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The Penguin Guide to Great Jazz Recordings
Edited by Richard Cook and Brian Morton
Ninth edition; 2008
Pbk; 1545 pages pus index
Price: £35.00

This is a blockbuster of a reference book and, surely, unique in the jazz marketplace. It is a classic guide to recorded jazz. Virtually every jazz musician, group or band who has an album to his, her, or their name, appears in this publication.

Not only do the authors review the contents of each album, at times track by track, they comment, praise and criticise in equal measure, with witty and concise observations. Even the construction of each album is examined - it can be disconcerting to find that a favourite track was, in fact, added as an afterthought to make up the required length of the recording!

The whole publication bristles with detail and analysis.  It includes: artistes’ biographies; line-ups and dates for each recording; critical ratings by category; personal and recommended selections; and a comprehensive index of the artistes.

In the case of highly popular and renowned artistes, the authors helpfully identify key recordings as being the basis for a ‘Core Collection’ of the particular artiste’s work.

The only drawback to a publication of this type is that, as the authors’ freely acknowledge, time is its enemy and quickly dates such a publication.

However, in the overall context of jazz, this is an invaluable work of reference - both for the connoisseur wishing to add depth to a collection, and the novice who wants to assemble a collection of ‘must-have’ jazz recordings.