Understanding Jazz: Ways to Listen

From the intricate syncopation to the elaborate rhythms to the meticulous phrasings (instruments, scats and vocals), jazz is one of the most complex forms of music. Like a sophisticated lady, jazz takes time, tremendous patience and careful attentions to get acquainted with. Of course, the experience is rewarding once we tapped into her body and soul (I am referring to the musical pleasure).

If jazz is the sophisticated lady, Tom Piazza’s Understanding Jazz: Ways to Listen is a useful dating guide. He shows how the art is formed, explains how instruments integrate to create exotic sounds, and demonstrates the aesthetics of storytelling through syncopation, rhythm, improvisation, time and space. With an accompaniment CD consisted of seven classic jazz pieces including King Oliver’s “Weather Bird Rag,” Count Basie and Lester Young’s “Boogie Woogie” and Mile Davis Quintet’s “Footprint,” Piazza uses them as references throughout the book to help readers understand what he means when he talks about music. For example: “… listen to the series of descending figures [Sonny Rollins] plays in “Moritat” at 2:23, or listen at 3:02, when he alludes to the melody, or to the little grunt he emits at 3:42, or the yelp of assent right around 5:53, during his exchanges with drummer Max Roach.” In addition, the extensive of “Further Listening” recommendations at the end of each chapter will be helpful to those who wish to embark their journeys deeper into the world of jazz.

Understanding Jazz is recommended for the beginners. Once we understand the music, we can learn about the important figures, such as Pops, Duke, Bird, Dizz, Prez, Bean, Prince of Darkness, Lady Day, whose works made significant contribution to the world of jazz. The history is as intriguing and exciting as the music herself.