Skip to content

Ted Gioia and Jazz enchantment

July 4, 2016

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

Long before his latest Daily Beast article, The Zombification of Popular Music,” I had followed Ted Gioia’s writing as a fan and a writer.

As a fan, I am amazed at Gioia’s knowledge and insights into the music genre closest to my heart. Because of that, I hereby recommend to all who desire a better understanding of Jazz (Why am I supposed to like Jazz?), those who like the genre (What makes music Jazz?), or any out there seeking more in-depth connections of race and culture and its evolution Gioia’s ten non-fiction books (How do we connect the dots?).

Gioia’s migration to Jazz guides our own music appreciation journey – he describes it as “enchantment.” And that is a wonderful description from my own perspective.

ted gioia

Ted Gioia can be contacted at

“To this day, one of my core beliefs is that music has a force of enchantment. Music is, in a very real sense, magical and transformative. Those who are familiar with my books Healing Songs and Work Songs know that I often speak of music as a “change agent.” This is not an abstract idea in my head, but a conviction based on personal experience.

One of my gripes about so many jazz educational efforts (and the Ken Burns documentary in particular) is that they don’t nurture this sense of enchantment. When you treat jazz as a “historical sociological phenomenon,” don’t be surprised when people don’t go to the jazz clubs. No one goes to a jazz club for a sociology lesson—or if they do, they only go once. – From How I Learned I Was a Jazz Fan

My first Jazz experience was by way of my dad, a true “man of the 50s,” who played Dave Brubeck vinyl records on the ubiquitous  Hi-Fi. So very cool, me not knowing what I was hearing – eight-years-old – but still, I smiled, danced and sang along.

Since that long-ago indoctrination, I have struggled to capture the magic wherever I can, despite growing up 125 miles West of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, in the red-dust tinge setting of Abilene, with more County-Western music than Nashville.

Gioia writes, “All jazz fans have a ‘gateway experience’ of the sort I described—a pivotal moment when they first felt the magic of the music. The jazz world needs to spend less time arguing with itself and put more thought and energy into expanding these gateways and building new ones. … I am sure that there are millions of people who have the same hunger for something magical in music that brought me to jazz, a desire for soundscapes that can be both intellectually satisfying and emotionally invigorating. Jazz could be part of their enchantment, as it was a key part of mine. But if all the gateways are closed, they may never realize it.


“If you look up just one title in The Jazz Standards, before you realize it you will have spent an intriguing hour or two learning fascinating and new things about old songs that you have known most of your life.” Dave Brubeck

Ted Gioia is a musician and author, and has published ten non-fiction books, most recently the acclaimed How to Listen to Jazz (Basic Books).
“Mr Gioia could not have done a better job.” writes
The Economist. “Through him, jazz might even find new devotees.” This book “fills an important and obvious gap by offering a sensible and jargon-free introduction,” according to the Washington Post, and “deserves a place alongside … classic works of jazz criticism.”

Gioia has been called “one of the outstanding music historians in America”
by the
Dallas Morning News.  He has served on the faculty of Stanford
University, and published in many of the leading newspapers, periodicals
and websites, including the
New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall
Street Journal
, The American Scholar, Music Quarterly, Bookforum,
Salon, Dallas Morning News, San Francisco Chronicle, Popular Music,
Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, The Atlantic Monthly,
City Journal, The Threepenny Review, PopMatters, and The Hudson
. He is currently columnist for The Daily Beast.

Gioia is perhaps best known as the author of The History of Jazz, which
has sold more than 100,000 copies and ranks as the bestselling survey of jazz
published during the last quarter century.
The History of Jazz was selected as
one of the twenty best books of the year by Jonathan Yardley in the
Washington Post, and was chosen as a notable book of the year in the
New York Times.

In 2012, Gioia released the bestselling The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire, published by Oxford University Press. The book received early praise from Dave Brubeck and Sonny Rollins, and was lauded by the Wall Street Journal as “the first general-interest, wide-ranging and authoritative guide to the basic contemporary jazz canon.”   – From

Ted Gioia’s recordings

  • Ted Gioia Trio, The End of the Open Road
  • Ted Gioia and Mark Lewis, Tango Cool
  • Ted Gioia, The City is a Chinese Vase


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: