Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

Jazz/Not Jazz

The Music and Its Boundaries

David Ake (Editor), Charles Hiroshi Garrett (Editor), Daniel Ira Goldmark (Editor)

Available worldwide
READ AN EXCERPT

Paperback, 312 pages
ISBN: 9780520271043
June 2012
$36.95, £25.95
Other Formats Available:
What is jazz? What is gained—and what is lost—when various communities close ranks around a particular definition of this quintessentially American music? Jazz/Not Jazz explores some of the musicians, concepts, places, and practices which, while deeply connected to established jazz institutions and aesthetics, have rarely appeared in traditional histories of the form. David Ake, Charles Hiroshi Garrett, and Daniel Goldmark have assembled a stellar group of writers to look beyond the canon of acknowledged jazz greats and address some of the big questions facing jazz today. More than just a history of jazz and its performers, this collections seeks out those people and pieces missing from the established narratives to explore what they can tell us about the way jazz has been defined and its history has been told.
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part One. Categories
1. Incorporation and Distinction in Jazz History and Jazz Historiography
Eric Porter

2. Louis Armstrong Loves Guy Lombardo
Elijah Wald

3. The Humor of Jazz
Charles Hiroshi Garrett

4. Creating Boundaries in the Virtual Jazz Community
Ken Prouty

5. Latin Jazz, Afro-Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Cubop, Caribbean Jazz, Jazz Latin, or Just . . . Jazz: The Politics of Locating an Intercultural Music
Christopher Washburne

Part Two. Practices
6. Jazz with Strings: Between Jazz and the Great American Songbook
John Howland

7. “Slightly Left of Center”: Atlantic Records and the Problems of Genre
Daniel Goldmark

8. The Praxis of Composition-Improvisation and the Poetics of Creative Kinship
Tamar Barzel

9. The Sound of Struggle: Black Revolutionary Nationalism and Asian American Jazz
Loren Kajikawa

Part Three. Education
10. Voices from the Jazz Wilderness: Locating Pacific Northwest Vocal Ensembles within Jazz Education
Jessica Bissett Perea

11. Crossing the Street: Rethinking Jazz Education
David Ake

12. Deconstructing the Jazz Tradition: The “Subjectless Subject” of New Jazz Studies
Sherrie Tucker

Contributors
Index
David Ake is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Nevada Reno, and the author of Jazz Cultures and Jazz Matters: Sound, Place and Time Since Bebop, (both UC Press). Charles Hiroshi Garrett is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Michigan and the author of Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music in the Twentieth Century, (UC Press). Daniel Goldmark is Associate Professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author and co-author of three books for UC Press: Tunes for ‘Toons, Beyond the Soundtrack, and Funny Pictures: Animation and Comedy in Hollywood
“A sterling collection of writings to discuss the transient topic of jazz and its moving-target definitions. . . . As a whole, the essayists deliver content that is laser-focused on the book's title, and there are no misfires. This collection will be useful for decades to come. . . . Highly recommended.”—G. A. Akkerman, University of South Carolina Upstate Choice
Jazz/Not Jazz is an innovative and inspiring investigation of jazz as it is practiced, theorized and taught today. Taking their cues from current debates within jazz scholarship, the contributors to this collection open up jazz studies to a transdisciplinarity that is rich in its diversity of approaches, candid in its appraisals of critical worth, transparent in its ideological suppositions, and catholic in its subjects/objects of inquiry.”—Kevin Fellezs, author of Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk and the Creation of Fusion.

“This collection is a delight. Each essay opens up some previously ignored aspect of jazz history. Anyone who knows the New Jazz Studies and is wise enough to acquire this book will immediately devour it.”—Krin Gabbard, author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture.

“This volume is truly one of a kind, eminently readable and filled with new insights. It will make an extremely important contribution to jazz literature.”—Jeffrey Taylor, Director, H. Wiley Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music, Brooklyn College.

Chapter 1

Incorporation and Distinction in Jazz History and Jazz Historiography

Eric Porter

Over the past two decades we have seen a flowering of scholarship in what is often termed the "new jazz studies." Jazz historians-but also sociologists, ethnomusicologists, literary scholars, practitioners of American Studies and ethnic studies, and others-have charted the histories of musicians and musical styles and situated them in their broader social contexts. We now have a much better idea of how various social forces have informed the production and consumption of jazz. We have more insights into the ways that musicians, rather than simply being engaged in the pursuit of art or, conversely, expressing in almost-unconscious ways political or cultural imperatives, have instead been positioned by, have responded to, and sometimes have commented on ever-changing social conditions that both inspired and restricted their creativity.

