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Thinking in Jazz : The Infinite Art of Improvisation (Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology Series) Paperback – October 17, 1994

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This will certainly be the definitive source on improvisational jazz. A leader in the field, Berliner (ethnomusicology, Northwestern) covers all aspects of improvisation as art form, science, and way of life. Cutting no corners, he includes a vast range of article topics (from inspiration and arrangements to evaluation and audience interaction), music texts (from the 1920s to the present), artist interviews, and disc-, video-, and bibliographies. Of the caliber of Grove's Dictionary of Music, this book is no less important to any serious music collection. Practicing musicians will be satisfied by the text and musical examples, while lay readers will come to understand the significance of jazz in American history and culture. This extraordinary accomplishment is well worth the investment for all academic and large public libraries.
Cynthia Ann Cordes, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

A landmark in jazz studies, 'Thinking in Jazz' reveals as never before how musicians, both individually and collectively, learn to improvise. Chronicling leading musicians from their first encounters with jazz to the development of a unique improvisatory voice.
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Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology
  • Paperback: 904 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (October 17, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226043819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226043814
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eddie Landsberg VINE VOICE on October 21, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The blurb on the back cover of this book has a slight understatement... It begins, "A landmark in jazz studies,"
Not since the advent of the long playing record and the publication of Leonard Feather's "Encyclopedia of Jazz" has anyone made such an enormous, substantive, light shedding contribution to Jazz (outside a recording studio.) This book is a must for everyone... and in fact, its divided into two parts... one which *is* for everyone, and goes into how musicians come up, hone their skills, learn to interact, develop and whatnot, and then the second half, which is more for musicians and features close to 400 pages of musical examples - - a text book in musical studies itself.
As a musician myself, I have long suspected that Jazz isn't just a bunch of patterns and scales. It is a culture, an attitude, an approach, and way of thinking... this book not only confirms it, but it substantively will take you into the mind of its foremost vetarans and practitioners. With its balance between information that's anecdotal as well as analytical, and Berliner's excellent writing style (despite the size of the book, he just draws you in the pages flow by one by one) - - this is must reading...
Almost a half a century ago Leonard Feather told us about the masters, now Berliner draws us into their minds. It is my hope that Jazz students (and fans) alike will begin taking up this book as they begin their journeys, and as a result, it invigorates and revitalizes the music as its never been before !
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Format: Paperback
Paul F Berliner is an ethnomusicologist at Northwestern (his previous book was _The Soul of Mbira_); here he turns his methods to the realm of jazz. His book is organized according to the learning process through which jazz improvisors proceed, from their first picking up an instrument to becoming masters of their art; rather in the mode of an ethnographer, Berliner learned a lot of this first-hand, picking up the trumpet again (he had been a classically-trained trumpeter when younger) to gain experience of how one goes about learning to play jazz. He also interviewed dozens of musicians, both famous players (Max Roach, Wynton Marsalis, Lee Konitz, Fred Hersch, Kenny Barron) & little-known journeymen (usefully, there's a lot of stress on bassists & drummers, who are often overlooked in writings on jazz in favour of charismatic soloists). These interview materials are quoted extensively in the book, & it'd be valuable enough just for that, but it's also a thoughtful, expansive account of how jazz, and jazz musicians, are created. My experience is that the uninitiated tend to either treat improvisation too casually (assuming that anyone with adequate instrumental technique & musical theory can automatically improvise), or with excessive awe: this book is useful for anyone curious about improvisation, & indeed even experienced players & teachers will find it interesting.
One nice feature of the book is the clarity of its organization. The main text is about 500pp long, written in clear, untechnical prose, with only a few illustrating diagrams or musical examples. The majority of the musicial examples are instead placed in a succeeding 250pp section: the high point of this is a series of four _full_ transcriptions of classic jazz recordings.
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Format: Paperback
After reading this book, one must admit that Paul Berliner has done his homework, and since the subject is the mammoth topic of the improvised music language, that is no small task. In fact, he states in the opening notes that this work begun as far as the late seventies, and many noted jazz musicians were involved in the concept and contributed to the final product - sharing personal stories, historical notes and specially revising the music examples that contitute a large part of this book. Trying to put a concept such as improvisation in written form, and more than that, trying to organize it in a system that would be helpful to understand and cultivate the protocol represents an amazing challenge to the writer, and I would say that Paul Berliner's approach not only accomplished that, but turned what would be a rather sterile read into a wonderful book. Of course, there are minor complaints (and all of them are subjective, by the way - such an an underlying feeling that he favours sound over form, sometimes dismissing contributions made by non-jazz musicians to the history of improvised music - despite the author's previous work with traditional african music), but what he achieved at the end must be hailed. An *AMAZING* book that will keep aficionados entertained for years.
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Format: Paperback
This is the single most comprehensive study that's been done of jazz improvisation, and perhaps of any kind of improvisation, period. Berliner interviewed over 50 working jazz musicians-including name players such as Gary Bartz, Lou Donaldson, Tommy Flanagan, Lee Konitz, Wynton Marsalis, Max Roach, and Red Rodney. He's also transcribed hundreds of musical examples, including rhythm section parts. Berliner discusses every fact of improvisation, learning the craft, influences, practice and rehearsal, riffs and patterns, repertoire, interplay, comping and soloing, emotional impact of performance, venues, the life of working musician, etc.
Requires the ability to read music if you want to follow all of the examples, though there is much you can follow otherwise.
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