Friday, January 07, 2011

Book Review: The Penguin Jazz Guide by Brian Morton

The Penguin Jazz GuideThe Penguin Jazz Guide by Brian Morton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After many iterations going back to the ancient Penguin Guide to Jazz on LP, Cassette and Compact Disc (written in Cuneiform script on clay tablets) the venerable guide has changed its format. Gone are the star ratings and the oft-argued about crowns that sparked so much discussion on the jazz world. The new guide exists in a chronological format, decade by decade, akin to the popular "1,001 things you need to hear" format. Starting with the earliest recordings of The Original Dixieland Jazz Band and then continuing through to modern albums for recent years, the book gives short reviews of each album along with discographical information about the performers involved. Readers of previous editions of the guide will notice that some reviews remain basically unchanged from previous editions while some have been slightly tweaked, while others get whole new reviews or expanded coverage. It's still a quirky piece of work (they love their trad jazz and European free) but I think it still remains a valuable resource for jazz fans. The new chronological format makes it easier to read straight through, coming off as something of an off the cuff history of jazz through recordings. It also works well as a straight reference work, with short biographies and capsule reviews, which will be helpful to the new listener and the curious. The Penguin Jazz Guide -

Send comments to Tim.