We have seen an array of provocative works that expand our definition of what counts as jazz culture across artistic genres and modes of cultural and intellectual expression. These new studies generally avoid the pitfalls of earlier investigations, which often assumed too homologous a relationship between jazz, American or African American identities and politics, and the aesthetic goals of those working through other modes of creative expression. We now have a much better perspective on critical debates about the music and on the ways jazz and its practitioners have been represented in film, literature, and television. Concomitantly, we know more about the complex ways that jazz has been a vehicle for identity formation and self-actualization for members of disparate cultural communities.

The new jazz studies has generally paid careful attention to racialization and social stratification as fundamental organizing processes of both the political economy of jazz and of its critical representation in the United States. More recently, we have seen work that illuminates the place of women in jazz and the function of jazz as a gendered and sexualized creative, discursive, and institutional practice. Another important growth area is scholarship that considers how such issues of power and identity have played out in places other than the United States.

Recent work has also expanded our definitions of what count as the musical objects of jazz studies. Various scholarly moves bring more, different kinds of music into the story of jazz. For example, as Sherrie Tucker argues, bringing gender into jazz studies expands its referent not simply by being more inclusive of women or by bringing attention to a less studied modality of power. It also enables further investigation into arenas of musical activity-modes of vocal performance, instruments such as flutes often associated with women, sweet bands, novelty bands, music curricula, and so on-marked as "not jazz" because they were feminized. Meanwhile, to cite another trend, serious scholarly work on jazz fusion in the 1960s and 1970s works against the tendency to refuse its inclusion in jazz histories or include it only as an artistic or commercial dead end.

Meanwhile, improvisation studies, a field that overlaps with but is not coterminous with jazz studies, has pushed us to consider musical practices and intercultural exchanges that cross or defy genres. "Improvisation (in theory and practice)," as Daniel Fischlin and Ajay Heble remind us, "challenges all musical orthodoxies, all musical taxonomies, even its own." Such analytical broadening mirrors the long-standing critique of jazz orthodoxy from musicians, many of whom have had a vexed relationship with the term "jazz," because they felt it did not do justice to the breadth of their artistic projects and because of the ways it signified the economic, discursive, and social limitations under which they labored. Indeed, Duke Ellington, who for many is almost synonymous with jazz, issued statements for much of his career suggesting that his musical project exceeded the parameters of the genre. "I am not playing jazz," he said in 1930. "I am trying to play the natural feelings of a people."

Yet as we consider the directions in which jazz studies might go in the future, at a moment when many of the established narratives of jazz history have been complicated, expanded, and in some cases exploded (at least in scholarly circles), I wish to reconsider the generative function of what Scott DeVeaux described in his influential 1991 essay "Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography" as the widely shared and problematic "article of faith that some central essence named jazz remains constant throughout all the dramatic transformations that have resulted in modern-day jazz." While the deployment of this assumption may well have obscured social context and produced a faulty sense of coherence in historiographical practice, I am interested in how the very notion of a jazz tradition and assumptions about its constitutive elements have had complex social and cultural lives intimately related to the creation of music, its political economy, and the discourses that have shaped its meaning.

I begin to explore here how the notion that jazz is a genre with an essence has been both a positively and a negatively productive concept. Contending with the ways that musicians, fans, and critics alike have defined artistic projects by investing in or rejecting elements of jazz's assumed essence, at both musical and symbolic levels, gives us greater insight into the production of this music as a socially situated art and helps us to expand the parameters of jazz history and to rethink its ontology. So does examining the linked process by which musicians and critics have defined jazz projects through the incorporation or acts of distinction from elements and assumed essences of other musical genres.

I start by returning to DeVeaux's essay, considering it, as many of us have done over the past few decades, as a justification for rethinking the parameters of jazz history and for the ways it identifies some of the negatively productive ways in which jazz history is created. Then, drawing primarily on practicing musicians' own musical and textual engagements with jazz history, I identify some of the complicated ways this process is played out in practice, given the complex symbolism of jazz and its musical others. I conclude by suggesting how such acts of incorporation and distinction point to future avenues of scholarly explorations that are less bound to jazz as a framing narrative but that still remain absolutely attentive to the power of jazz as a creative expression and cultural symbol.

