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Gary Giddins: 101 Ways To Get Into 'Jazz'

Attempting to make your way into jazz is never easy, but the jazz writer and cultural critic Gary Giddins has just made my favorite four-letter word a little more approachable. Jazz, by Giddins and scholar Scott DeVeaux, is a new guide for novice listeners and longtime fans alike. Beyond the descriptions and definitions of what jazz is, who its major players are, and how it came to be and adapt in relation to American history, Jazz provides readers with an opportunity to become active listeners. Landmark recordings are condensed into a play-by-play commentary, allowing anyone to follow along with genius on display.

I recently spoke with Gary Giddins about Jazz. At the end of our interview, I asked him to select five songs from the book's 101 selected jazz recordings. These collected works were never meant to be a "Best Of" list, only an alphabetized guide to some jazz records that warrant your listening with an empathetic ear. As Giddins acknowledges, hardly anyone likes every style of jazz; tastes change and hopefully expand over time. But as the book's sole epigram, from Sidney Bechet, states: "You got to be in the sun to feel the sun. It's that way with music, too."

So enjoy a little sunshine. Here are Giddins' selections and responses to each. (He technically picked six, but this Jimmy Lunceford track is not currently available commercially.)

Copyright 2009 WBGO

Josh Jackson
Josh Jackson is the associate general manager for content at WRTI in Philadelphia.