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How to Listen to Jazz

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  596 ratings  ·  79 reviews
"Mr. Gioia could not have done a better job. Through him, jazz might even find new devotees." --The Economist

In How to Listen to Jazz, award-winning music scholar Ted Gioia presents a lively introduction to the art of listening to jazz. He tells us what to listen for in a performance and includes a guide to today's leading jazz musicians. From Louis Armstrong's innovative
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by Basic Books
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4.11  · 
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 ·  596 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jazz
Hands down, one of the best books on jazz I have ever read. And easily the best book on trying to explain jazz. If you are just dipping a toe in the great ocean that is jazz, or if you have been enjoying this music for decades, this is a book that will increase your understanding and enjoyment of this music. It's already altered the way I listen to music, and I've been listening to jazz since the early eighties. I think it helps that Ted Gioia is a musician himself. How to listen to jazz is also ...more
Olive (abookolive)
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
See my review on booktube:
Iris Nuțu
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars, actually. I only give ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ to books that I feel I could start reading again the moment I have read the last word on the last page, which is obviously not the case right now - but still. This was amazing.

I've just finished reading this book (and when I say reading I mean reading & listening to Gioia's recommendations) and I've been sitting here for the last couple of minutes, listening to random jazz on Spotify, having coffee and a cigarette and simply being grateful that such
Bob O'bannon
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
There are so many people who love jazz, and who speak of it with such passion and devotion, that I have always concluded that my own indifference to the genre must be the fault of me, not the music. So what could be more fitting than a book titled "How to Listen to Jazz"?

It is clear that Ted Gioia not only loves jazz, but wants you to love it too. In clear and understandable language, he explains essential musical concepts as dynamics, phrasing, pitch, and personality. He gives helpful summarie
Sep 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This could have been a 5 star book, very easily. I chose to get this as an audio book because I have listened to many music related books on audio format.
The reader is great and it is well written. It is missing music samples! How can I learn what to listen for if there is no music.
Audio books are also often listened to in the car. I can't even write notes on what he is telling to listen to or watch on YouTube.
I know there are probably issues with copyrights but still. :(
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Well written, but foremost aimed at (and useful for) newcomers to jazz.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Picked this up while randomly perusing the shelves at the library. It turned out to be a delight. Gioia is as big a fan of jazz as he is a learned critic. He starts out by talking about really using your ears to listen to the music, gives a little background on rhythm and structure, then moves from the origins of jazz through each type of style/era (complete with recommended songs/artists for each period of innovation), and then closes with some of his favorite innovators (Louis Armstrong, Colem ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
How to Listen to Jazz is a worthy tribute to the jazz heroes of the twentieth century. I can't imagine a better introduction to jazz than this book. Gioia succeeds at finding structure in a genre which consists largely of improvisation and feeling, and gives a spot on analysis. For newcomers to jazz, he includes numerous examples of masterpieces to listen to. The more advanced listeners will enjoy the extensive analysis he gives on various jazz styles, after which you will develop even more appr ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a recovering death-metal DJ. . . this was very helpful.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
I confess that despite having a lot of respect for and a fair amount of interest in jazz, I have often found it hard to get into as a listener and concert-goer. Luckily, Gioia wrote this book, which is pretty ideal for tackling just this problem. He lays out the main features common to all (or at least most) jazz regardless of style so that the listener can orient themselves to the music, goes briefly through jazz history and the development of different styles, gives guidance for listening to a ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: criticism, music
A nice overview, especially for a beginner to jazz. Perhaps it's most valuable element is the frequent listing of tracks worth listening to. If you have Spotify, it's a breeze to look up the playlist for this book and have all these tracks ready and cued up.
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jazz
(Spoiler: there is no wrong way!)
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ted Gioia is a highly-respected jazz critic and musician (pianist) who has written a number of lengthy works on blues and jazz and this here is a very approach for a jazz primer: to try to provide an overview of its currents while offering up some pointers for newcomers and dabblers (and even perhaps some jaded aficionados) on what to listen for in the music, while insisting on the personal nature of many responses. Gioia's is a commonsense but impassioned approach, blending eagerness with a did ...more
Michael Sedor
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Disguises itself as a beginner's book but contains a lot of larger truths
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I don't really agree with the majority of the reviews that say this was a great beginner book on jazz. I'm a beginner. Not having much of a musical background, I really got bogged down in the musical jargon and theory. I can read music and played years ago, but even that little bit did not help me with this book. The author would state that he could explain the complexities of jazz to the most inexperienced listener, in simple language. Then he would go into, what for me was a very complicated e ...more
Steve Carroll
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
really wonderful. I'm reading this as someone who has some experience listening to jazz but I feel this works for both beginners and more causal fans. he covers both what to listen for in the music as well as a concise history of the genre, a catalog of the most common styles and key artists. works best when read with a Spotify subscription and YouTube nearby for the full effect to take advantage of the many suggested listening selections.
Rian Merwe
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was fantastic. Highly recommended. The first half is about the feel, structure, and meaning of jazz. The second half goes through the history of jazz, its biggest names, and some listening recommendations.
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Flawed, Interesting, not Revolutionary

Any book titled "How to..." could be written in under 10 pages, so to make this book close to full-length (224 pages generously spaced), Gioia necessarily expands that topic into a jazz overview and history. Having a cover blurb from such a liberal rag as The Economist was not encouraging, but the reviews were. So I plunged ahead, jazz novice that I am.