In "Constructing the Jazz Tradition," DeVeaux issued a kind of call to arms to jazz historians that helped to energize the emergent field of new jazz studies. While recognizing the status- and capital-producing value of narratives that define jazz as "America's classical music" and the political value in celebrating jazz as an African American achievement, he argued that versions of jazz history that cohered around essentialist understandings of the music's ontological foundations in tradition and progress and that focused on a series of stylistic shifts rather than taking up the messy challenge of analyzing the production of the music in its diverse social and ideological contexts, obscured more than they illuminated. He called, instead, "for an approach that is less invested in the ideology of jazz as aesthetic object and more responsive to issues of historical particularity."

While some musicians, fans, and critics have been interested in understanding these connections between jazz and society since the emergence of this music, DeVeaux's exhortation identified a growing trend in the writing of jazz history during the 1980s and offered inspiration to others (myself included) to think and write in deeper and broader ways about the music as both a creative and a socially situated practice. However, as we contemplate the future of jazz studies-or perhaps a "studies" cast differently or more broadly-I am interested in reexamining the complicated lives of these constructed and obfuscating narratives and their effect on the production and reception of this music.

As a starting point, we need to keep in mind that whatever tyranny may lie in the critical deployments of a jazz tradition, "jazz" as a musical, cultural, and critical practice profoundly emphasizes its own history, and it has done so for many decades. The practice of "encod[ing] the past in symbol form to make a present," as one scholar describes the vernacular practice of history, remains a key component of the performative and reflective aspects of music making. This is something we hear when soloists or composers quote from an existing work or seek to define a style, or a sound, that honors, parodies, or rejects the work of their teachers, colleagues, or prominent predecessors or when the larger ensemble lays down an identifiable or evocative groove.

As listeners, many of us are drawn to particular musicians because of what their engagement with history comes to symbolize on record, through CD marketing campaigns and concert promotion, or when it becomes part of the critical conversation about such artists in jazz magazines and newspapers and in the friendly and not-so-friendly debates among fans about musical worth. The centrality of history to jazz is reaffirmed for us when Wynton Marsalis musically invokes Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, or Miles Davis (but only before 1968). But we also hear this centrality of history when clarinetist Don Byron plays the music of pop classical and jazz composer Raymond Scott, RB icon Junior Walker, or gospel pioneer Thomas Dorsey, or when he collaborates with the spoken word artist Sadiq or the rapper Biz Markie. The historical vision in Byron's work, of course, is different-simultaneously broader in terms of relevant influences and collaborators and more irreverent toward the jazz tradition as some have defined it.

The examples of Byron and Marsalis-two prominent players who for years have been vocal in their explicit and implicit definitions of a jazz tradition-exemplify the ways that the very ontology of jazz as a historically grounded practice is based on choices of how to incorporate or distinguish one's project from particular elements of jazz and its musical others. Marsalis has defined the neoclassical trajectory in his work through invoking antecedents already seen as organic to the jazz tradition or by exploring musical others, like Tin Pan Alley songs, that have long been seamlessly incorporated into the tradition. Byron's more eclectic aesthetic, on the other hand, has celebrated what for some is a less acceptable range of influences. Both visions illustrate how the incorporation of musical others is a long-standing component in the creation of jazz and that musicians make value judgments about where in history one finds musical others worth incorporating.

DeVeaux's essay is similarly valuable for reminding us that the construction of a jazz tradition is relational and negatively productive. Jazz, he shows, is defined in contradistinction to other musical genres. Jazz is jazz because it emphasizes musical characteristics that are deemphasized in other forms or because it lacks those elements seen as central to other forms. But jazz is also defined against itself. "More often than not," he argues, "such definitions [of a jazz tradition revolving around an assumed essence] define through exclusion."

The boundaries of jazz are maintained by calling attention to subgenres or specific musical projects that some might view as jazz but that can also be seen as lacking some essential property (swing, improvisation, the fusion of African and European devices, spontaneity, sounds from black popular music, accessibility) or containing elements, such as commercial appeal, or sounds that some believe reside more comfortably in other musical genres. For example, jazz fusion is perceived to be "not jazz" because it uses elements from rock and funk such as electric instruments and a different rhythmic basis; the avant-garde fails the jazz test for some because it abandons swing and other fundamentals; and the neoclassicists are seen as deficient because they fail to understand that change is fundamental to the art form. One of the striking ironies of definitions of the jazz tradition is that valued components of jazz's ontology (experimentation, black vernacular practices, composition, populism, etc.) become a problem when used in excess, that is, to the extent that they are seen as pushing a particular musical project into territory more properly encompassed by a different genre.

