Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jazz Guides & David Murray

Anyone who has been following this blog since its beginning (there are such people!) will know several things about me. One is I am a twenty four karat jazz nerd. Another is that I am deeply devoted to the Penguin Guide to Jazz. One more is that I am head over heels in love with David Murray.

Well, today my copy of the All Music Guide to Jazz arrived in the mail. It was a half-priced, used copy from one of Amazon's symbiotic businesses. I have just had a couple of hours to enjoy the AMG2J, but here is my initial impression.

The Penguin Guide
is better. If I had to choose, that would be my choice. The PG is the work of two saints: Richard Cook and Brain Morton (may their names be praised!). That gives the enormous work a remarkable consistency. I don't always agree with their evaluations, but after a lot of practice, I know exactly what I am going to get with almost any album they review. I have built my library upon their recommendations, and I am a happy man.

One thing that distinguishes the PG from the AMG2J, is that the former gives you the personnel on each recording. That is a great resource for those of us who want to keep a finger on the pulse of jazz history. It also helps guide collecting. I have a lot of fine recordings by Red Garland because he was on some classic Miles Davis recordings.

But the AMG2J has more recordings listed. For example, I found a listing for David Murray: Special Quartet. It doesn't show in the PG, but it gets an "essential recording" star in the AMG2J. That is the equivalent of the "core collection" rating in the PG. The AMG2J also has a "First Purchase" star next to entries, indicating that these are the best samples of an artist's work. Buy these first!

Well, I downloaded Special Quartet from eMusic. It is five star in fact. McCoy Tyner plays piano, Fred Hopkins bass, and Elvin Jones drums. Here is a sample:
David Murray/la Tina Lee/Special Quartet
Now here is a sample from a recording that both guides agree on. This is so good it makes one wonder why we need anything else.
David Murray/India/Octet Plays Trane
God bless you David Murray. And the Penguin Guide and the All Music Guide.


  1. Don't know if it's a simple typo on your part or of one of the guides, but that's 'Fred' Hopkins on bass.

    Love your blog!


  2. David:

    Thanks so much for the comment and the correction. The error was mine, and it's fixed.

    Please drop a comment from time to time. It keeps me going.