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The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music

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The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music PDF, ePub eBook 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 cra 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.

30 review for The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Some nice stuff but actually a bit disappointing - less discussion of the music than I hoped for and some contributions from less than exciting modern performers.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Barry Hammond

    Ben Ratliff has compiled a very interesting book of his interviews with giants of jazz, wherein he doesn't start by asking the normal journalistic questions they've probably been asked a thousand times before. Instead, he asks them to pick four or five examples of their favourite music and they listen to the tracks together. This begins a usually relaxed and informal conversation that goes off in unexpected directions and sometimes winds up in the very core of what each artist is about as a musi Ben Ratliff has compiled a very interesting book of his interviews with giants of jazz, wherein he doesn't start by asking the normal journalistic questions they've probably been asked a thousand times before. Instead, he asks them to pick four or five examples of their favourite music and they listen to the tracks together. This begins a usually relaxed and informal conversation that goes off in unexpected directions and sometimes winds up in the very core of what each artist is about as a musician. His choices of interviewees is as varied as the conversations themselves and I learned about several people I was unfamiliar with, such as pianist Andrew Hill, trombonist/composer Bob Brookmeyer, pianist Hank Jones, and composer composer Guillermo Klein, as well as different sides of more familiar figures like Pat Methany, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Bebo Valdes, Roy Haynes, Branford Marsalis, Paul Motian, Maria Schneider, Diane Reeves and Joshua Redman. A must-read for any jazz fan. - BH.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nan Santamaria

    Quite insidery, but it has very interesting anecdotes from the jazz greats. Also puts the genre in present context.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is a fabulous collection of interviews with a variety of jazz musicians, including Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Guillermo Klein, Dianne Reeves and Ornette Coleman. But this is not a series of transcripts. Ben Ratliff captures subtle inflections of character in these conversations centered around a shared listening experience. Ratliff sits down with each musician to listen to music of others, and in so doing, reveals how these artists react to and dialogue with their musical influences. This is a fabulous collection of interviews with a variety of jazz musicians, including Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Guillermo Klein, Dianne Reeves and Ornette Coleman. But this is not a series of transcripts. Ben Ratliff captures subtle inflections of character in these conversations centered around a shared listening experience. Ratliff sits down with each musician to listen to music of others, and in so doing, reveals how these artists react to and dialogue with their musical influences. Sometimes the "set list" from one of these visits creates an intriguing link between the interviewees (such as Joshua Redman's experience with listening to Sonny Rollins, who is interviewed in the third chapter). In addition to the observations made by the musicians, Ratliff's ability to unobtrusively insert himself as both commentator and investigator makes this a superior reading experience to most "meet-the-artist" type books. What I appreciated most was the variety included in these listening sessions. Sacred Harp, Kyrgyz music, Frank Sinatra, Rachmaninoff, Wagner...all of it is fair game for these musicians, who unapologetically cross the lines of categorization to search for organicism and authenticity as both performers and listeners. The questions of how perfomers/composers listen is one that is underexplored, and I would hope to see more of this type of study incorporated into a discussion of compositional and improvisational aesthetics.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Randall Jackson

    Music lovers wanting to better their appreciation of the music may find this book useful. The writer uses the ear, (the sounding voice of the mind), of noteworthy Jazz musicians to comment on the music of jazz contemporaries. Learning from the answers of such answering provocative a questions, such as, "What is Jazz?”, the musician tells us what “their” ear calls Jazz. From this we can learn from the musicians ears (viewpoint). The book guides the listener to music from unexpected places, places Music lovers wanting to better their appreciation of the music may find this book useful. The writer uses the ear, (the sounding voice of the mind), of noteworthy Jazz musicians to comment on the music of jazz contemporaries. Learning from the answers of such answering provocative a questions, such as, "What is Jazz?”, the musician tells us what “their” ear calls Jazz. From this we can learn from the musicians ears (viewpoint). The book guides the listener to music from unexpected places, places that the interviewees have noted to have been inspirational. In the book Ornette Coleman chose the music of an Ukrainian-born cantor as a sample of music he found inspiring. Attaining this information, I listened to the same music to search out what so fascinated Coleman. I found myself being inspired by “music” of a different sort in a language unfamiliar to me. It is this type of experience I think that elevates one’s appreciation of the music. So herein is a path of discovery into Jazz music and the motivations of the creators of such.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Al

