What’s the best standard jazz book?

8428 whats the best standard jazz book

The best standard jazz book is a subject of debate among jazz enthusiasts and scholars, with varying opinions based on their area of expertise, taste, and experience. However, there are a few books that are widely recognized as authoritative and influential in the jazz community.

One of the most revered jazz books is “The Real Book,” which was originally produced in the 1970s as a collection of lead sheets for jazz musicians. It contains over 500 of the most commonly played jazz standards, including melodies, chord progressions, and lyrics. The book has since been revised and updated, with additional volumes added to include more contemporary jazz tunes. Despite its questionable legal status, “The Real Book” remains a popular resource for jazz musicians and has contributed to the development of jazz as an art form.

Another significant jazz book is “The Jazz Theory Book” by Mark Levine. This book is widely regarded as a seminal text in jazz education, providing a comprehensive and systematic approach to understanding jazz harmony and improvisation. It covers topics such as chord-scale relationships, modal improvisation, and reharmonization, among others. The book is written in a clear and concise manner, with many musical examples to illustrate the concepts presented. It has become a staple in jazz education programs and is considered essential reading for aspiring jazz musicians.

“The Oxford Companion to Jazz” edited by Bill Kirchner is a comprehensive reference book that provides an encyclopedic overview of jazz history, styles, and artists. It contains over 60 essays written by leading jazz scholars and critics, covering topics such as the origins of jazz, jazz in different regions of the world, and jazz fusion. The book also includes a chronology of jazz history, a glossary of jazz terms, and a discography of essential jazz recordings. It is considered an authoritative and reliable source of information for jazz enthusiasts and scholars alike.

In conclusion, the best standard jazz book is a matter of personal preference and depends on the specific needs and interests of the reader. However, “The Real Book,” “The Jazz Theory Book,” and “The Oxford Companion to Jazz” are widely recognized as influential and authoritative works in the jazz community. These books provide valuable insights into the history, theory, and practice of jazz and are essential reading for anyone interested in this rich and vibrant musical genre.


  • Levine, Mark. The Jazz Theory Book. Sher Music Co, 1995.
  • Kirchner, Bill, editor. The Oxford Companion to Jazz. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • “The Real Book.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Feb. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Real_Book.