Jazz Books

Jazz up your summer reading list with some of our favorites. Our hand picked list includes various genres ranging from historical to autobiographical. We invite you to learn about jazz legends, styles, and history. Choose a few favorites or read them all!


Check out some of our favorite Jazz books below. 

Book Title SummaryWhere to Read
The History of Jazz by Ted GioiaIn The History of Jazz, Ted Gioia tells the story of this music as it has never been told before, in a book that brilliantly portrays the legendary jazz players, the breakthrough styles, and the world in which it evolved.Read Here
The Making of Kind of Blue by Eric NisensonThe album, Kind of Blue represented a true watershed moment in jazz history, and helped to usher in the first great jazz revolution since bebop. The Making of Kind of Blue is an exhaustively researched examination of how this masterpiece was born. Through extensive interviews and access to rare recordings, Eric Nisenson pieced together the whole story of this miraculous session, laying bare the genius of Miles Davis, other Musicians and the heart of jazz itself.Read Here
Louis Armstrong's New Orleans by Thomas David BrothersLouis Armstrong's New Orleans interweaves a searching account of early twentieth-century New Orleans with a narrative of the first twenty-one years of Armstrong's life. Drawing on a stunning body of first-person accounts, this book tells the rags-to-riches tale of Armstrong's early life and the social and musical forces that shaped him. The city and the musician are both extraordinary, their relationship unique, and their impact on American culture incalculable.Read Here
Coltrane on Coltrane by Chris Devito Coltrane on Coltrane includes every known Coltrane interview, many in new transcriptions, and several previously unpublished; articles, reminiscences, and liner notes that rely on interviews; and some of Coltrane’s personal writings and correspondence. John Coltrane never wrote an autobiography. This book is as close to one as possible.Read Here
With Billie: A New Look at the Unforgettable Lady Day by Julia Blackburn In With Billie, we hear the voices of those people who knew Billie best: piano players and dancers, pimps and junkies, lovers and narcs, producers and critics, each recalling intimate stories of the Billie they knew. What emerges is a portrait of a complex, contradictory, enthralling woman, a woman who — contrary to myth — knew what she wanted and what really mattered to her. Julia Blackburn has pieced together an oral history of this jazz great, creating a unique and fascinating view of an astonishing woman.Read Here
It's About Time: The Dave Brubeck Story by Fred Hall It’s About Time, explores the many influences on Brubeck’s life and music: his youth on a cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierras; a stint in Europe with Patton’s army during World War II; the development of the West Coast jazz scene and the rise of the Dave Brubeck Quartet; musical relationships with Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, Joe Morello, and many more jazz greats; his phenomenal experiments with polytonality and polyrhythm; his fifty-three-year marriage to Iola, manager, collaborator, and mother of their six children; and important career breakthroughs, such as the first-ever million-selling jazz single, “Take Five.”Read Here
Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra by John F. Szwed Sun Ra, a.k.a. Herman Poole "Sonny" Blount (1914–1993), has been hailed as "one of the great big-band leaders, pianists, and surrealists of jazz" (New York Times) and as "the missing link between Duke Ellington and Public Enemy" (Rolling Stone). Composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, poet, and self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn, Sun Ra led his "Intergalactic Arkestra" of thirty-plus musicians in a career that ranged from boogie-woogie and swing to bebop, free jazz, fusion, and New Age music. This definitive biography reveals the life, philosophy, and musical growth of one of the twentieth century's greatest avant-garde musicians.Read Here
Raise Up Off Me: A Portrait of Hampton Hawes by Don Asher Hampton Hawes [1928–1977] was one of jazz's greatest pianists. Among his peers from California the self-taught Hawes was second only to Oscar Peterson. At the time of his celebration as New Star of the Year by downbeat magazine (1956), Hawes was already struggling with a heroin addiction that would lead to his arrest and imprisonment, and the interruption of a brilliant career. In 1963 President John F. Kennedy granted Hawes an Executive Pardon. In eloquent and humorous language Hampton Hawes tells of a life of suffering and redemption that reads like an improbable novel. Gary Giddins has called it "a major contribution to the literature of jazz." This book includes a complete discography and eight pages of photographs.Read Here
Why Jazz? A Concise Guide by Kevin Whitehead What was the first jazz record? Are jazz solos really improvised? How did jazz lay the groundwork for rock and country music? In Why Jazz, author and NPR jazz critic Kevin Whitehead provides lively, insightful answers to these and many other fascinating questions, offering an entertaining guide for both novice listeners and long-time fans. Organized chronologically in a convenient question and answer format, this terrific resource makes jazz accessible to a broad audience, and especially to readers who've found the music bewildering or best left to the experts.Read Here
Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century by Nate ChinenOne of jazz's leading critics gives us an invigorating, richly detailed portrait of the artists and events that have shaped the music of our time. Grounded in authority and brimming with style, Playing Changes is the first book to take the measure of this exhilarating moment: it is a compelling argument for the resiliency of the art form and a rejoinder to any claims about its calcification or demise. "Playing changes," in jazz parlance, has long referred to an improvisers resourceful path through a chord progression. Playing Changes boldly expands on the idea, highlighting a host of significant changes ideological, technological, theoretical, and practical that jazz musicians have learned to navigate since the turn of the century.Read Here