    This book is a series of short essays based on discussions between the author and various jazz musicians. The discussions take place in the course of listening to various music selected by the musicians as most meaningful to them. I liked the book, although I understood virtually none of the technical music discussions (and sometimes not much of the musicians' philosophical musings either -- they were "far out, man...") But Ratliff is a good writer, and it was interesting to view the distinct p This book is a series of short essays based on discussions between the author and various jazz musicians. The discussions take place in the course of listening to various music selected by the musicians as most meaningful to them. I liked the book, although I understood virtually none of the technical music discussions (and sometimes not much of the musicians' philosophical musings either -- they were "far out, man...") But Ratliff is a good writer, and it was interesting to view the distinct personalities of the musicians, many of whom are well-known names, even to jazz ignoramuses like me. (Plus, it's fun to have some of the music to listen to; thanks, Jack!) Mike, I think you will like this; I'll save it for you.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I found this set of conversations with jazz musicians about their idols and inspirations to be greatly readable and enjoyable. You don't have to know much about the technical aspects of music to follow along, but it does help to have a basic knowledge of (and interest in) the basics of jazz history. I knew little about most of the musicians included in this book, but enjoyed reading about them anyway, and now feel inspired to track down some of their recordings and get acquainted with their work I found this set of conversations with jazz musicians about their idols and inspirations to be greatly readable and enjoyable. You don't have to know much about the technical aspects of music to follow along, but it does help to have a basic knowledge of (and interest in) the basics of jazz history. I knew little about most of the musicians included in this book, but enjoyed reading about them anyway, and now feel inspired to track down some of their recordings and get acquainted with their work (especially Guillermo Klein and the solo work of Wayne Shorter and Paul Motian, to name a few). And the interview with Ornette Coleman is priceless. Like his music, that dude is out there.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Moktoklee

    This book was a very interesting read. All the interviews were fun. Pat Metheny as always is excellent at verbally expressing his ideas, a skill not necessary for a musician. Wayne Short was hilarious. I found Brantford Marsalis' interview very insightful. I sort of have better understanding for point of view of the Wynton now, although I still don't agree with him. Another thing. Someday I want to write like this, in the big magazine interview style. Maybeit's the knowledge that what's being sa This book was a very interesting read. All the interviews were fun. Pat Metheny as always is excellent at verbally expressing his ideas, a skill not necessary for a musician. Wayne Short was hilarious. I found Brantford Marsalis' interview very insightful. I sort of have better understanding for point of view of the Wynton now, although I still don't agree with him. Another thing. Someday I want to write like this, in the big magazine interview style. Maybeit's the knowledge that what's being said and what's going on is real that give the writing a mythic charm, but there's something to it that I just love.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    This was a pretty fun book to read. Although I felt that most of the segments were a little short. It seemed like what made it into the book was just the surface of what Ratliff and the musicians probably got into when they met. My two favorite chapters were the Pat Metheny and Paul Motion. Metheny because he listed and talked about Paul Bley's solo on All The Things You Are from Sonny Meets Hawk, and Motion because he's one of my favorite musicians these days. I enjoyed the Maria Schneider chap This was a pretty fun book to read. Although I felt that most of the segments were a little short. It seemed like what made it into the book was just the surface of what Ratliff and the musicians probably got into when they met. My two favorite chapters were the Pat Metheny and Paul Motion. Metheny because he listed and talked about Paul Bley's solo on All The Things You Are from Sonny Meets Hawk, and Motion because he's one of my favorite musicians these days. I enjoyed the Maria Schneider chapter as well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    Ratliff asks jazz musicians from several different generations and styles to select several songs that point to "what matters" most to them. It's an interesting approach, and he gets a wide variety of responses, covering jazz, pop, and classical. The selections also serve as a framework for some biographical history and great anecdotes about other jazz musicians. Although many of the subjects are well known even to casual listeners, Ratliff makes all of the interviews interesting and enjoyable, w Ratliff asks jazz musicians from several different generations and styles to select several songs that point to "what matters" most to them. It's an interesting approach, and he gets a wide variety of responses, covering jazz, pop, and classical. The selections also serve as a framework for some biographical history and great anecdotes about other jazz musicians. Although many of the subjects are well known even to casual listeners, Ratliff makes all of the interviews interesting and enjoyable, whether the reader is familiar with the musician or not.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Scott

