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!

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1997


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