I don't feel I walked away with a "how to..." which seemingly would have explained the "hard listening" th
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Extremely helpful and accessible introduction to Jazz history and styles. I'd recommend this to anyone new to the genre as well as existing Jazz lovers who want to become better listeners of and understand the sub-genres. While I know that not every sub-genre will necessarily be my "cup of Tea (for Two, or Two for Tea)" I appreciate Gioia's even-handed approach to the music and his way of explaining the significance of these innovations to Jazz over time definitely makes me look forward to liste ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
Fast read. Finished in <24 hours, including listening to A LOT of music samples. Tough to put this book down.
First 1/3 is really describing how to listen.
pg 9: "If you are seeking out the secret source of swing, a good place to start is with the locking together of the bass and drums." I absolutely agree. I quickly judge jazz bands I see by their bass and drum synergy.
Next part is a history of Jazz, with emphasis on what to listen to per how things changed since the previous era. Standard 32
Fraser Kinnear
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, history
This is a loose history of major movements in jazz music, what distinguishes them stylistically, important artists who contributed to those movements and provides probably a hundred representative songs. I left with about a dozen different Spotify playlists, which has been worth the price of admission for me.

What the reader doesn’t get is very much music theory, beyond some references to choices made in metre (e.g., Brubek’s “Take 5” was named after its unusual 5/4 metre), probably because it’s
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
How to Listen to Jazz, by Ted Gioia, is a pleasant, chatty book that isn't as pedagogic as the title might suggest. To be sure, Gioia does provide many clues and tips on how to listen to this most vibrant style of music, but many of them would apply to any style. He also doesn't give a simple list of names, and tell the reader to go listen to these records, though he does give many suggestions, and some lists. It also doesn't quite fulfill its promise to explain how music critics reach the concl ...more
Dave Ciskowski
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bin-1, stored
An entertaining, concise framework for anyone who wants to listen to jazz with some structure and history. Gioia sets an interesting task for himself, aiming a book at readers who already enjoy jazz but who might not know much about it. The book works quite well for that audience, and is even a good fit for those who are just getting into jazz, or as a syllabus for those who already know a lot but want to fill in the gaps or find a different way to appreciate the music. The earlier chapters, foc ...more
Carolyn Wood
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2018
4.5 stars. As someone who spent many lunch periods in high school nerding out on jazz records in the school library while reading interviews with musicians in Downbeat magazine, I wasn't sure how much I'd get out of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as would someone is who sort of a beginner but has a keen interest in getting to know jazz. As each historical jazz style is covered or "giant" of jazz (Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, etc.) is discussed, you'll find plenty of "where t ...more
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this book. The informal style was refreshing. He comes at it as a very well-informed FAN! Not intended as a comprehensive review, he touches on the major jazz periods/styles and artists with an ear toward what influenced them and also what set them apart. This rejuvenated my relationship to jazz and gave me pointers (as well as specific song suggestions) on how to be a better music listener. To hear not just the notes but the person playing them. What are they trying to say? ...more
Mark Lisac
Nov 22, 2017 rated it liked it
A nicely done, plainspoken introduction to a very large subject. Probably of particular use for readers who haven't heard much of the music. Much of it may be redundant for anyone who has listened to a lot of jazz or has seen Ken Burns's television series Jazz, which has the advantage of a soundtrack. However, I learned a few things about familiar musicians and songs, and was introduced to more modern streams of jazz that I'm not familiar with. The lack of sound can partially be made up by using ...more
Frederic Kerr
This was recommended by The Economist magazine and was one of their Books of the Year. I didn't find the writing compelling and sometimes found the descriptions overly simple, vague or misleading, as when author Gioia talks about time signatures being loose within a piece. As an aspiring sax improviser, I don't think he captures the essence of improvising, which is the whole point of jazz.

The author, who is a jazz pianist and critic, lays out a detailed list of recommended recordings designed to
Sid Groeneman
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always had a casual interest in jazz and wanted to improve my knowledge and appreciation. Ted Gioia, a leading music historian, educator, and critic, does an impressive job of instructing novices like myself how to listen to jazz. Avoiding technical jargon that would be intelligible only to jazz insiders or those with formal musical training, he succeeds at informing and making it interesting by interspersing discussion of the structure of jazz compositions with its history, with copious re ...more
Jim Thomas
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
The Best book on how to understand and appreciate jazz for the layman since Martin Williams's Where's the Melody. Made me want to go back and listen again with new approaches to some of my pretty big collection. I now have 0ver 23,000 "songs" in my library of which I'm sure contain at least 75% jazz. Happy listening! Do yourself a favor. I still love, like most jazz fans, Miles Davis's Kind of Blue but I've never particularly liked Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Give me Blue Train, Giant Steps or ev ...more
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