The biographical encyclopedia of jazz /

Main Author: Feather, Leonard G.
Other Authors: Gitler, Ira.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
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Review by Choice Review

Jazz enthusiasts and scholars owe a debt of gratitude to Gitler for completing this important resource guide following Feather's death in 1994 (Feather worked on the project from 1990 to 1994). Both are considered giants in the field of jazz writing and criticism. The encyclopedia incorporates and expands on Feather's seminal works: The Encyclopedia of Jazz (1955; rev. ed., 1960), The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties (CH, Jun'67), and a work coauthored with Gitler, Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies (CH, Sep'77). The authors decided not to issue an encyclopedia of the 1990s but to create a new, more encompassing work with expanded biographies that would include as many 20th-century artists as possible. Gitler enlisted the help of a number of jazz scholars and referred to numerous existing jazz guides to flesh out entries. The result after nearly ten years of effort is an extremely efficient and valuable resource on one of America's unique treasures, our jazz musicians. All levels. B. Biggs; California State University, San Marcos

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Along with his assistant, Gitler, the late Feather compiled some of the most useful reference works for those interested in the history of jazz. Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz (Horizon, 1960) is a classic. This new volume is an extensive biographical encyclopedia of figures throughout the history of jazz up to the present day. The work is made up of more than 3,000 biographies, listed in alphabetical order. Musicians, singers, songwriters, and producers are included. Each entry begins with birth and death information, instruments played, and music-education information. This is followed by a listing of groups each individual played with for significant periods of time. Concluding each entry are lists of recordings, broadcast appearances, and record labels. In general, the biographies are brief, giving little or no narrative about the life, work, style, and influence of the individuals covered. Entries for more famous or prolific people are an exception. Among those favored with longer treatments are Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Charlie Parker, and Oscar Peterson. The major difficulty that readers will have is dealing with the more than 400 abbreviations. Record labels, schools and associations, festivals, and instruments join the set of "general" abbreviations in a three-page listing at the front of the encyclopedia. This extensive use of abbreviations was likely necessary to keep the work to a single volume. Their meanings are often obvious, (e.g., tpt means trumpet and comp means composer), but new users of the book will likely find them confusing or frustrating. The older but still very useful Who's Who of Jazz (Chilton, 1972) has fewer entries, but generally provides more detailed biographies. Also important is The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (rev. ed., St. Martin's, 1994), which has very good biographies on the most prominent figures and includes brief bibliographies. Although this new work would have benefited from an index to individuals mentioned in the biographies of others and would be more readable with less liberal use of abbreviations, it is still an indispensable reference source for its comprehensiveness and quality of scholarship. Highly recommended for most collections.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

This updated version comes 23 years after Feather and Gitler's Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies, itself a follow-up to the Encyclopedia of Jazz (published in the 1950s) and the Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties. The older encyclopedias were heavily consulted standard reference tools, and this publication is sure to follow suit. Beware of two drawbacks, however: the editors neglect many musicians, often still active, who have worked in the field over the past 30-plus years, and many foreign musicians. For example, one misses multi-instrumentalist Milo Fine, who has been recording since 1969; most of his recordings are easily available, and he continues performing to this day. Musicians as varied as Richard Tabnik, Myra Melford, Matt Turner, Ahmed Abdullah, and Don Messina are also ignored. Including a few foreign musicians doesn't do justice to the hundreds of others left outÄthe Italian jazz scene alone could easily support 100 entries. There are no excuses for these failings, although many other works, e.g., All Music Guide to Jazz (Miller Freeman, 1998. 3d ed.) has the same frustrating problems. In addition, CDs are listed by label, and over 400 abbreviations allow the text to be condensed at the expense of a smooth narrative (users of the older Encyclopedias are familiar with this scheme). Still, what is included in this book is very useful. The citations give accurate basic background on musicians from the 1920s onward. Recommended, despite its shortcomings, for public and academic libraries, especially those supporting strong music collections; readers looking for a more complete listing of jazz musicians should see "The European Free Improvisation Pages" (www.shef.ac.uk/misc/rec/ps/efi/ehome. html).ÄWilliam Kenz, Moorhead State Univ. Lib., MN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.