Creating and defining a historically grounded jazz music often involves a multiplicity of incorporative and exclusionary moves that stand in a contradictory but productive relationship with one other. Although the scope of Marsalis's projects over the past thirty years speak is expansive, he has famously, especially during the jazz canon wars of the 1980s and 1990s, defined in interviews and writings and on recordings such as the Standard Time series a rather narrow jazz tradition. Marsalis has defined neoclassical jazz-and, in particular, its legitimacy, seriousness of purpose, and moral standing-by casting it in high cultural terms and comparing it with supposedly lesser genres (funk, hip-hop, rock and roll) and deficient jazz subgenres. He has juxtaposed his work with efforts by fusionists like Herbie Hancock to incorporate hip-hop and funk into jazz and also with avant-garde players who strayed too far from their blues roots and wandered too close to modern concert music conventions. Yet Marsalis has done this while integrating a wide variety of vernacular and popular elements (work songs, spirituals, ring shouts, the blues, gospel, New Orleans RB, Tin Pan Alley, and so on).

Moreover, the legitimacy of neoclassical jazz still depends on its practitioners remaining to some degree populist. Such a populism is crafted, in part, by contrasting the subgenre with a jazz avant-garde whose modernist pretensions make it not populist or popular enough. But, all the while, Marsalis and his colleagues at Lincoln Center incorporate from classical music the ideal that great art exceeds the corrupting influence of the market, as they integrate musical elements and formal qualities of concert music. His Blood on the Fields was, of course, composed as an oratorio. Such moves have helped to shepherd the Jazz at Lincoln Center program through a series of prestige-building and capital-improvement projects that brought it at least close to being on par with Lincoln Center's other constitutive organizations: the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic.

Byron, on the other hand, has defined his musical project and, by extension, a more expansive jazz practice through the incorporation of an eclectic range of historical (e.g., Mickey Katz) and contemporary (e.g., hip-hop) influences. Yet this openness is still defined through acts of both incorporation and distinction and by simultaneously rejecting and assimilating different definitions of musical authenticity. Byron created a sense of authenticity on his 1993 album Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz by reproducing Katz's own orchestrations, suggesting that at least in some cases a kind of authenticating jazz ethos of experimentalism and innovation can be achieved-Byron's recording won him significant critical acclaim in the jazz world-by moving in very visible ways outside of the safety of the jazz tradition and incorporating "other music" in putatively authentic form into one's repertoire.

Some, of course, did not see it this way. Responding in the New York Times to explicit comments by critic Stanley Crouch and implicit comments by Marsalis that his music did not fit into the jazz tradition, Byron said, "Me and most of the cats I hang with, we're too left-wing to be around Lincoln Center.... They should be presenting the freshest, baddest stuff. I don't even exist in jazz as these people perceive it to be." Byron went on to suggest that a wider vision for jazz, simultaneously historically minded, eclectic, and future-oriented, was prevalent among many musicians of his generation and was defined, at least in part, in productive disagreement with and distinction from the Lincoln Center vision: "One of the fallacies of the Wynton era is that jazz cats don't listen to rap." Such contradictory incorporative and distinctive acts, of course, are often deeply racialized, gendered, classed, and generationalized. They are socially symbolic at the moment of their utterance and when subsequently read by others. As such, they often articulate and challenge power in the jazz world and beyond.

In a 1985 joint interview with pianist Herbie Hancock in Musician magazine, Marsalis's erasure of the line between "white" classical music and "black" jazz, with attendant comments rejecting the idea that any race is naturally predisposed to excelling in either genre, coalesced with the idea that African American musicians had a duty to uphold an African American tradition of classical jazz and that they somehow failed their community when they engaged too deeply with popular forms. Marsalis took Prince to task for drawing extensively from a whitened, feminized sphere of youth-oriented rock music (and for what he considered cross-dressing), while he chastised co-interviewee Hancock for incorporating elements from the excessively black, hypermasculine sphere of hip-hop. Yet Marsalis also, as he made clear in multiple interviews and comments, positioned his work against primitivist legacies in jazz criticism, with attendant, narrow conceptions of how (and for whom) black people should act, perform, and think.

