Friday, November 2, 2012

Gioia's Jazz Standards

I have only dipped into The Jazz Standards, but this book is such a kick that I'll write this in blatant disregard for my policy of reading first and writing second.

You feel in good hands from the top, lightly guided by Gioia, a seasoned pro, with no odd axes to grind, no academic shtick to flog. The feeling is like spending a night among friends, talking about which tunes you think are important and which versions of the tunes stand out. Just as you might now reach for Brian Rust to settle arguments about who was on a certain Trumbauer date or Leonard Feather to look up where Ike Quebec was born, you'll be able to turn to "The Jazz Standards" to get a quick look at the history of a tune and a memory jog to help lead you back to a certain recording you couldn't quite remember.

New facts abound. Guy Wood, composer of "My One and Only Love" wrote music for Captain Kangaroo? Sigmund Romberg worked in a pencil factory? Prez had a top 10 juke box hit with "Just You, Just Me"?

Of course, there will be disagreements among invested jazz people-Jon Hendricks' "Airegin" lyrics rate a mention, but not King Pleasure's for "All of Me." Maybe Kenny Dorham's "Prince Albert," an alternative melody for "All the things You Are," should have gotten a citation. Will jazz fans really "have a hard time enjoying Bird's outing ["Bird with Strings" playing "Just Friends"] given the mood music ambience of the arrangement?" Maybe a case can be made that other tunes, like "Up Jumped Spring" or "Moanin'" should be here...

But you can accept and even relish these disagreements, because you can tell by what the author put in that he knew he had to leave a lot out. It's a big book-over 500 pages-and I bet the author and the publisher had some long conversations about how long it could or should be. You could, for example, do an entire tome on "I Got Rhythm."

OK, enough. I like it. I'm glad it's on my shelf.


2 comments:

The LondonJazz site said...

Nice piece. London singer Sara Mitra did a great review of the book for us at LondonJazz

http://londonjazz.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/book-review-jazz-standards-guide-to.html

Steve Provizer said...

Thanks. I avoided other reviews before I wrote mine, but I'll check it out now. Steve