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Jazz Styles: History And Analysis by Mark C. Gridley

The search for a truly versatile text for jazz history and style classes can be time consuming and frustrating for those instructors desiring a course of study that can be adapted to musicians and non-musicians. The search can end here with Mark Gridley’s 6th edition of his Jazz Styles: History And Analysis.

Gridley has developed a textbook that serves not only as a scholarly exploration of jazz history and analysis of playing and compositional trends but also as a book that can be read by non-musicians for its wealth of information about the art of jazz music. There are two CD’s accompa-nying the book, one demonstration disc that illustrates in-strumental sounds and stylistic differences and a Jazz Classics disc with historically important personnel and groups represented. Combining these discs with the text, readers with no previous knowledge of jazz can begin to explore this music with a great degree of security in knowing that they are listening to the music in a “correct” manner. Those with previous listening or playing experience will find this set to be a refreshing and knowledgeable addition to their library and musical background.

In his preface, Gridley outlines the various approaches that can be taken in using this textbook. These hints will be very helpful to instructors who may find themselves teaching a jazz history course for the first time. Again, the text can be “manipulated” to accommodate music majors as well as general education music appreciation class situations. An instructor’s resource manual is inclu-ded in the package which provides syllabi, discographies, sample test batteries and numerous helpful suggestions as to how to enliven most classroom situations.

Aside from the value that this book offers to the student and educator, the serious jazz fan and/or player will find it to be an invaluable resource to augment any personal library. Historical sections include a list of major names of each period and a comprehensive discography. A video guide enables readers to begin a well rounded collection or to flesh out existing listening libraries. The appendix, “For Musicians,” presents basic theoretical material that is useful for musicians interested in gaining insight to the jazz vocabulary.

Aside from continuing to be the most frequently adopted jazz history text by academic institutions, Gridley’s work has proven to be a gratifying “work in progress.” This sixth edition has built upon serious scholarship and integrity in all previous editions and continues to be updated, revised and genuinely improved upon. The writing style is very readable while being informative at all times. Gridley’s enthusiasm for the subject is contagious without crossing into the “fan mail” realm. All in all, this book and accompanying CDs are welcome additions to the growing catalog of jazz literature.

Originally Published