Byron labeled Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz a "pro-ethnicity" record, designed in part to recapture what he saw as Katz's challenge to the assimiltationist impulse in U.S. culture after World War II. By doing so, he not only responded to what he saw as a WASPish cultural dominance still holding sway in the 1990s but also, as David Borgo's analysis of the album suggests, negotiated a widely shared interpretive paradox holding that both ethnic allegiance and cultural boundary crossings sit side by side as generators of jazz (as well as klezmer) authenticity. As an outsider to the cultural tradition that produced klezmer, Byron was compelled to devote significant energy to defining legitimate entry points to and exit points from klezmer and jazz, respectively, while "invigorat[ing] and expanding American Jewish and jazz traditions." Meanwhile, Byron's quirky, nerdy stage persona has provided an alternative to the folksy, respectable, and at times paternal version of jazz (and black) masculinity offered by Marsalis, further defining Byron as authentically experimental while providing a platform for identification by jazz geeks and self-styled intellectuals in his audience.

Recent work on jazz scenes outside of the United States has demonstrated how the Americanness embedded in the practice of jazz has been a touchstone for its authenticity. This scholarship also shows how such gestures are often tied to the power and prestige of the United States and to social transformations in the broader sphere of race relations. Musicians outside of the country have either incorporated or distanced themselves from the putative Americanness or African Americanness of jazz and its subgenres, as they have sought to define a jazz practice relevant to their own creative conception and social experiences.

We see this in E. Taylor Atkins's account of the issue of authenticity in Japanese jazz history over the course of the twentieth century. He shows how in the post-World War II period a strong identification with American jazz was tied up with a sense of Japanese political and cultural failure stemming from the nation's recent defeat at the hands of the United States. Subsequently, a shift by many to disavow American influences and instead create a "Japanese jazz" was linked to a larger critique of U.S. imperialism, a growing sense of Japanese nationalism tied to the nation's economic recovery, and, somewhat ironically, to an identification with black nationalist musical and critical statements from the United States.

Maxine McGregor also explores the phenomenon of identification and disidentification with American jazz in her account of her husband's work with the interracial ensemble, the Brotherhood of Breath. Chris McGregor's group grew out of the South African group, the Blue Notes, which went into exile in Europe in the early 1960s. McGregor's fascinating account gives insight into the complex racial and political terrain in which modern jazz musicians operated under Apartheid during the early 1960s. Among other things, she shows how incorporating elements of U.S.-based modern jazz into South African jazz made the latter politically threatening under Apartheid because of the symbolic interracialism of the American referent.

Her book also documents how expatriate South African musicians' struggles to survive artistically and economically in Europe were made more difficult by the fact that they had diminished authenticity in the eyes of audiences, club owners, and fellow musicians, because they were not American and not African American. Meanwhile, some of these musicians wondered whether they were compromising their African musical roots by incorporating American influences. In one act of distinction, bassist Johnny Dyani left the group and moved to Scandinavia to develop his own musical projects, because he felt that the influence of the American avant-garde put his colleagues and him "in danger of losing their own musical language."

The experiences of members of the Brotherhood of Breath and institutions like Jazz at Lincoln Center remind us that acts of incorporating and marking as distinctive jazz and its others have also been linked to the fundamental challenge for musicians of making a living in the jazz world, which of course is related to broader political-economic factors. Marsalis's neoclassical jazz vision that emphasized the incorporation of black vernacular elements was at least partially engineered to appeal to government and corporate funding entities and to counter the antiblack rhetoric (albeit in ways that reproduced elements of it) and policies of the Reagan-Bush era. And in musicians' statements over the course of jazz history, particularly those of African Americans during the civil rights era, we can see how acts of distancing and incorporation have been explicitly linked to the problem of making a living.

Charles Mingus's musical projects and public commentary during the 1950s and 1960s, particularly his articulation of his vexed relationship with the idea of jazz because of its artistically, socially, and economically limiting aspects, suggests that while we interrogate the idea of a coherent jazz tradition, we also must keep in mind that an investment in creating something called jazz has often gone hand in hand with an equally generative process of troubling the practice of and the very category of jazz. Mingus, in his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, and in other venues, sometimes identified as a jazz musician and sometimes did not. And he positioned his music both inside and outside of the jazz tradition. He characterized it, intermittently and often simultaneously, as serious jazz different from popular music; as experimental music distinct from familiar jazz genres; as genre-defying popular music; as black music steeped in the blues that diverged from that produced by white West Coast musicians; as politicized black music working against white hegemonic culture; and as a universalist expression that defies narrow conceptions of musical blackness.

Such contradictory moves have been assumed by many to be outgrowths of Mingus's mercurial personality and mental instability. They were that, certainly, but they were also responses to the conditions under which Mingus labored. He experienced segregated unions and performance spaces, the financial effects of marketing categories like West Coast jazz and hard bop on his livelihood, and expansions and contractions in the market for experimental jazz and for jazz more generally. His comments about what he was trying to accomplish musically often went hand in hand with analyses of the political economy of jazz. He spoke often and eloquently about jazz and classical music as racialized constructs, linked to the marketing of music and broader class and race relations and determinative of whether and when black musicians could get work. And as he embraced or rejected aspects seen as central to these avenues of musical expression, he was often responding to the personal and professional stakes of distinction and incorporation.

