[JPL] 5 Great Books On Jazz

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*The best: Five great books on jazz*

*JOHN EDWARD HASSE; The Wall Street Journal*
Last updated: October 12th, 2008 07:34 AM (PDT)

*1. Jazz*

***By Bob Blumenthal*

**Collins, 2007

When I agreed to review the manuscript of music critic Bob Blumenthal's 
"Jazz: An Introduction to the History and Legends Behind America's 
Music" for the publisher, I was unsure what to expect. A book attempting 
an overview of a subject with nearly a century of rich history and with 
three-quarters of a million recordings is a daunting undertaking. But as 
I began reading, I soon recognized that Blumenthal had produced the 
single best compact introduction to jazz currently available. And he did 
it in fewer than 200 pages. Blumenthal's "Jazz" is the ideal starting 
point for anyone drawn to the music for the first time.

**

*2. Mister Jelly Roll*

***By Alan Lomax*

**Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1950

Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton was central to the emergence of jazz in 
the early 20th century, but he was also a colorful character -- he wore 
a diamond in one of his teeth -- and a gifted raconteur. At the 
invitation of folklorist Alan Lomax in 1938, Morton recorded 
reminiscences, anecdotes, boasts and songs in what amounts to a 
performed autobiography. In 1950, Lomax converted the recordings into 
this book. Even better than reading "Mister Jelly Roll" by itself is 
listening to the original recordings, now issued (the book is included) 
by Rounder Records as "Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of 
Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax" -- one of the great sound documents 
of American culture.

**

*3. American Musicians II*

***By Whitney Balliett*

**Oxford, 1996

For more than 40 years, Whitney Balliett was the jazz critic of the New 
Yorker magazine. His death last year silenced one of the most literate 
and lyrical of writers on the arts. "American Musicians II" -- an 
expanded version of the original from a decade earlier -- includes all 
of Balliett's New Yorker profiles of jazz musicians, from pioneers 
Sidney Bechet and Fats Waller to modernists Charles Mingus and Ornette 
Coleman. Many of the pieces are based on the writer's extended 
conversations with his subjects, and Balliett makes you feel that you 
are at his side.

**

*4. The Swing Era*

***By Gunther Schuller*

**Oxford, 1989

Gunther Schuller is a musical Renaissance man -- composer, conductor, 
teacher, advocate and author -- whose interests range from Mozart to 
Mingus, from Sousa to Satchmo. Twenty years after his pioneering "Early 
Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development," Schuller turned to the swing 
era, a glorious period in American music, when Louis Armstrong, Count 
Basie, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington developed an 
idiom that was accessible yet also innovative and artistically 
satisfying. Before Schuller, much writing about jazz had been 
biographical, anecdotal or impressionistic; Schuller took a more 
disciplined approach. He listened to 30,000 recordings to analyze and 
astutely assess the music itself -- for example, devoting 110 pages and 
62 musical examples to his discussion of Ellington's work.

**

*5. Reading Jazz*

***Edited by Robert Gottlieb*

**Pantheon, 1996

Don't be put off by the massive size of this anthology. You can dip into 
its 1,068 pages one piece at a time. Robert Gottlieb, former editor of 
The New Yorker, has judiciously selected and excerpted 106 examples of 
the most memorable English-language writing on jazz, culled from books 
and magazines between 1919 and the 1990s. In the autobiographical 
entries, we learn about the thoughts and experiences of musicians such 
as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Anita O'Day and Miles Davis.

John Edward Hasse is the curator of American Music at the Smithsonian's 
National Museum of American History, founder of national Jazz 
Appreciation Month and the author of "Beyond Category: The Life and 
Genius of Duke Ellington."

Originally published: October 12th, 2008 01:00 AM (PDT)

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