Written by musicians, Jazz: The Rough Guide contains more than 1,600 biographies, from Ahmed Abdul-Malik (Brooklyn bass and oud player, 1927 to 1993, who played with Thelonious Monk, Herbie Mann, and Coltrane) to Axel Zwingenberger (German boogie- woogie pianist, born 1955, played with Joe Newman, Joe Turner, and Sippie Wallace, and has helped revitalize jazz piano). In addition to profiling a broad spectrum of jazz musicians (both famous and lesser-known composers and performers), it clarifies crucial jazz issues, gives historical perspective, and also serves as a buyer's guide, with discographies and pithy reviews of representative recordings.
The Guide's alphabetical, encyclopedic organization makes it useful as a dependable jazz reference, and it's wonderfully browsable, too, illustrated with fine classic black-and-white photographs (of performers such as Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers) and beautifully written. A good starter text for jazz neophytes, the CD suggestions are a great help toward custom- building your jazz library. There's also a fine glossary that explains a cappella and acid jazz, Afro-Latin, airshot, and atonality. It's a safe source of education if you're ignorant about ballads, bebop, or B-flat. It's useful for learning about major jazz styles (Chicago, Dixieland, and dirty, Kansas City, ragtime, and scat), plus musical concepts such as harmony, improvisation, and tempo. Concise, accessible, and addictively readable, Jazz: The Rough Guide is a great introduction to the world of jazz. --Stephanie Gold [via]