This is the fourth of six articles devoted to gifts. Look for future installments in this spot on Sundays through Dec. 19. Jazz books "The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD" by Richard...

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This is the fourth of six articles devoted to gifts. Look for future installments in this spot on Sundays through Dec. 19.

Jazz books

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“The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD”

by Richard Cook and Brian Morton (Penguin, $26). Brit jazz crits Cook and Morton update their classic guide every two years. At 1,725 pages, it’s worth its considerable weight. Insightful, literate, historically and musically informed and opinionated, the emphasis here is on old-fashioned close listening and evaluation — refreshing in these days of online promotional “criticism.” Solid critiques of classic careers — Monk, Coltrane, Miles, Bird — share space with adventurous new voices such as Ab Baars, Ben Allison and Seattle bassist Michael Bisio. Reviewers don’t list tracks, however, except when singled out for comment in the narrative.

Following the lead of All Music guides, Penguin now also designates a “core collection” of 200 discs. Vocalists don’t fare well. Norah Jones, Jamie Cullum and Harry Connick Jr. are omitted, as are Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee (and blues singer Bessie Smith), but this adds to the book’s curmudgeonly charm.

“The Sinatra Treasures,”

by Charles Pignone (Bulfinch, $45). This unusual and luxurious coffee-table book includes color copies of memorabilia, such as ticket stubs, typed letters, invitations, programs, lead sheets, programs from presidential galas, even a baseball box scorecard, all owned by Sinatra. The little treasures are slipped into 13, full-page translucent covers, in between color and black-and-white photographs — family and otherwise — interviews and essays. Nothing penetrating, but personal and fun. A CD features rare tracks and a hilarious radio show with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

“Living With Jazz,”

by Dan Morgenstern (Pantheon, $35). One of the great gentlemen scholars and advocates of jazz, Morgenstern has directed the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University since 1976. Raised in Vienna and Copenhagen before coming to the States in 1947, Morgenstern edited Down Beat and Metronome magazines and has written liner notes, reviews, thumbnail sketches and essays and conducted important oral histories and interviews, earning six Grammy Awards for best album notes.

In a field peppered with personal nastiness and partisan pettiness, Morgenstern almost always has managed to remain above the fray, offering insights and observations — less a critic than a celebrant. In this collection, which spans the period 1958-2001, Morgenstern takes up everyone from James Reese Europe and Louis Armstrong to Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, as well as offering probing essays on discography, jazz and TV, and jazz’s eternal war with “commercialism.”

Jazz compact discs

“Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis 1963-1964” (Columbia).

The producer’s note almost apologizes because this music comes from a “tweener” period in Miles’ career, not one of the peaks. Good grief. The seven-disc set’s “My Funny Valentine,” “Seven Steps to Heaven” and “Four and More” are three of the reasons I fell in love with Miles. Here are not only the sexy, sizzling, Harmon-muted ballads, but Miles playing burbling bebop fast as blazes, and smarter than anyone, mostly with George Coleman and often with the rhythm section that would eventually become the mid-’60s group: Tony Williams (drums), Ron Carter (bass) and Herbie Hancock (piano). “Miles in Tokyo” and “Miles in Berlin” are here, too, as well as seven previously unissued performances. Nice package for the ultimate fan as well as the novice.

“Stompin’ at the Savoy: The Original Indie Label 1944-1961” (Savoy).

The documentation on this R & B compilation from a label better known for recording Charlie Parker is frustratingly incomplete — no sidemen are listed — but many of the cuts are classics (and were No. 1 R & B hits of their day). That means Paul Williams’ “The Hucklebuck,” Johnny Otis’ “Harlem Nocturne,” Big Jay McNeely’s “Deacon’s Hop,” The Ravens’ “Rickey’s Blues” plus tunes by Little Esther Phillips, Joe Turner, Big Maybelle, Brownie McGhee, Doc Pomus, Slim Gaillard, Billy Eckstine, Pete Brown and others. This is a four-disc slice of the raw — and sweet — black popular music, complete with honking tenor saxophones, that gave rise to rock ‘n’ roll.

“Chet Baker Prince of Cool: The Pacific Jazz Years 1952-1957” (EMI).

With used copies of the 1994 Reprise Chet Baker Pacific Jazz compilation going for $150, this new compilation on French EMI featuring 52 of the 285 sides Baker waxed for the label is timely. Each of the three discs features a specialty — Chet singing, Chet playing as leader and Chet playing with friends (Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper).

Way heavier on vocals than the Reprise collection (20, versus three), it also zeroes in on Chet’s more accessible, “cool” work in general, which has become such a hipster favorite. Chet sings “Embraceable You,” “Time After Time,” “My Ideal,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “The Thrill Is Gone,” “Like Someone In Love,” “My Buddy,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and others, none of which were on the old set. In exchange, one loses the instrumental classics “Freeway,” “What’s New,” “Half Nelson” and “Festive Minor.” But hey, it’s all Chet — whose sad, ghostly voice and sweet, soft trumpet sound were of a piece — emotionally distant, but somehow breathtakingly natural and, oddly, as Ted Gioia’s liner notes point out, hot and
cool at the same time.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or