This is the quintessential jazz encyclopedia. There certainly are other fine reference guides on the market, particularly Leonard Feather's groundbreaking and classic "Encyclopedia of Jazz." But when it comes down to sheer volume of information, nothing even comes close. Consider that there are 20,000 recording reviews here. If you can imagine it, it's here. Entries from the Swedish free jazz AALY Trio to the free jazz saxophonist John Zorn are included. Bird, Diz, Duke, Count, Trane, Monk, Pops, Lady Day, Ella, Sarah and Miles are included, but so are Judy Niemak, Frank Gambale, Phil Urso and the Instant Composer's Pool Orchestra.
Under Stephane Grappelli, for instance, you'll see nearly 50 reviews. Flip to Leo Parker and you'll find four. Each entry has a brief biography of the 1700 artists profiled here and each assigns a star-system for rating the significance of the piece. As with past volumes, there is also a series of exceptionally well researched and written essays covering "A Brief History of Jazz," "Jazz Singers," "Classic Jazz" (written by Scott Yanow, who also has penned a fine book with the same title that comes highly recommended from these quarters), "Jazz/Blues Crossover," "Swing and the Big Band Era," "Latin Jazz," "Free Jazz," "Jazz Fusion," "Acid Jazz," etc. You get the picture. There are also wonderful "musical maps" that show the transition of styles and influence of players. Not sure of the difference between post-bop and bop, of trad jazz, Dixieland or classic jazz? You'll find short concise style definitions.
Jazz novices will find this to be the most complete primer imaginable. It's also a vital addition to the library of lifelong devotees. A heavy book, it doesn't suffer from being too weighty. This is not a scholarly journal, though it certainly has that built-in advantage. I find it as enjoyable to read as informative. As is the case with the whole of the AMG series, this is a reliable resource and a great day-off fun read.If you only have one jazz reference work in your library, this is the one to have. Nothing else comes close to being as complete.