AudioFile - Find your next great audiobook
Get our Newsletter
blog post image
15 Great Jazz Audiobooks

15 Great Jazz Audiobooks

Jazz is on my mind. Just a few weeks ago, I attended the tribute to the 2018 NEA Jazz Masters—Todd Barkan, Joanne Brackeen, Pat Metheny, and Dianne Reeves—at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. It was such a treat—first listening to podcasts from the NEA, “Art Works,” about each musician, and then getting to be part of the tribute celebration—you can actually watch it in full:

When I got home, I looked up which audiobooks about jazz and jazz musicians we could recommend. Jazz books, and audiobooks, are a bit scarce—perhaps we listen to jazz more than we read about jazz. And in many cases, actual music is not included in audiobook programs. Nevertheless, I’ve put together a list of 15 audiobooks that explore and celebrate Jazz in America.  There are some biographies and memoirs of jazz greats; a few histories on the culture and music of jazz; and, not to be overlooked, engaging jazz stories for young listeners and families.

Let’s start with an iconic audiobook: MILES by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. For many listeners, the brilliant performance by Dion Graham epitomizes the way that an audio experience can engulf you. WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? offers a different approach to a life portrait with Alan Light’s carefully researched biography. Yet Adenrele Ojo’s performance is no less riveting.

Miles: The Autobiography
What Happened, Miss Simone?

Of course, that’s not all . . . explore audiobooks about Bessie Smith, Herbie Hancock, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker in our Jazz Audiobooks list. Strangely, no biography of Louis Armstrong has been recorded—get with it, publishers!

Taking  a broader look at jazz, MARIAN MCPARTLAND’S JAZZ WORLD is narrated by the author Marian McPartland as she chronicles and revisits her “Piano Jazz” radio show that ran for 30 years on NPR. In Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s “Jazz Lights Up Harlem,” volume 4 of the ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS series, listeners get a chance to hear an array of different voices—with critic Stanley Crouch, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and others sharing insights.

Marian McPartland's Jazz World
On The Shoulders Of Giants

For great family fun and an opportunity to engage young enthusiasts, don’t miss our 7 great audiobooks for the kids. My two-year-old grandson loves “Shorty” —that’s TROMBONE SHORTY, with Troy Andrews’s music and a great narration by Dion Graham. Walter Dean Myers’s JAZZ is also a favorite, and the 2008 Odyssey Award winner. In it, James “D-Train” Williams and Vaneese Thomas read and sing a collection of poems.

Trombone Shorty

Treat yourself and explore our entire list of Jazz Audiobooks, and let us know which you enjoy!

Share This
More From Audiofile
blog post image
Celebrate Children's Book Week with Simon Vance on The Download
Narrator Simon Vance is a man of many voices, in both contemporary fiction and classic literature, and he's won dozens of awards for his audiobooks. In our interview on The
blog post image
The Poetry of Each Day: Tracy K. Smith & Emily Dickinson

"Poetry lives everywhere," said Tracy K. Smith, teacher and writer and America's Poet Laureate, as she kicked off April's National Poetry Month a few weeks

blog post image
Janis Ian, Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, and audiobook narrator, talks with AudioFile
The Grammy Award-winning singer, author, and audiobook narrator Janis Ian was kind enough to sit and talk about SOCIETY'S CHILD, her experiences making her inspiring audiobook
blog post image
Robin's Roundup: November 24 New Audiobook Reviews

One of the great traditions of the season is the many live performances that families can attend. The glamour and excitement of dance events are my favorite. Two new audiobooks

The latest audiobook reviews, right in your inbox.

Get our FREE Newsletter and discover a world of audiobooks.


AudioFile Newsletter

Let us recommend your next great audiobook!

No algorithms here!
We pick great audiobooks for you.
Sign up for our free newsletter with audiobook love from AudioFile editors.

If you are already with us, thank you! Just click X above.


Thank you for signing up.



Thank you for contacting us!

Our group will review and follow up within 72 hours.
Thanks for your interest!

Back Home ×


Thank you for signing up!

Our group will review and follow up soon.

Back Home ×