For example, Mingus criticized Dave Brubeck (through his saxophonist Paul Desmond) for not swinging adequately and then apologized for it several months later, after being taken to task by Miles Davis for writing compositions akin to "tired modern paintings." Mingus was, in the first case, distinguishing an African American-centered jazz practice through one of its assumed essences, as he responded to the ways West Coast jazz as a marketing category and marker of critical expectation often benefited white musicians incorporating elements of modern concert music into their work. His apology seems motivated in part by an awareness that such acts of distinction based on racially inflected orthodoxy ran the risk of marginalizing African American experimentalists like himself who were refusing racially coded generic boundaries and similarly seeking to incorporate a wide range of musical referents.

So where do the aforementioned examples leave us when contemplating the future of jazz history and jazz studies? At one level they suggest that we continue to maintain a critical perspective on the problematic jazz historiographical constructs that have constrained creative projects and obscured important stories. But we can also keep in mind the power of these constructs to give meaning to the experience of creating, producing, and listening to jazz. Identifying the complex ways musicians have identified with and distanced themselves from jazz and its subgenres as highly symbolic, multiply coded musical expressions and knowing that such moves are informed by an equally rich set of meanings associated with the genres and elements either incorporated into jazz projects or standing as constitutive others for jazz, provides fodder for expansions and refinements, or perhaps more radical reconceptualizations, of periods and genres.

Such a strategy might enable us, for example, to reimagine the hard bop moment. Historians of hard bop have typically theorized that a fairly wide range of (primarily African American) jazz expressions during the middle and late 1950s and early 1960s developed in relation to currents in black popular music, to the collective artistic and critical desire to reground jazz in an expanding vernacular (as well as its anchoring foundations of the blues and church music), to the demands of a politicizing black public with growing purchasing power, and to the desires of alienated hipsters of various colors for a more "authentic" jazz. Such narratives usually focus on how various jazz modernists-Miles, Mingus, Coltrane, Silver, Blakey, Brown, Roach, and so on-embraced (or at least engaged) popular and contemporary social and political imperatives; these narratives give only obligatory nods to Jimmy Smith, Lee Morgan, and other soul jazz practitioners who, despite unassailable jazz credibility, managed to get more serious play on RB radio.

Yet one can imagine a history of hard bop more inclusive of artists who worked across genres, paying greater attention to developments in these various genres and to the ways that they were marketed and written about. We might get a better sense of the range of complex meanings that the embrace of the vernacular brought to jazz and to those that jazz brought to other genres. Guthrie Ramsey brings us partway there in his account of the blues-inflected work of Dinah Washington, Cootie Williams, and Louis Jordan during the 1940s and 1950s. Although marketing, critical interpretation, and individual musicians' own artistic goals and politics led to increasing distinction among different styles and genres after World War II, "strong currents of stylistic cross-fertilization continually revitalized each genre." Some musicians moved quite easily across genres, performing and recording with, and thus influencing and being influenced by, a wide range of practitioners. Others engaged in creative collaboration in shared educational, family, or neighborhood spaces.

Dinah Washington's career and critical reception is a particularly interesting case in point. Versed in church music, blues, RB, and swing, her career took off during the 1950s as she made a concerted effort, with the support of Mercury Records and its new EmArcy imprint, to define herself as a jazz singer. Yet she continued to record RB hits for the Mercury imprint, and in 1959 she cracked the Billboard pop charts with "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," recorded with strings and designed to be a somewhat different kind of crossover record.

Nadine Cohodas's survey of Washington's musical activities during the middle and late 1950s illustrates some productive possibilities for reimagining hard bop through a deeper consideration of jazz's musical others. Participants' accounts of Washington's August 1954 recording session in front of a live audience that featured Clifford Brown and Max Roach illustrate that she had significant control of the session. Moreover, it meant a lot to her to be playing with top-flight modern jazz musicians, and it meant a lot to those on the date to be recording with the "Queen of the Blues."

