"The Jazz Standards" (2012) by Ted Gioia is so exceptional, either as a resource or a straight read, I'm unsure how to begin praising it. I'll settle for a partial list.
* It is uniformly well written. "We live in an age of anorexic melodies." That's the author on popular music circa 2012. His book brims with sharp sentences like this, and most are not as cranky as that one; I just happen to find that observation spot-on.
* Even for a music geek like me, there is fresh information about many of the 250 songs Gioia highlights and most of it is not technical. For example, his entries on "St. James Infirmary" and "St. Louis Blues" - two early twentieth century tunes - read like brief history lessons, in a good way.
* Gioia is a fine writer, an experienced professional pianist, an educated musicologist and...he's got superb taste. Each essay is accompanied by his list of recommended versions of these standards. I knew I was in good hands when one of his recommendations for Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You" was the Wynton & Ellis Marsalis duet from "Standard Time, Volume 3: The Resolution of Romance". That performance moves me to tears every time I listen to it.
I'm a patient man. I'll wait until you read this book, send me your list, and then I'll tell you everything else I loved about it. And I'll look forward to our conversation.