guidance for the novicelistener or musicianis more useful than ever, and Ted Gioia offers it expertly, in blessedly readable prose.”
Columbia Daily Tribune
How to Listen to Jazz is a thorough, impassioned guide to a sound that tends either to inspire deep, almost religious devotion or cause eyes to go crossed [Gioia] elucidates the music in a way that increases the listener's sense of awe and wonder, rather than supplants it. He writes like a scientist who knows chemistry inside and out, yet still marvels at the unfettered power of a reaction How to Listen to Jazz is the rare textbook that educates while fostering genuine excitement.”
City Journal (online)
Gioia's engaging yet authoritative style makes How to Listen to Jazz not just a valuable primer but a delight to read.”
A perfect way to begin an understanding of a music that is, in truth, very, very easy to love.”
How to Listen to Jazz is a fresh, clearly written and infinitely usable book that should put the jazz novice on track.”
About the Author
Ted Gioia is a jazz pianist and an award-winning music historian. The author of ten books, Gioia is currently a columnist for the Daily Beast.
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Top Customer Reviews
I began listening to jazz almost 27 years ago as the '80s drew to a close and I had become utterly bored and restless with pop. I really had no idea what to listen for in jazz but was starting to feel an increasing affinity for the wistful sounds of horns, cymbals and the double bass that drifted through the radio, especially in the wee small hours (as it were, LOL!). I remember asking a staff at the first HMV store in Toronto for a recommendation and heard the name of Coltrane for probably only the second time in my life. Long story short, I started my exploration with CDs of the Holy Cole Trio (at the time, an up-and-coming Canadian jazz trio), Linda Ronstadt & the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, and Coltrane's "My Favourite Things" album.
Since then, more than 95% of my CD purchases have been of this genre. As a person who neither plays nor read music, all I do is listen and try to appreciate the music for what appealed to me; in other words, enjoy jazz in my own terms. Over time, I've learnt to appreciate the spontaneity of sounds in the music; to enjoy discerning order or harmony in their apparent chaos/freedom; to try to shadow along the musicians' "detours"/improvisations of familiar tunes; and just immerse in the musicians' seemingly superhuman mastery of their instruments and performance. This, and catching live performances in jazz clubs whenever I could slip some precious little time in to do so in my travels, especially in Europe. After all, how else could a lay listener get guidance on how to appreciate jazz music?
It was with this backdrop that when I first stumbled upon a review of Gioia's book, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to discover how seasoned jazz aficionados and musicians listen to the music.
Reading the book has been a very satisfying experience, not the least to learn that one's uninformed exploration of the music has been in the right direction, hitting many of the markers identified in the book. Over my own years of listening, the names most bandied about in the media and by the odd acquaintance are well rehearsed ones like Davies, Coltrane, Parker, Armstrong, Monk, Marsalis, Corea, Hancock, etc, etc. I can't recall the exact circumstances in which I came upon my first Coleman Hawkins CD but that one afternoon when I put his CD through my hifi for the first time has remained, to this day, the most memorable revelation (even to someone with moderate hearing impairment like myself). Mainly because I had not heard/read of him before, and that first listening was simply sublime. I understood that musicians and their music can have a way of resonating with particular listeners, yet make no impression on others, and I had thought Hawkins might be such an artist given I hadn't noticed his name before and certainly not in the company of the others I've listed earlier. Imagine my surprise (vindication?) to find him listed among the haloed giants of jazz by Giaio - it was like an affirmation that my years of exploration and discovery hadn't gone astray or been for nought. Giaio has succeeded in keeping jargon to a minimum in this book; although I've had to refer to a dictionary a couple of times to remind myself of the meanings of some of the music terminologies, on the whole the author has kept the book accessible to lay readers with no music background like myself. Giaio has managed to inject a little history and clarity into the birth and evolution of jazz, the infusion of regional influences through the decades, and the artists who spawned or inspired these influences, yet kept the reading apace. The lists of recommended listening not only mixes some fun into the reading, they are immensely useful in illuminating the styles and markers of each musician's artistry. Notably, the author has also included a non-exhaustive list of 150 elite jazz artists active today whom he considers musicians worth looking out for. Some are familiar and commercially viable names among the younger generation such as Esperanza Spalding and Jamie Cullum while many others are relative "unknowns" - so much the better for listeners who aspire to broaden their appreciation of the jazz genre. This book serves as a very accessible primer for listeners new to jazz music, very readable and offers no shortage of tips and leads for our future listening pleasure. Highly recommended.
“How Listen to Jazz” by Ted Gioia is a prescription of what to listen for (Rhythm, Swing, Phasing, Pitch and Timbre, Dynamics, Personality of performer, Spontaneity, Song Structure), Origins and History, Survey of historical Jazz Styles, A look at some Jazz Innovators, and finally some observations on the current state of Jazz and the Future of Jazz. All of these are well explained and then illustrated by lists of specific recordings by the various giants of Jazz along with anecdotes about these same giants.
The book is well written, well researched, very readable and keeps the readers interest. The material is fast paced, but easily understood. Ted Gioia is obviously an expert on the subject of jazz, and has written 9 other books on jazz.
The analysis of the various jazz styles is amazingly well done in non technical terms. The absolute best I have found in several years of searching. Seldom does Ted venture into technical terms, and even then the definition of those terms is not necessary to understanding what Ted is saying.
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject of Jazz from beginner to aficionado and expert. While various levels of expertise will read the book differently, there is something for everyone along the spectrum of jazz knowledge and appreciation.