by Howard J. Blumenthal
Listeners new to jazz now have an option to those big, fat, daunting record guides: "The Jazz CD Listener's Guide" is compact enough to fit in your back pocket as you cruise the aisles of your favorite record shop.
The guide's author, Howard J. Blumenthal focuses on what, in jazz, amounts to the basic repertoire: Pops, Duke, Basie, Bird, Monk, Trane, Mingus, Ornette, etc. He also throws the young lions in for good measure, and spices things up with some names you might not expect to see in such a basic overview, including the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Jan Garberek, Albert Ayler, Kenny Barron and John Surman.
Each artist gets a brief (very brief) bio and a listing of their most representative works. Since, for the most part, Blumenthal is writing about undisputed greats, there's little to disagree with in his assessments. The reviews are "good stuff-only," so newcomers can be assured that, unless they really don't care for a particular artist's stuff, they will be picking up good albums. All the records listed are currently in print.
For the beginning collector this is a nice first guide. It's very much along the lines of the "Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide," which is now sadly out of print and far out of date. Longtime listeners won't find much here that they haven't seen before, but they may enjoy the book's portability and Blumenthal brief, but perceptive observations about the recordings.