A review of The Knowledge. Jazz by John Fordham

The Knowledge. Jazz by John Fordham was published by Quadrille on the 2nd July and is priced at £10. The book is one of a series of information-led pocket guides with the purpose of introducing a range of subjects ranging from Red wine to Opera via Whiskey and Stargazing. See www.quadrille.co.uk

Since 1978 John Fordham has been the Guardian’s main jazz contributor and critic. For many years he was editor of Jazz UK and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3’s Jazz on Three.

The problem with writing an effective pocket introduction to jazz is to cram all the vital elements of a 115 years of jazz in a succinct, meaningful and informational way, that gives the reader a chronological, comprehensive overview of a complex subject matter in 160 pages without confusing him or her.

John Fordham has successfully and coherently distilled his encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz into a comprehensive guide that misses nothing out. The guide covers all the major innovations in jazz from Buddy Bolden to free jazz to the future of jazz. There is also a useful chapter on jazz speak demystifying the argot of jazz. The book is rounded off with a superb chapter on the recordings and influences in jazz and why they matter.

Chris Hodgkins 15th August 2015