Paul Bestion on How to Listen to Jazz

PAUL BESTON: a review of How to Listen to Jazz. It’s a review of this book by Ted Gioia.

Gioia also explains the structure of jazz songs, about 95 percent of which, he says, follow a three-part structure of theme, variation (solos), and theme. He maps out jazz classics like Jelly Roll Morton’s “Sidewalk Blues,” Duke Ellington’s “Sepia Panorama,” and Charlie Parker’s rendition of “Night in Tunisia,” breaking them down into sections of bars—32 bars, 16 bars, 12 bars—and notating what’s happening in each one instrumentally. He encourages readers to play the songs with these “listening maps” in front of them. These frameworks prove useful in understanding how what sounds like a free-flowing performance is actually intricately constructed.

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