What Jazz Is: An Insider's Guide to Understanding and Listening to Jazz

What Jazz Is: An Insider's Guide to Understanding and Listening to Jazz

What Jazz Is: An Insider's Guide to Understanding and Listening to Jazz

What Jazz Is: An Insider's Guide to Understanding and Listening to Jazz


"You have to talk about how jazz is like a language. Musical improvisation can put people at a distance, primarily because of jazz's limited exposure. When people realize that everyone who creates a sentence is improvising within basic rules, making statements up spontaneously, the music begins to make more sense." –Jonny King Imagine you are in the audience of a jazz club. The piano player invites you up on stage to meet the musicians after the set is finished. You listen to them talkabout the tempo of the last tune, the order of songs for their next set, and the different jazz greats they admire. What Jazz Isgives you the experience of "being there" as Jonny King takes you on stage and into the core of modern jazz. From the unique perspective of a professional jazz pianist, King explores the basic elements and language of jazz. He explains each instrument's role in locking in the tempo, establishing the harmony, and stating the melody, and he reveals the order and logic behind the seeming randomness of improvisation. Along the way, he celebrates the distinctive playing styles of such classic jazz artists as Art Blakey, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk, as well as his contemporaries, such as Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride, and Joshua Redman. Whether you are about to attend a jazz club for the first time or buy your umpteenth CD, your listening experience will be enhanced by reading this eloquent and passionate account of how jazz works and why it sizzles!


Jazz. What an art form. Musicians all over the world are contributing to it every day. Nonmusicians all over the world enjoy it. It's also an art form that some people don't know much about and, unfortunately, don't care to know about! Nevertheless, this art form is a national treasure.

This book will enlighten not only jazz musicians but jazz fans on every level: the Connoisseur, the Fair-Weather Fan, and the mtv Fan who is just starting to listen to jazz. I guarantee that after you read this book, you'll get the urge to run to your nearest CD/record store and buy a few recordings by that "Monk" guy or that "Blakey" guy, or by any of the artists whose names you'll come across here. How do I know?

As a young boy, I vividly remember watching my great uncle listen to his jazz records. This seemingly weird and strange-sounding music would move him to unexpected, abrupt jolts of excitement. He would laugh, swoon, and sometimes dance to it. His passion for jazz made me wonder, What's in this music that's making him go through all these antics?

Though I became curious about his passion, I played it safe for the next few years, listening to Michael Jackson, Prince, DeBarge, and of course the "Godfather of Soul," James Brown. Occasionally, I would still hear jazz music during a visit to my great uncle's or . . .

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