Ted Gioa, How To Listen To Jazz (Basic Books)
Opposite the contents page of this concise book is a quote from Duke Ellington: “Listening is the most important thing in music.” It seems an obvious truth, yet the idea eludes many people who claim that they wish they understood jazz. Gioia marshals his skills as an accomplished musician, clear thinker and gifted writer, inspiring readers to want to listen. He stresses that fear of technical matters is no reason to shy away from the music. “In fact,” he writes, “the deepest aspect of jazz music has absolutely nothing to do with music theory. Zero. Zilch.” He stresses that records are not enough, that hearing jazz live is essential. The appendix naming 150 important contemporary jazz musicians is helpful. Gioia’s chapters dealing with rhythm, structure, origins of jazz, and evolution of styles are invaluable aids to understanding—for newcomers and experienced listeners alike.