Ted Gioia: The Jazz Standards - A Guide to the Repertoire
Oxford University Press
Author and musician Ted Gioia and, by proxy, his readers, are having a pretty good year. The second edition of his informative The History of Jazz (Oxford University Press, 2011) was recently published, vastly expanding its sections addressing recent history. Gioia's long awaited dictionary of the jazz standard book, The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire, has now been published, providing a compelling and provocative addition to jazz writing in particular and all music writing in general.
Gioia is a historian at heart, a fact borne out by his four histories: West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California 1945- 1960 (Oxford University Press, 1992), The History of Jazz (Oxford University Press,1997), Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music (W.W. Norton & Co., 2009) and The Birth (And the Death) of the Cool (Speck Press, 2009). These histories all illustrate Gioia's acute knack for bringing a large amount of information together and presenting it in a cogent and efficient style. His writing is information dense and very reader friendly.
The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire can be considered a continuation of Gioia's historiography. It is a dictionary of sorts, describing the corpus of jazz, that composed music upon which the genre is built. In spite of the amount of original composition in jazz that has taken place in the last 40 years, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, cinema and the works of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, et al. remain the cornerstone of jazz material. What Gioia does is select some 250-plus pieces that have been played so often by such a broad range of musicians that they may be defined as "standards."
Besides being an historian, Gioia is also a teacher, and he uses this ability to his, and our, advantage. His prose is friendly and never pedantic. Gioia's knowledge of his subject is vast, particularly considering that he provides multiple recording recommendations for each song and, in particular, his "track reviews" where he selects a specific performance and analyzes it. Gioia proves a master at providing context for these famous songs. His technical explanations are never too technical and always easy to understand. This book should appeal, most broadly, to jazz fans interested in the jazz vernacular, the Great American Songbook and the greatest of jazz composers. It is a fine handbook for all music writers and is a welcome addition to the library.