Such reciprocity across genre is generally not evident in written histories of hard bop, in which Washington appears only briefly and only as the steady employer of important rhythm section stalwarts such as pianist Wynton Kelly or drummer Jimmy Cobb or as the leader of recording sessions that featured the likes of Brown and Roach. But one can imagine an alternative account of hard bop that brings more focus to artists like Washington, who crossed genres and provided the catalyst for reconceptualizing jazz through its constitutive others through the give-and-take in the studio, on stage, and in rehearsal and through informal exchanges by members of musical networks. Bringing Washington into the equation would also, of course, temper the androcentrism of histories of hard bop.

Cohodas also shows how Washington's booking agents and record company simultaneously presented her as a blues, RB, jazz, and, later, crossover artist. Meanwhile, the jazz, popular entertainment, and African American press pondered her musical identities and how they might coalesce. On the one hand, the less than stellar reception Washington received from jazz critics, despite strong record sales and enthusiastic audiences, illustrates the point about the precariousness of the incorporation of musical others into conceptualizations of jazz-that is, how the assumed essences of other forms of music both legitimatize jazz artists and delegitimatize them when they are perceived as being used in excess. Critics were drawn to Washington as "Queen of the Blues" and "Queen of the Jukebox." She provided something earthy and real, a kind of revitalization of jazz. Yet some viewed her work as somewhat overwrought, lacking nuance, and thus not quite as good as Billie Holiday's, Sarah Vaughan's, or Ella Fitzgerald's. On the other hand, this discourse about Washington also makes clear that understandings among musicians, critics, and fans of a more vernacularly centered jazz were informed by this complex coming to terms with meanings embedded in residual and emergent genres and marketing categories, their similarities, and their divergences.

Through these years Washington performed at jazz festivals and clubs, venues that primarily presented RB, nightclubs that featured artists across the musical spectrum, and sometimes at concerts that self-consciously juxtaposed artists perceived to be working in different genres. In March 1956 Washington appeared alongside Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Terry Gibbs, T-Bone Walker, Little Willie John, and the Clovers at a Detroit concert billed as "Jazz vs. Rock 'n Roll." A January 1957 gig in that city had her appearing alongside Ray Charles, Charlie Ventura, and RB artist Sil Austin. Although such shows were probably designed to bring in the largest possible audience-rather than instruct them about cross-fertilization among genres-they do point to another potential avenue of exploration for understanding the ways that jazz as roots-oriented music during the late 1950s was constituted in relationship to other popular musical styles.

An awareness of careers like Washington's (or Dakota Staton's or Les McCann's) as well as patterns of musical multiplicity and the productive relationships among musical elements and genres more generally-could also move us beyond simply expanding the parameters of what constitutes a jazz moment or a jazz genre. They might encourage us instead to explore musical phenomena that cannot be contained within a paradigm of jazz studies but whose analysis could still be significantly informed by jazz studies. In other words, rather than placing jazz and invocations of jazz into a larger framework of something like "jazz culture" or expanding the circle of what counts of jazz or who counts as a jazz musician, we might identify and write about various spheres of musical activity that intersect with but are not coterminous with jazz but whose existences are still determined, at least in part, by the idea of jazz and the political economy of the jazz world.

The participants in my recent jazz historiography seminar devoted a significant amount of time talking about how we might continue to push the boundaries of jazz scholarship, even in the new jazz studies moment. One particularly interesting discussion built off of our reading of the first section ("Rooting Gender in Jazz History") of Nichole Rustin and Sherrie Tucker's Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies. We contemplated essays that identified how the gendered exclusions in jazz historical narratives had marginalized or made less than intelligible figures such as Lovie Austin, Lillian Hardin Armstrong, and Hazel Scott, along with all-women's swing bands, women in swing bands, and most jazz singers. These essays also argued eloquently for the inclusion of such figures in more expansive jazz historical narratives.

We were convinced by such inclusionary interventions, but we also found ourselves considering the possibilities of different types of revisionist narratives. Might we, for example, write histories of multigeneric vocal practitioners (say, from Ma Rainey, through Dinah Washington, up to Erykah Badu and other contemporary artists), whose work is informed by jazz and whose reception is conditioned, in part, by the idea of jazz? Or perhaps we should examine the role of talented, female producer-composers (e.g., Lovie Austin, Carla Bley, Miya Masaoka), whose work intersected with but was much broader than jazz, in shaping twentieth-century musical culture?

We might move even further outside established practice by focusing on the various, intricate ways that jazz, as a creative practice and a symbolically rich genre, has helped define, in negative and positively productive ways, other musical genres in the United States and elsewhere. One finds an interesting, albeit brief, account of the productive aspects of a symbolic, American jazz and its genres in Brazilian vocalist Caetano Veloso's memoir. Veloso describes the place of jazz in João Gilberto's early development of the bossa nova and the ways he himself identified with both the bossa nova and jazz while developing an aesthetic and political sensibility in the late 1950s and early 1960s that later inspired him to help launch the tropicalismo movement.

