How to not be overwhelmed by jazz?
February 16, 2010 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Years ago, someone pointed me to Ishkur's guide for electronic music. Does something like that exist for jazz?

Ishkur's guide was great because it gave me a visual representation of the genre's histories, with small text explanations and song samples. I used it as a jumping point for more in depth searches. It's not a definitive guide, so I didn't feel overwhelmed.

That's what I'm looking for in regards to jazz. Something with sound clips from the various jazz genres, with little histories of the evolutions in style. Something I can refer back to often as I delve into specific styles and artists.

I'm also open to specific site/book/artist/blog/label/etc suggestions. Right now I'm going with very broad google and wikipedia searches, and feeling overwhelmed. Trying to learn about a whole new genre makes me feel like I'm 10 again. I'd like to get to the level where I can articulate something about what I like, beyond "oh, I like jazz!...this is jazz, right?"
posted by shinyshiny to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I've been reading the latest edition of Berendt's Jazz Book, and I think it's something like what you have in mind (especially if you have access to Youtube/Pandora/etc. while you're reading).
posted by box at 7:39 PM on February 16, 2010

([Warning: Sound, Flash] Ishkur's Guide, for folks that don't know what it is.)
posted by yaymukund at 7:41 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Additionally, jazz lends itself well to following connections--if you like a particular artist, try some albums from his/her influences, or their collaborators, or some stuff that came out on the same label, or folks who have covered their songs.

(Just as an example--if you like late-period John Coltrane, you could check out influences like Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor, or other Impulse! albums from that same period, or Coltrane-influenced players like Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders, or Coltrane tribute albums like Charles Gayle/William Parker/Rashied Ali's Touchin on Trane.)
posted by box at 7:46 PM on February 16, 2010

Response by poster: Box, thanks for the book suggestion! I'm going to try tracking down a copy. I need to build my context, so I can branch out from the little I do know.

(Yaymukund, thanks for adding a link to Ishkur's guide)
posted by shinyshiny at 8:08 PM on February 16, 2010 is a fantastic resource for new jazz fans. Here's the main jazz styles page, with links to brief but solid intros to the various subgenres like swing, bop, hard bop and free jazz. The bios for key figures like Horace Silver and Count Basie are easy to digest, the discographies are great for getting a quick sense of where to start with an artist, and the capsule reviews of essential collections are honest and highly useful.
posted by mediareport at 9:19 PM on February 16, 2010

There's a Smithsonian History of Jazz that you may be able to find at your local library; five CDs and a book(let) that takes you through, chronologically, listening to major styles and artists. A good, if fairly academic, primer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:11 AM on February 17, 2010

As a New York Jazz musician I feel I have to note that Ken Burns' jazz series is almost universally detested amongst musicians. Most of whom feel it was incredibly biased and one sided.

I can't say that I have ever come across a book, documentary or publication that did not strike me as overly academic and dry. The most interesting Jazz was born in whore houses and lives in crappy underground clubs. The best (and most true) stories in jazz just aren't suitable for the public. Books just don't go there.

I'm all for box's suggestion. Find something you like and that can easily lend itself to 10-15 more places to check out. As for visual representations, maybe check out one of the trade magazines such as Downbeat. They mix modern tidbits with archival and historic content (vintage issues are really fun to read). As mentioned the Smithsonian History is really great, although it is mostly much older stuff, and it can be hard to find. It should be at a decent sized local library.

Most importantly I would say that you shouldn't worry if it is "Jazz" or not. That word has been highly contested, debated, and stretched for almost 100 years. Find what you like and don't worry if it fits the pigeon hole.

To end with a corny Jazz cliche, "There are only two types of music. Good and bad."
posted by alhadro at 10:04 AM on February 17, 2010

Glad that somebody else said it about Burns' Jazz--the principal criticism is that he listened uncritically to everything Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch said, and therefore neglected and belittled whole subgenres like free-improv, soul jazz, fusion, etc.

Allaboutjazz has tons of album reviews, and is also a good resource.

If you want books that aren't dry and stuffy, you might check out Studs Terkel's Giants of Jazz, Spellman's Four Lives in the Bebop Business and Miles Davis' and Charles Mingus' autobiographies (among others). Miles' autobiography is notable for having more 'fuck's in it than an NWA album.
posted by box at 11:46 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Poking around Allaboutjazz and the Downbeat sites right now. My town's library is hit or miss, but they do have Miles Davis's autobiography. Websites and books are perfect for now, since I don't have time to get out to any venues. I didn't even think to check allmusic, will add that to my poking around list. Not marking a best answer, since all are good suggestions...thanks!
posted by shinyshiny at 12:49 AM on February 18, 2010

« Older What are the best short novels available from...   |   Seeking examples of scientists' websites Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.