The 12 Best Jazz Music Books

7 min read

Jazz music is an enthralling and complex genre, with a rich history of influential musicians and improvisation. Those who are looking to explore jazz further should consider the following books, which provide insight into the art form while offering practical tips and exercises for developing their own skills as players or listeners. From classic texts like The Real Book to more modern works such as The Jazz of Physics, these books offer invaluable guidance on all things related to jazz.

  1. How to Listen to Jazz

    How to Listen to Jazz
    Ted Gioia
    Published in 2017

    In How to Listen to Jazz, Ted Gioia brings a passionate and comprehensive approach for understanding the genre. Drawing on his own experience as both a musician and music scholar, he gives readers an accessible introduction that can demystify jazz complexities and appreciate its many marvels. The book provides useful tips on what to listen out for in performances, along with guides of leading musicians from Louis Armstrong’s innovative sounds all the way up to Miles Davis’ jazz-rock fusion. Also included are helpful ‘music maps’, which serve as an invaluable source of recordings. It is clear that this is a love letter by an expert – it should be essential reading for anyone looking to gain insight into America’s greatest contributions musically!

  2. The Jazz of Physics

    The Jazz of Physics
    Stephon Alexander
    Published in 2017

    The Jazz of Physics is an incredible, original journey that combines the science and music of our universe in a captivating way. Written by physicist Stephon Alexander with memoir-style vignettes, this book follows great minds from Pythagoras to Coltrane and Einstein who have explored the links between physics and music. It delves deep into topics such as vibration, resonance, cosmology, relativity and quantum theory using jazz analogies to make complex concepts clear. This intellectually stimulating read will fascinate readers interested in life’s mysteries while providing insight on how modern day physicists are furthering research about the structure of our universe. An inspiring story for anyone seeking a unique perspective on ‘the meaning it all,’ The Jazz Of Physics is sure to entrance its audience through Alexader’s rhapsodic excitement about his own field of study .

  3. The Real Book: Sixth Edition

    The Real Book: Sixth Edition
    Hal Leonard Corporation
    Published in 2004

    The Real Book: Sixth Edition is a fantastic collection of 400 jazz classics from some of the greatest composers and songwriters in history. This book has been produced with immense care, taking into account copyright laws and compensating creators accurately and ethically. Musicians will love the accuracy, note-for-note transcriptions, style consistency and affordability that this edition offers compared to its original version – all notorious errors have been fixed! The extensive song list includes timeless favorites such as All Blues, Autumn Leaves, Black Orpheus, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore and My Funny Valentine – making it an essential resource for any conscientious musician looking to hone their skills on classic tunes. Available in B-flat, E-flat or Bass Clef editions; plus you can use Hal Leonard’s official Songfinder to quickly locate your desired songs. The perfect accompaniment for any gig night after night!

  4. Essential Jazz Piano Exercises Every Piano Player Should Know

    Essential Jazz Piano Exercises Every Piano Player Should Know
    Jerald Simon
    Published in 2021

    This book, Essential Jazz Piano Exercises Every Piano Player Should Know by Jerald Simon, is an essential resource for anyone interested in learning and mastering the art of jazz piano. It covers a wide range of topics including key signatures, basic music theory review, most common chords, blues pentascales, the major blues scale and more. The book also provides 33 original pieces to help put into practice what has been learned from studying the content. Additionally it contains over 100 measures of right-hand riffs and improvisation patterns created from both minor and major scales which provide great challenges for experienced players. This comprehensive guide offers clear guidance on how to apply jazz theory when arranging or composing music as well as practical exercises which allow users to take their playing skills further than ever before. Whether you’re just starting out or already have some experience with playing jazz piano this insightful publication could be exactly what you need in order to reach your musical goals.

  5. Concise Guide to Jazz

    Concise Guide to Jazz
    Mark Gridley
    Published in 2012

    The Concise Guide to Jazz, written by jazz musician and historian Mark Gridley, is a perfect introduction for those looking to explore the world of jazz. This brief text examines the origins of jazz, how it’s created, what should be listened for and key style eras that have shaped its development. Focusing on just over fifty iconic figures in its seventh edition, this book offers an easy-to-digest overview without overwhelming readers with too much information. Furthermore, Pearson has made available digital formats via CourseSmart, Amazon and other providers – allowing students to access music associated with their course through Spotify as well. All in all; if you’re curious about exploring the genre further then The Concise Guide To Jazz is essential reading material!

  6. The Jazz Theory Book

    The Jazz Theory Book
    Mark Levine
    Published in 1995

    The Jazz Theory Book, by Mark Levine, is an incredible resource on jazz improvisation. It provides intermediate to advanced players with all the necessary information in a comprehensive and easy-to-understand manner. Endorsed by renowned musicians such as Jamey Aebersold, James Moody, Dave Liebman and more, it’s no surprise that this book has been used around the world at universities. Its clarity makes it stand out from other pedagogical books to provide readers with valuable insight into the inner workings of jazz theory – knowledge straight from some of our greatest jazz masters! As if its 522 pages aren’t enough already; there are also examples throughout that further help explain different concepts for improved understanding. With its spiral binding allowing it to stay flat while open and read easily, The Jazz Theory Book is a must have for all improvising musicians regardless of instrument or skill level.

