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How to Listen to Jazz

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  970 ratings  ·  119 reviews
An acclaimed music scholar presents an accessible introduction to the art of listening to jazz

In How to Listen to Jazz, award-winning music scholar Ted Gioia presents a lively introduction to one of America's premier art forms. 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 sounds t
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by Basic Books
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  970 ratings  ·  119 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 Fellows (abookolive)
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
See my review on booktube: ...more
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 a b
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Ted Gioia is a solid writer and has a terrific grasp of jazz music. But I came away somewhat disappointed in this work. It is more of a personal journey into jazz. And when he starts getting into chord progressions and music theory and that sort of thing, it becomes a challenge in my opinion for the average reader. I'm going to read his book on jazz standards, which I think might be a better way to understand and appreciate jazz -- a look at individual songs rather than a very wide look at the m ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a recovering death-metal DJ. . . this was very helpful.
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
Will Clemmons
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you’re looking to dive deeper into jazz, read this book. Very informative and helps in finding your own jazz journey, not someone else’s.
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Feel like I’m finally ready to be that white-guy-in-his-20s at cocktail parties.

Really good introduction for complete newcomers that I feel I will keep going back to. Includes chapters on basic terms, history of trends, and key artist profiles. Definitely recommend listening to the Spotify playlist in between sections.
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
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jazz
(Spoiler: there is no wrong way!)
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.
Logan Price
Jul 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-experts
It's always fun to hear the perspective of an expert who's passionate about their field. They just missed a big opportunity by not including actual music samples in the audiobook. I'd be pumped if they transformed this to a podcast.

Favorite Quote: The work of art always requires us to adapt to it—and in this manner can be distinguished from escapism or shallow entertainment, which instead aims to adapt to the audience, to give the public exactly what it wants. We can tell that we are encounterin
Dave Purcell
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
A very good primer for listening to jazz. It's clearly written, free of jargon, and encouraging in its approach. Highly recommended if you're new to jazz and don't know where to start. And it's a good read even if you've been listening to jazz for decades, as I have.
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ted Gioia knows so much about jazz, but at the same time writes with such generosity and humility, his book helps even a newbie gain the confidence to wade into the depths of the genre.
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
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 ba
Fraser Kinnear
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, art
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
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.
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
Daniel Kudlowiez Franch
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, jazz
I feel that I have finished reading the book, but I will still need a lot of time to really learn from it. Which means it was a great experience.
I had some familiarity to jazz and some artists that I hold to my heart and ears, but the genre as whole still seemed daunting and I always had a feeling of not knowing from where I should start and how to understand its history and evolution. Even worse, how to know what I should be listening for when I go check out a new artist?
This book was a great h
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
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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
34 likes · 12 comments
“Jazz at this time is still mostly a group effort.” 3 likes
“Listening, not jargon, is the path into the heart of music. And if we listen at a deep enough level, we enter into the magic of the song - no degrees or formal credentials required.
[...] [C]areful listening can demystify virtually all of the intricacies and marvels of jazz. [...] [T]he people who first gave us jazz did so without much formal study - and, in some instances, with none at all. But they knew how to listen.”
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