Today, jazz is considered high art, America’s national music, and the catalog of its recordings—its discography—is often taken for granted. But behind jazz discography is a fraught and highly colorful history of research, fanaticism, and the intense desire to know who played what, where, and when. This history gets its first full-length treatment in Bruce D. Epperson’s More Important Than the Music. Following the dedicated few who sought to keep jazz’s legacy organized, Epperson tells a fascinating story of archival pursuit in the face of negligence and deception, a tale that saw curses and threats regularly employed, with fisticuffs and lawsuits only slightly rarer. Epperson examines the documentation of recorded jazz from its casual origins as a novelty in the 1920s and ’30s, through the overwhelming deluge of 12-inch vinyl records in the middle of the twentieth century, to the use of computers by today’s discographers. Though he focuses much of his attention on comprehensive discographies, he also examines the development of a variety of related listings, such as buyer’s guides and library catalogs, and he closes with a look toward discography’s future. From the little black book to the full-featured online database, More Important Than the Music offers a history not just of jazz discography but of the profoundly human desire to preserve history itself.
From 1955-65 the historian Eric Hobsbawm took the pseudonym 'Francis Newton' and wrote a monthly column for the New Statesman on jazz - music he had loved ever since discovering it as a boy in 1933 ('the year Adolf Hitler took power in Germany'). Hobsbawm's column led to his writing a critical history, The Jazz Scene (1959). This enhanced edition from 1993 adds later writings by Hobsbawm in which he meditates further 'on why jazz is not only a marvellous noise but a central concern for anyone concerned with twentieth-century society and the twentieth-century arts.' 'All the greats are covered in passing (Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday), while further space is given to Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Mahalia Jackson, and Sidney Bechet ... Perhaps Hobsbawm's tastiest comments are about the business side and work ethics, where his historian's eye strips the jazz scene down to its commercial spine.' Kirkus Reviews
The study of jazz comes of age with this anthology. One of the first books to consider jazz outside of established critical modes, Jazz Among the Discourses brings together scholars from an array of disciplines to question and revise conventional methods of writing and thinking about jazz. Challenging "official jazz histories," the contributors to this volume view jazz through the lenses of comparative literature; African American studies; music, film, and communication theory; English literature; American studies; history; and philosophy. With uncommon rigor and imagination, their essays probe the influence of various discourses—journalism, scholarship, politics, oral history, and entertainment—on writing about jazz. Employing modes of criticism and theory that have transformed study in the humanities, they address questions seldom if ever raised in jazz writing: What are the implications of building jazz history around the medium of the phonograph record? Why did jazz writers first make the claim that jazz is an art? How is an African American aesthetic articulated through the music? What are the consequences of the interaction between the critic and the jazz artist? How does the improvising artist navigate between chaos and discipline? Along with its companion volume, Representing Jazz, this versatile anthology marks the arrival of jazz studies as a mature, intellectually independent discipline. Its rethinking of conventional jazz discourse will further strengthen the position of jazz studies within the academy. Contributors. John Corbett, Steven B. Elworth, Krin Gabbard, Bernard Gendron, William Howland Kenney, Eric Lott, Nathaniel Mackey, Burton Peretti, Ronald M. Radano, Jed Rasula, Lorenzo Thomas, Robert Walser
Jazz has been around for over a hundred years but how much do we know about its history, and how much of what think we know is true? Beginning in the so called Jazz Age of the 1920’s jazz history was recounted and interpreted by admiring authors and record collectors both in the United States and elsewhere. However, since the early 1990’s some historians have come to doubt the validity of the conventional narrative of the story of jazz and some of its most hallowed traditions. In Jazz Historiography: The Story of Jazz History Writing Daniel Hardie uncovers the course of jazz history writing from early Jazz Age American and French publications to Academic texts in the 2000’s, and seeks answers to questions about the accuracy of those accounts and the influence they have had on our understanding of jazz history - even the impact they might have had on the course of jazz history itself. How much for example did the work of jazz historians influence the course of the New Orleans Revival? Was the appearance of bebop in the 1940’s a revolutionary response to oppression experienced by Afro American musicians in a commercialized popular music industry, or was it an attempt to mirror the development of classical music of the time? How has the development of University jazz studies influenced the writing of jazz history?