- Hardcover: 864 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (October 19, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019512510X
- ISBN-13: 978-0195125108
- Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 2.4 x 7.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,372,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Oxford Companion to Jazz Hardcover – October 19, 2000
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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
"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
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Top customer reviews
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. I was particularly fascinated by learning which musicians played with what other famous musicians in their formative years, and the collaborations and recordings that led to them becoming influential and important. The level of detail in this book is incredible, which for a devoted student of jazz such as myself is a godsend, but for more casual jazz fans might at times be daunting. For collectors of recordings, I don't think there is a more thorough resource listing of important recordings anywhere, with the possible exception of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings: Ninth Edition. (The Penguin Guide being arguably more useful in its alphabetized listing by artist, the Oxford companion being more useful in its linear structure and the aforementioned detailing of artist relationships, information which is much more difficult to extract from the Penguin volume.) For identifying and filling gaps in one's personal discography, I think the Oxford companion is indispensable.
Each of the essays is written by a different jazz expert or critic, from Wall Street Journal writers and record company copy writers to ad men and self-taught music experts. With so many essays over such a broad spectrum going into such depth and detail, you would expect there to be a lot of repetition and rehashing of stories and information, but the editor, Bill Kirchner, has done an admirable and efficient job of putting these essays in an extremely readable order, with necessary edits (probably) throughout to limit redundancy. The way these essays are assembled has the added advantage that while there is much to be gained from reading them in order, it is not required that they be read in order at all. It is easy enough to skip to the subject matter and detail one wishes to explore and read that essay and related essays in any order desired, saving time and effort but still covering the jazz subjects one is interested in.
This is a book that I took the time to read carefully and completely, and I still feel like I need to go through it once or twice more to receive the full dose of knowledge contained here. Although I will be putting this book on my shelf, I will keep it handy when purchasing and listening to recordings as I continue my jazz education and journey. Go ahead and get started on your master's degree in jazz by buying and reading this five star book.
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!