The Jazz Ear: Conversations over Music

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Macmillan, Nov 11, 2008 - Music - 256 pages
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An intimate exploration into the musical genius of fifteen living jazz legends, from the longtime New York Times jazz critic

Jazz is conducted almost wordlessly: John Coltrane rarely told his quartet what to do, and Miles Davis famously gave his group only the barest instructions before recording his masterpiece "Kind of Blue." Musicians are often loath to discuss their craft for fear of destroying its improvisational essence, rendering jazz among the most ephemeral and least transparent of the performing arts.

In The Jazz Ear, the acclaimed music critic Ben Ratliff sits down with jazz greats to discuss recordings by the musicians who most influenced them. In the process, he skillfully coaxes out a profound understanding of the men and women themselves, the context of their work, and how jazz—from horn blare to drum riff—is created conceptually. Expanding on his popular interviews for The New York Times, Ratliff speaks with Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Branford Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, and others about the subtle variations in generation, training, and attitude that define their music.

Playful and keenly insightful, The Jazz Ear is a revelatory exploration of a unique way of making and hearing music.


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The jazz ear: conversations over music

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Admirers of jazz should be deeply thankful for Ratliff, New York Times jazz critic and author of Coltrane: The Story of a Sound. Jazz is perhaps the most elusive art form to discuss and critique, and ... Read full review


1 Behold the Sea
2 Street Music
3 Jazz Means Freedom
4 As Good as You Think
5 I Know Who You Are
6 The Flying Modulation
7 Youve Got to Finish Your Thought
8 Head of a Dog
11 Labor History
12 Dancing from Up Here
13 Head to Toes
14 A Million Just Like It
15 You Dont Look for Style
Recommended Listening
Photography Credits

9 Its Your Spirit
10 This Is My Point

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About the author (2008)

Ben Ratliff has been a jazz critic at The New York Times since 1996. The author of Coltrane and The New York Times Essential Library: Jazz, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and two sons.

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