(K. Brent Tomer),
How to Listen to Jazz. By Ted Gioia. Basic Books; 272 pages; $24.99 and £16.99.
JAZZ is not a popular art-form. To its many detractors, it amounts to little more than pretentious noodling, based as it is largely on improvisation. To others, it is simply mystifying. How can an entire genre be made up of playing, again and again, variants of show tunes that were mostly composed in the 1930s and 1940s?
Ted Gioia understands why people find jazz so esoteric. The problem, as he sees it, is that no one has ever bothered to explain what “good” or “bad” jazz really is. Critics hold strong opinions on whether Charlie Parker or John Coltrane is the better saxophonist, but rarely do they explain “what they [are] listening for”. Mr Gioia’s job is to teach jazz-lovers how to assess the music and persuade sceptics to give jazz a go.
Mr Gioia has produced a fascinating book. He takes the reader through the most important ingredients of jazz, explaining, for instance, how “swing” is more than syncopated, finger-tapping rhythm. A bass-player and drummer who sound comfortable in each…Continue reading