    A great and I mean great book of meetings/conversations that Ratcliff has with 15 living jazz legends concerning there take on not just jazz music but music in general.He asks each of his interviewees to pick a handful of tracks that they can listen to and talk about during their time together. Most of the artists don't even pick jazz tunes which gives a great insight into how they come about their style of play outside of the traditional jazz scene. Highlights for me are the chapters with Ornet A great and I mean great book of meetings/conversations that Ratcliff has with 15 living jazz legends concerning there take on not just jazz music but music in general.He asks each of his interviewees to pick a handful of tracks that they can listen to and talk about during their time together. Most of the artists don't even pick jazz tunes which gives a great insight into how they come about their style of play outside of the traditional jazz scene. Highlights for me are the chapters with Ornette Coleman and Branford Marsalis.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paula Koneazny

    Not as enthralling as Ratliff's previous book about John Coltrane, but all the same, some decent conversations about jazz and music in general with eminent jazz musicians like Diane Reeves, Maria Schneider, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Sonny Rollins & Wayne Shorter. There are listening lists following each segment plus a discography of notable music written and/ or performed by Ratliff's interlocutors. Nevertheless, a CD or DVD would have been a welcome complement to this compilation.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    Ben Ratliff will probably feel like stabbing me to death if he ever reads these reviews, hahaha... O.k., in a nutshell I think Mr. Ratliff's taste in music is, for the most part, pretentious in the extreme- typical white boy hipster bullshit. Having said that, and I realise it's an extraordinarily cruel thing to put down in print, he is so erudite and such a talented writer that it is worthwhile to read his work anyway... [more to follow]

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    These interviews to music feel a little less artificial than the average newspaper puff piece and give you a sense in places about how musicians might actually talk between themselves. Ornette Coleman's digressions into what he thinks of as philosophy seem a little unlikely for everyday conversation, but he could be like that. The only frustration is my not knowing enough music theory to really understand the references to various chord progressions.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marco Anthony

    A mix, this book ranges for those who are starting to listen to jazz to those who understand jazz theory like the back of their hand. Some interviews and music suggestions were more approachable while others seemed specifically for the trained ear. Felt really close to some of the musicians interviewed. The author does a bad job of breaking up questions and answers

  16. 5 out of 5

    HBalikov

    I enjoyed the fresh approach to interviewing great musicians. Focusing on music pieces that were key to their development allows Ratliff to go in various directions depending on the music (which they then listen to together) and you learn something different depending on whether the artist is familiar to you or someone you might want to listen to in the future.

  17. 4 out of 5

    James

    My rating is based entirely on my satisfaction with the reading experience, which was compromised by the fact that much of this book is seriously over my head. Some very technical discussions of music. Might very well be a five-star book (people who are a lot smarter than I am seem to think so).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sim

    I really enjoy his premise of having musicians discuss the music that means something to them, as opposed to having them discuss their current projects. A nice collection of artists to share their insights. Also, each chapter ends with the song titles with label information to find on your own.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    Interesting approach. Interviews with some great musicians centered around listening to some of their favorite music. Paul Motian, Joshua Redman, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, Branford Marsalis, Ornette Coleman, etc. very interesting insight into the musicians in many spots.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joe Natoli

    Great concept, and an entertaining read -- but really left wanting a lot more words from the musicians themselves, and a lot less from the author. I picked up the book because I'm interested in their stories, not yours.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    just read this one. fun, profound, playful, flows... really great. i mean... what else would you expect when you sit down with a handful of the world's greatest jazz musicians/composers while listening to music?

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Brilliant, intuitive, nothing not to like. Ratliff draws these musicians out of their shells in order to delve into what makes them tick, perhaps disarming them with music, their passion. Insightful and well worth a read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Richie

    Very enjoyable...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Reid Siljestrom

    Ben Ratliff interviews jazz musicians by way of stopping by there house. They play selections for him and talk about music

  25. 5 out of 5

    Troy

    I really enjoyed this book.To get a glimpse into what is in the minds as inspirations and notable in the minds of some damned good musicians.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bjm Index

    8

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Listening With, collected. One of the most enjoyable music educations around. And playlists to last you hours, or years. Bravo.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason Farley

    Interesting, and well written. Not a lot of Jazz that I was terribly familiar with though.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Walton

    My review: http://studiowmuyumba.blogspot.com/20...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Harley Middleton

    Music and Musicians stories good read!

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