Thirty-six albums are reviewed and the recommended albums make both jazz and consumer sense. If, on the other hand, you're already acquainted with the main artists and their classic albums, you'll probably find The Penguin Guide to Jazz a better source and hours of fascinating reading.
Music is constantly being issued and re-issued in various configurations, and that makes "best buys" hard to pin down.
Two other albums listed here are very weak and should be avoided. Richard Cook's collaborator Brian Morton had to take on this gargantuan task on his own afterand says that he often finds himself still "listening on Richard's behalf … I've tried to continue reviewing in his spirit and to preserve the Guide's unique sense of a single voice, arguing with itself.
Previous editions indexed every musician featured in the book, right down to the humblest of sidemen. Often a number of discs were reviewed together. If, however, you would like to read a black American critic on a black American art form, then the All Music Guide to Jazz is the only choice.
The entire available output of any given artist was listed, from the masterpieces to the outright stinkers. Each disc was 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.