  7. How To Improvise

    How To Improvise
    Hal Crook
    Published in 2015

    This book, How To Improvise by Hal Crook is a comprehensive guide to jazz improvisation. It includes detailed instruction on how to approach rhythm, melody and harmony through written musical examples alongside suggested exercises and a sample practice schedule. This unique one-thing-at-a-time” method incorporates discipline, technique, creativity and musical intuition for an effective learning process. The book has been used successfully at the Berklee College of Music since 1988; it provides significant insight into the art of jazz improvisation as well as offering valuable advice from Chairman Larry Monroe of their Professional Performance Division. With its organized layout that makes easy work of practice sessions, this book offers readers an invaluable resource in mastering the tricky business of improvising Jazz music.

  8. The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire

    The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire
    Ted Gioia
    Published in 2021

    The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire is an essential resource for jazz enthusiasts and performers alike. This comprehensive book dives into the story of more than 250 key jazz songs, providing a listening guide to over 2,000 recordings. Authored by Ted Gioia, this updated second edition features 15 additional songs plus hundreds of recommended tracks, with enhancements on almost every page. It’s a unique reference work that outlines each song’s history and significance while telling how they have been performed across generations of jazz artists. Whether readers are curious about tunes heard at clubs or on the radio; musicians playing them night after night; or students learning these cornerstones of repertoire – The Jazz Standards serves as an invaluable introduction to the art form and should belong in any music lover’s library!

  9. The Jazz Language

    The Jazz Language
    Dan Haerle
    Published in 1982

    The Jazz Language, by Dan Haerle, is a must-have manual for any musician interested in the genre. It offers an insightful and organized approach to understanding the fundamentals of jazz theory through various perspectives. This comprehensive text covers all topics commonly used by today’s jazz artists that aid musicians in furthering their exploration with improvisation and arrangements. In addition to providing essential information about scales, chords, progressions and more, this book also presents exercises for direct application of these concepts. The easy-to-follow presentation makes it suitable for both beginners who are new to music theory as well as advanced students looking to refine their skillset. With its logical order dictated by complexity and need, The Jazz Language serves as an excellent pedagogical reference guide which can help equip readers with knowledge needed to excel in any musical activity they desire.

  10. Dilla Time

    Dilla Time
    Dan Charnas
    Published in 2022

    In Dan Charnas’ book, Dilla Time: A Musical Biography of J.Dilla, readers are given an informative and intimate portrait of a musical genius whose work has had a lasting impact on popular music today. Through meticulous research and detailed analysis the author traces the life of James DeWitt Yancey from his childhood in Detroit to his death at age 32 due to complications with rare blood disease; shedding light on how he managed to revolutionize modern music without ever having achieved mainstream success himself. Interweaving narrative with graphics that help build concepts step-by-step for fans and newcomers alike this unique text offers insight into rhythm, funk, techno and soul as well as an examination of African American culture through its connection with hip hop production. For anyone interested in learning more about this iconic figure or simply enjoying good writing about music, Dilla Time is sure to provide both entertainment and education.

  11. Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

    Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
    Robin D. G. Kelley
    Published in 2010

    Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin D.G. Kelley is a comprehensive biography that brings to life the extraordinary struggle and creative genius of one of America’s most original jazz composers. Drawing on family documents, dozens of interviews, and full access to archives, this book dispels common myths about Monk as untrained or eccentric while depicting his incredible talent for music from a young age – thanks in part to nurturing from local institutions such as after-school programs – through adulthood with support from his wife Nellie. Meticulously researched yet written with humor and pathos, it is an absorbing read that will be appreciated by devotees of modern jazz everywhere.

  12. Jazz, Rags & Blues, Book 5

    Jazz, Rags & Blues, Bk 5
    Martha Mier
    Published in 2009

    Martha Mier’s Jazz, Rags & Blues Book 5 is a terrific intermediate-level solo piano book from the well known series. Featuring eight songs, including ‘Blue Interlude’ and ‘Hot Potato Rag’, this volume offers students an opportunity to explore jazz and blues music in fun and interesting ways. The accompanying audio recordings are dynamic and add a great extra element for learners to interact with. Piano teachers have praised it as an excellent way of introducing their pupils to timeless melodies outside of classical music styles. Experienced players will also find plenty here that they can enjoy mastering. Whether you’re looking for recital pieces or late night jams – Jazz, Rags & Blues Bk5 delivers!

Additional resources

If you are looking for more information about Jazz Music, the following websites provide useful and informative content:

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