Veloso opens his book by describing his disdain during the late 1950s for Brazil's fascination for what he considered banal forms of American popular culture, and rock and roll in particular. The critique is based on musical quality and on the context of the music's interpretation in Brazil. He hears in "Rock around the Clock" a "stridency and [a] somewhat awkward attempt to be more savagely rhythmic than American music had been up to then; even so it was far less rhythmically intense than Brazilian or Cuban music had always been." In almost Adornoian terms, Veloso describes Brazilian consumers of rock and roll as buying into a kind of pseudorebellion, based on style over substance, reflective of middlebrow taste and affluence. The affinity for rock and roll is also symbolic of a stultifying Brazilian cultural nationalism, defined by Rio de Janeiro's assumed metonymic relationship with the rest of the country and by the assumption that Brazil and the United States shared a destiny.

Gilberto and his bossa nova, meanwhile, stand as inspirational models of musical quality. Gilberto is successful, Veloso argues, because, unlike others who synthesize U.S. and Brazilian forms, he maintains a "command of the cool jazz idiom, which was then the cutting edge of musical invention in the United States." And, what distinguishes him from other Brazilian synthesizers of his moment is that he blends cool jazz with what is excellent about Brazilian culture: "that whole world the 'modernizers' had thought it necessary to leave behind as they pursued American styles, which were themselves, ironically, already dated." Such synthesis enables Gilberto to engage in "imagining a different future with the past in a different light."

Veloso, in turn, is inspired by Gilberto to explore the music of U.S. vocalists (Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan), instrumentalists (Miles Davis, Jimmy Giuffre, Thelonious Monk, the Modern Jazz Quartet), and, especially, the vocal and instrumental project of Chet Baker. Tropicalismo eventually emerged as a product of a series of immersions in and identifications with musical cultures both artistically instructive and socially symbolic-some of which are Brazilian, some of which are from the United States-and as a product of ironic disidentification with (while still incorporating) somewhat less valued musical expressions: "The tropicalistas decided that a genuine blend of the ridiculous aspirations of Americanophiles, the naïve good intentions of the nationalists, traditional Brazilian 'backwardness,' the Brazilian avant-garde-absolutely everything in Brazil's cultural life would be our raw material. Genuine creativity could redeem any aspect of it and make it transcendent."

The Tropicalismo movement was to be instructive as well as creative: "If we made reference to rock 'n' roll in our songs, the effect was to invite Brazilian rockers and rock fans to join the company of the creators and consumers of quality music." It was also to be political, as the movement's protests against the dictatorship and the subsequent jailing and exile of some of its practitioners indicate. And as it developed, tropicalismo was further nurtured by multigeneric identifications and disidentifications with different musical genres. Ray Charles, on the cusp of jazz, RB, and pop, provided a particular inspiration through the beauty of this voice and by "fe[eding] our appetite for novelty with a style that was completely different than João's, or from Jimmy Giuffre's, Chet Baker's, or Dave Brubeck's." In addition to that of modern art, literature, and classical music, Veloso notes an eventual openness to work by Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Mick Jagger, "but every time, I always returned to my passion for João Gilberto to find a base and reestablish a perspective."31

In other words, Veloso positions cool jazz as an influence that must be kept at some distance but which also inspires musically. It is a symbol of artistic integrity and a cosmopolitan approach to art. As such, it stands as part of the antidote to a simplistic, stylized identification with America and a dead-end Brazilian nationalism. Yet it is but one element in a complicated process of identifications and disidentifications across genres and national borders. And as the reference to Ray Charles indicates, the public face of an already existing history of jazz-inflected cross-fertilization is also part of the inspirational mix.

The aforementioned examples are by no means a complete list, but I hope they are adequately indicative of historiographical directions in which we might move if we engage productively with the phenomena of incorporation and distinction in jazz history and, importantly, with the way those phenomena have been addressed by musicians. Ultimately, jazz studies-and, by extension, new studies that might exceed it while remaining in dialogue with it-is at its best when scholars remember to take cues from its innovative practioners and their observations on the complex and often contradictory elements of the music and its contexts of interpretation.

Save 20%

Add source code 14W0162 to get your discount at checkout.
Cannot be combined with any other offers.

Related Titles

Join UC Press


Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more