|The Penguin Guide to Jazz|
|Release Date:||November 28, 2006 (8th)|
September 28, 2004 (7th)
January 1, 1995 (2nd, US publication date)
The Penguin Guide to Jazz is a non-fiction book that is an encyclopedic referencing of jazz recordings on CD which are currently available in Europe or the United States. It is compiled by Richard Cook and Brian Morton, two well known chroniclers of jazz resident in the United Kingdom.
The first edition was published in Britain by Penguin Books in 1992. Every two years since then, a new edition has been published with updated entries. The eighth edition, published in November 2006, boasts close to two thousand new CD entries.
The title has taken different forms over the lifetime of the work, as audio technology has changed. The seventh edition was known as The Penguin Guide of Jazz on CD while the latest edition is titled The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The earliest edition had the title The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP and Cassette.
Artists are listed alphabetically and the entries begin with short (usually one paragraph) biographies before a comprehensive listing of a musicians' available recordings. Each disc is given a rating of up to four stars and details of its label and catalogue number, musicians featured on the disc, month and year of the recording or the span of time in which the tracks were recorded and finally a review of varying length. Often a number of discs are reviewed together.
Two extra features, author's picks (crowns) and "core collections," have been added to succeeding editions. The first shows entries flagged as personal favorites while the latter are the "more essential" albums for a jazz CD collection. John Eyles comments in a review that "the implication is that the choices for crowns are subjective, while the Core Collection is somehow more objective," when in fact both lists are decided upon by the same two editors.
Bootlegs and "issues of dubious provenance" have usually been excluded, but as the major labels have merged and cut back their reissue programmes, the restriction on 'grey market' releases, usually in existence as a result of less stringent copyright laws in Europe, has gradually become more relaxed. Limited-edition Mosaic Records releases are also excluded. Various-artists compilations were reviewed in the first edition but have since been dropped.
Due to the increasing numbers of CDs on the market, space limitations and depth of coverage have increasingly become an issue: in the 7th edition, for instance, the index was dropped to save space, but it was restored in the 8th edition (but a number of entries were dropped or shortened to make room for it).
Though each edition doesn't "spring any great surprises," that matters little, since "it has a tried and trusted formula that works". It is also praised as being "of equal value to both experienced jazz listeners and novices."
Gordon Fick has compiled a list of all discs identified as either four star, crown or core.