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The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  152 ratings  ·  27 reviews
An intimate exploration into the musical genius of fifteen living jazz legends, from the longtime New York Times jazz critic

Jazz is conducted almost wordlessly: John Coltrane rarely told his quartet what to do, and Miles Davis famously gave his group only the barest instructions before recording his masterpiece “Kind of Blue.” Musicians are often loath to discuss their cra
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Hardcover, First Edition, 256 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Times Books/Henry Holt and Company (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Nan Santamaria
Quite insidery, but it has very interesting anecdotes from the jazz greats. Also puts the genre in present context.
Tim Niland
The most recent book by the New York Times jazz reporter Ben Ratliff collects the Listening With columns he files with the paper over the past several years. The premise of the column is that musicians would pick some of the songs that had influenced them over the years and then Ratliff would listen to that music with them and get their reaction to it as a conversation over music, rather than a traditional interview. He ties each interview together with a brief biography of each musician, and a ...more
Rebecca
This is a fabulous collection of interviews with a variety of jazz musicians, including Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Guillermo Klein, Dianne Reeves and Ornette Coleman. But this is not a series of transcripts. Ben Ratliff captures subtle inflections of character in these conversations centered around a shared listening experience. Ratliff sits down with each musician to listen to music of others, and in so doing, reveals how these artists react to and dialogue with their musical influences. ...more
Al
This book is a series of short essays based on discussions between the author and various jazz musicians. The discussions take place in the course of listening to various music selected by the musicians as most meaningful to them. I liked the book, although I understood virtually none of the technical music discussions (and sometimes not much of the musicians' philosophical musings either -- they were "far out, man...") But Ratliff is a good writer, and it was interesting to view the distinct p ...more
Mike
I found this set of conversations with jazz musicians about their idols and inspirations to be greatly readable and enjoyable. You don't have to know much about the technical aspects of music to follow along, but it does help to have a basic knowledge of (and interest in) the basics of jazz history. I knew little about most of the musicians included in this book, but enjoyed reading about them anyway, and now feel inspired to track down some of their recordings and get acquainted with their work ...more
Moktoklee
This book was a very interesting read. All the interviews were fun. Pat Metheny as always is excellent at verbally expressing his ideas, a skill not necessary for a musician. Wayne Short was hilarious. I found Brantford Marsalis' interview very insightful. I sort of have better understanding for point of view of the Wynton now, although I still don't agree with him.
Another thing. Someday I want to write like this, in the big magazine interview style. Maybeit's the knowledge that what's being sa
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Kristen
Ratliff asks jazz musicians from several different generations and styles to select several songs that point to "what matters" most to them. It's an interesting approach, and he gets a wide variety of responses, covering jazz, pop, and classical.

The selections also serve as a framework for some biographical history and great anecdotes about other jazz musicians.

Although many of the subjects are well known even to casual listeners, Ratliff makes all of the interviews interesting and enjoyable, w
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Andrew Scott
A great and I mean great book of meetings/conversations that Ratcliff has with 15 living jazz legends concerning there take on not just jazz music but music in general.He asks each of his interviewees to pick a handful of tracks that they can listen to and talk about during their time together. Most of the artists don't even pick jazz tunes which gives a great insight into how they come about their style of play outside of the traditional jazz scene. Highlights for me are the chapters with Ornet ...more
Jesse
This was a pretty fun book to read. Although I felt that most of the segments were a little short. It seemed like what made it into the book was just the surface of what Ratliff and the musicians probably got into when they met. My two favorite chapters were the Pat Metheny and Paul Motion. Metheny because he listed and talked about Paul Bley's solo on All The Things You Are from Sonny Meets Hawk, and Motion because he's one of my favorite musicians these days. I enjoyed the Maria Schneider chap ...more
Paula
Not as enthralling as Ratliff's previous book about John Coltrane, but all the same, some decent conversations about jazz and music in general with eminent jazz musicians like Diane Reeves, Maria Schneider, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Sonny Rollins & Wayne Shorter. There are listening lists following each segment plus a discography of notable music written and/ or performed by Ratliff's interlocutors. Nevertheless, a CD or DVD would have been a welcome complement to this compilation.
Liam
Ben Ratliff will probably feel like stabbing me to death if he ever reads these reviews, hahaha... O.k., in a nutshell I think Mr. Ratliff's taste in music is, for the most part, pretentious in the extreme- typical white boy hipster bullshit. Having said that, and I realise it's an extraordinarily cruel thing to put down in print, he is so erudite and such a talented writer that it is worthwhile to read his work anyway... [more to follow]
Jim
May 24, 2009 Jim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
These interviews to music feel a little less artificial than the average newspaper puff piece and give you a sense in places about how musicians might actually talk between themselves. Ornette Coleman's digressions into what he thinks of as philosophy seem a little unlikely for everyday conversation, but he could be like that. The only frustration is my not knowing enough music theory to really understand the references to various chord progressions.
Garth Moore
Great series of interviews from Ben Ratliff on what rartists and songs inspire some great players and composers. Good resource for anyone who wants to know who the players are (like Ornette Coleman or Pat Methany) and what music inspired them. Entertaining and informative, each interview comes with a suggested listening list from the artist, makes a great iTunes list.
HBalikov
I enjoyed the fresh approach to interviewing great musicians. Focusing on music pieces that were key to their development allows Ratliff to go in various directions depending on the music (which they then listen to together) and you learn something different depending on whether the artist is familiar to you or someone you might want to listen to in the future.
Sim
I really enjoy his premise of having musicians discuss the music that means something to them, as opposed to having them discuss their current projects. A nice collection of artists to share their insights. Also, each chapter ends with the song titles with label information to find on your own.
James
My rating is based entirely on my satisfaction with the reading experience, which was compromised by the fact that much of this book is seriously over my head. Some very technical discussions of music. Might very well be a five-star book (people who are a lot smarter than I am seem to think so).
Dana
Interesting approach. Interviews with some great musicians centered around listening to some of their favorite music. Paul Motian, Joshua Redman, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, Branford Marsalis, Ornette Coleman, etc. very interesting insight into the musicians in many spots.
Joe Natoli
Great concept, and an entertaining read -- but really left wanting a lot more words from the musicians themselves, and a lot less from the author. I picked up the book because I'm interested in their stories, not yours.
Lori
Brilliant, intuitive, nothing not to like. Ratliff draws these musicians out of their shells in order to delve into what makes them tick, perhaps disarming them with music, their passion. Insightful and well worth a read.
Charles
just read this one. fun, profound, playful, flows... really great.
i mean... what else would you expect when you sit down with a handful of the world's greatest jazz musicians/composers while listening to music?
Troy
I really enjoyed this book.To get a glimpse into what is in the minds as inspirations and notable in the minds of some damned good musicians.
Reid Siljestrom
Ben Ratliff interviews jazz musicians by way of stopping by there house. They play selections for him and talk about music
Brenda
Listening With, collected. One of the most enjoyable music educations around. And playlists to last you hours, or years. Bravo.
Jason Farley
Interesting, and well written. Not a lot of Jazz that I was terribly familiar with though.
Richie
Very enjoyable...
Nicola
Nicola added it
Apr 28, 2015
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“I remember once I asked Wayne for the time," Miller told Mercer. "He started talking to me about the cosmos and how time is relative." Miller and [Wayne] Shorter were waiting somewhere -- an airport, a train station, a hotel. The band's keyboardist, Joe Zawinul, who took charge of such matters as what the road crew was supposed to do and when, set Miller straight. "You don't ask Wayne shit like that," he snapped. "It's 7:06 p.m." [p.1]” 4 likes
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