John Swenson, ed.
Random House, New York, 1999
No, I Don?t Think So.
The back cover of The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide (TRSJBAG) touts the new publication as ? the most comprehensive guide to jazz and blues recordings in print?? That bit of prose is just so much advertising dryer lint. The All Music Guide to Jazz most certainly is a more comprehensive guide to jazz, not to mention The Penguin Guide to Jazz on Compact Disc (4th Ed).
The Blues? Well, no, The All Music Guide to Jazz does not have many straight blues entries, being content to concentrate on jazz exclusively. But that is beside the point. Both publications are dated the day they are in galley draft. The fact is borne out in numbers. While the Rolling Stone collection boasts ?over 10,000 albums reviewed?, the All Music Guide provides ?18,000? evaluations. When one considers the constantly updated All Music Guide web site (http://www.allmusic.com) then there is no comparison.
But this is only this critic taking exception to shoddy advertising. TRSJBAG is a very good resource that I think of fondly and here is why.
At the Edge. In the mid-1980s when I had gotten tired of popular music, I embarked on an investigation of classical and jazz music. The major way I guided myself through the behemoth literature was to read, read, read. When it came to gaining direction on what jazz recordings to purchase, I turned to the newly published Rolling Stone Guide to Jazz (John Swenson, ed. Random House, New York, 1985. ISBN 0-39472-643). I bought my first 250 jazz recordings based on the suggestions I found in this book. I still smile thinking of the discoveries I made just leafing through it. Sonny Rollins? Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness are just two of the discs I bought based on this book?s recommendations. I read with awe and desire to hear the five-star Omegatape recordings of Art Pepper (remember, this was pre-CD popularity). All of the Monk I own is because of that yellow book. That yellow book cover that is so dog-eared?
Enough Nostalgia!. This new book takes the entire original jazz guide and the blues material from the other Rolling Stone Album Guides and rolls them all into the largest publication yet. The writing is brief, clear, and informative. This makes this a perfect book for beginners. Yet, it is still not as complete as The All Music Guide. There are several notable absences in TRSJBAG. On the jazz side, jazz-blues fixture Gene Harris is not represented at all while relative newcomer Marcus Printup (a fine trumpeter) is fully represented. Many re-releases for are not as well documented as they could be (i.e. for Chet Baker and other Pacific Jazz labelmates). However, the blues section is well annotated and more complete.
In the Final Mix, The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide is a good reference for the beginner. Once the beginner is no longer a novice, he or she can then move on to the larger references such as the The All Music Guide or The Penguin Guide to Jazz on Compact Disc (4th Ed) (Richard Cook and Brian Morton, eds. Penguin USA, 1999. ISMN 0-1405-13833). The Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide is still a worthy addition to any serious jazz/blues collector?s library.
The All Music Guide to Jazz (Michael Erlewine, Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, and Scott Yanow, eds. Miller Freeman Books, San Francisco, 1998. ISBN 0-87930-530-4)
The Penguin Guide to Jazz on Compact Disc (4th Ed) (Richard Cook and Brian Morton, eds. Penguin USA, 1999. ISMN 0-1405-13833).