All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.
Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler Oxford Univ. Press ISBN 0-19-507418-1
The title in combination with the author credits pretty much says it all: This is perhaps the ultimate reference on the musicians who created and continue to create jazz.
Feather, who died before this work was completed, and Gitler are rightly regarded as two of the most important and thoughtful writers on jazz. As the entries show, they didn't take their responsibility lightly when putting this book together.
They endeavored to get every fact correct (Louis Armstrong's mythological birthdate of July 4, 1900, for example, doesn't appear. Instead we get the real one, tracked down by critic Gary Giddins several years back, of Aug. 4, 1901) and to compress every important career development, composition and record date into each artist's entry.
It's not a book you'll skim, such as a record guide. The numerous abbreviations can make for frustrating reading. But, if you want to know something about an artist, chances are excellent you'll find it here.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.