Ian Carr,
Digby Fairweather
& Brian Priestley,
The Rough Guide to Jazz:
The Essential Companion
to Artists & Albums

(Viking/Penguin, 1995/2000)

If you're a jazz freak (like myself), or a jazz newbie trying to wind your way through the vast world of jazz musicians and albums, this is the book to buy. Put together slowly by a group of jazzophiles, it's got everything you can think of, and more.

In fact, there are artists in this book that nobody's ever thought of looking for. It's two inches thick with tissue-thin pages, chock-full of artist bios and black and white photography, coming together in a unique resource.

Bios range from a few paragraphs as an outline to a whopping two or three pages that summarize both artist and career. Want to know about Billie Holliday's phobias? Louis Armstrong's discography? What artists Kevin Eubanks has collaborated with? How about the date of Duke Ellington's first international concert? This book is where to find it. And more.

The information is well-researched and accessibly written. Everything is cross-referenced and organized. It's like having a friend in the business or an encyclopedia of knowledge at your fingertips. Better, it's priced at a very reasonable $20 (U.S.) or so. Less if you're a bargain shopper.

If I'm thinking of buying an album, this is where I check first. I read the bio and check to see if this CD is rated among the artist's best. My copy of this book is so dog-eared that the pages are just about to fall out.

And isn't that the tell-tale sign of a great book, anyway?

If you're thinking of learning more about jazz or continuing your fascination with it, pick up this book. It's a fantastic introduction to the complicated and sometimes intimidating world of jazz music and musicians. It's your ticket inside.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]

Buy The Rough Guide to Jazz from Amazon.com.