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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Review: The Penguin Jazz Guide by James Morton & Richard Cook.

The package landed in the passage with a resounding thud. The Tenth Edition of the PENGUIN JAZZ GUIDE sub-titled, The History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums had arrived.
Wow!
I'm still working from the Fourth Edition!
Actually, the previous edition - Edition 9 - is about twice the size of this one but, as this latest one is near half the price, I guess that's fair enough.
The Tenth Edition doesn't claim to be a near complete listing of an artists output - will that ever be possible again other than online? The number of budget reissues from questionable sources coupled with self-produced albums make discographies and books such as this an almost impossible task from the point of view of total completeness
However, instead of attempting an en masse approach, the author(s) have opted for the 1001 best jazz recordings which, although subjective, is still a daunting task. Nevertheless, this must surely be as good a guide as anything else around and if you've got one of the previous editions then they will complement each other.
Originally compiled by Brian Morton and the late Richard Cook, Morton now goes it alone although Richard's name remains as co-author and I can only wonder how even two persons could so accurately assess so many recordings let alone one person!
It is a wonderful tome running to some 700 plus pages that, just like my previous edition, I know I will dip into many times and of course make comparisions. I will nod approvingly, shake my head in disagreement or maybe raise a quizical eyebrow but, most of all, I will be glad to have it to hand - it should be on every serious jazz-lover's bookshelf.
I do have one small - although important - nitpick. The chapters are set out, in the main, in half-decades and nowhere is there any form of alphabetical layout or even an index which is frustrating and timetaking if you are checking to see if an album has been included.
Perhaps this will be addressed in a future issue. It is still a tremendous book not just as a work of reference but for a jolly good read. The quotes from musicians on the albums are worth the price alone. I may post a few once I've had the chance to savour them all.
A snip at £20 it is available from the usual sources or can be purchased post free from Penguin books up until Jan 31, 2011. Lance.

1 comment :

The LondonJazz site said...

Hi Lance,

This may be of interest: I asked Brian Morton to explain the background to the new book to me.

We talked a lot but here is the quick summary.

Talk soon. Sebastian

http://londonjazz.blogspot.com/2010/11/penguin-jazz-guide-published-this.html

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