- Mark Tucker
- and Travis A. Jackson
The term conveys different although related meanings: 1) a musical tradition rooted in performing conventions that were introduced and developed early in the 20th century by African Americans; 2) a set of attitudes and assumptions brought to music-making, chief among them the notion of performance as a fluid creative process involving (group) improvisation; and 3) a style characterized by melodic, harmonic, and timbral practices derived from the blues and African American religious musics, cyclical formal structures, and a supple approach to rhythm and phrasing known as swing.
Historians and critics using studies of concert music and literature as models have often portrayed the development of jazz as a narrative of progress. Their accounts suggest that jazz started as unsophisticated dance music but grew into increasingly complex forms, gradually gaining prestige and becoming recognized around the world as an art. Over that same period, the attitudes of cultural and institutional gatekeepers toward the music changed dramatically. In 1924 an editorial writer for the New York Times called jazz “a return to the humming, hand-clapping, or tomtom beating of savages;” in 1987 the US Congress passed a resolution designating jazz “an outstanding model of individual expression” and “a rare and valuable national American treasure.” Those promoting this narrative of progress have emphasized innovation as a primary driving force, identifying new techniques, concepts, and structures that presumably inspired musicians to reach ever higher stages of development.
Narratives of evolution and innovation, however, oversimplify a story much broader in scope and more complex in structure. If some musicians have striven to be innovators, many others have viewed themselves as proud bearers of tradition. If some have struggled as uncompromising creative artists whose work reaches only a small, select audience, still others have flourished providing entertainment with deliberate mass appeal. While its contours are not wholly determined by audiences and markets or technologies of production and reproduction, jazz is inextricably bound by them. And if the music has gradually been accorded greater status and respect over the years, it has also consistently provoked controversy. The term “jazz” itself has often carried negative associations, which is partly why Duke Ellington and other musicians spurned it, and why Max Roach once told an interviewer, “I resent the word unequivocally” (Taylor, H1977, p. 110).
The denotative instability of the word complicates efforts to write the music’s history in at least three ways. First, the music’s sonic identity is difficult to isolate or delimit: although “jazz” seems to refer to a single musical idiom, like “classical” or “rock” it describes an extended family of styles, with all members sharing at least some traits in common yet none capable of representing the whole. Second, the varying functions of what has been labeled jazz conspire against the perception of those items as a unified entity. Jazz can present a musical background for social recreation, lively accompaniment for dancing, or an invitation to close listening and deep concentration—and the same performance or recording might operate in these different ways simultaneously. Third, the question of the music’s racial provenance has generated heated debate over the years and shaped its reception. While jazz is a product of African American expressive cultures, its practitioners have always incorporated influences from other musical traditions, and since the 1920s jazz has been performed by musicians of varying backgrounds throughout the world. In different eras, for example, commercially successful white musicians such as the bandleader Paul Whiteman and the saxophonist Kenny G have been identified by large segments of the public as major exponents of jazz. Many others, however, have seen these two as standing outside the tradition and have considered jazz to be a form of black music in which African Americans have been the leading innovators and most authoritative practitioners. Complications in attempts to describe the identity, function, and racial character of jazz—and the shifting ideological terrain on which one encounters them—are, however, unavoidable: they have been intrinsic to the discussion from the beginning.
2. Jazz and the New Orleans background (1895–1916).
The word “jazz” took on musical connotations in the United States during World War I; before then it was a colloquialism possibly southern and African American in origin, perhaps derived from (Central) African roots. Writers have offered several definitions of the term from this pre-war period, claiming it to be a verb that meant to make something livelier or faster, to demonstrate pep and energy, or to engage in sexual activity. In its earliest printed appearances, “jazz” turns up as a noun. A San Francisco sportswriter in 1913 used the word to describe a kind of spirited liveliness shown by baseball players, for example: “Everybody [on the team] has come back full of the old ‘jazz’” and “Henley the pitcher put a little more of the old ‘jazz’ on the pill [ball]” (Porter, E1997, p. 5).
A few years later small ensembles from New Orleans playing spirited, sometimes crude dance music began featuring the term—also spelled as “jass”—in their names. One was Stein’s Dixie Jass Band, a white group from New Orleans which in 1917 performed and recorded with slightly different personnel in New York as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Another was the Creole Band, a group of black American musicians that toured on vaudeville circuits in various parts of the United States (1914–18) and was occasionally advertised as a “New Orleans Jazz Band” or as the “Creole Band/Sometimes called the Jazz Band.” These ensembles gave northern urban audiences their first exposure to an energetic, blues-tinged musical idiom derived from southern black performing traditions. A New York newspaper article commented on the phenomenon in 1917 (Osgood, G1926, p. 11):
A strange word has gained wide-spread use in the ranks of our producers of popular music. It is “jazz,” used mainly as an adjective descriptive of a band. The group[s] that play for dancing, when colored, seem infected with the virus that they try to instil as a stimulus in others. They shake and jump and writhe in ways to suggest a return to the medieval jumping mania.
Novel and entertaining, this music usually accompanied dancing and was performed in places serving alcoholic beverages: restaurants, nightclubs, cabarets, and dance halls. Such places were themselves elements of an emergent culture of nightlife which brought patrons into more intimate contact with performers than concert or theater performances did and which often hinted at illicit pleasures of various kinds (Erenberg H1984, pp. 119–30). The combination of the music and such spaces led some reformers to see both jazz and nightlife as threats, as forms of social contagion.
Yet while jazz first drew widespread notice in the years leading up to 1920, some musicians and historians have claimed that it originated much earlier. Bunk Johnson stated that he and Buddy Bolden were playing jazz in New Orleans around the period 1895–6; Jelly Roll Morton said he invented jazz in 1902 (he was 12 at the time). Various brass bands from New Orleans, including the Olympia, Golden Rule, and Eagle, have also been cited as playing in a jazz style before 1910. Since these assertions have been made retrospectively, often by individuals with a strong personal investment in the histories they have related, and since there is little contemporary evidence to put such claims in perspective, questions of specifically when and how jazz performance practices emerged remain unanswerable. What is more certain, at least for most historians, is that the area in and around New Orleans was the principal site of emergence for jazz.
New Orleans residents in the early 1900s displayed a syncretic blend of African, Caribbean, and European cultures unique among American cities. Morton’s Catholicism and belief in vodoun exemplified the cultural fusions that also characterized the city’s music traditions. A major port and commercial center, New Orleans attracted black Americans from rural communities in Louisiana and neighboring states, offering economic incentives, educational opportunities, and more relaxed racial codes. At the same time many residents had to endure poverty and sharp tensions that divided neighborhoods and districts according to the skin color, language, religion, ethnicity, and class of their inhabitants: Protestant, English-speaking blacks; Catholic, French-speaking blacks known as “Creoles of color” (gens de couleur, henceforth designated by “Creoles”) of mixed African and European ancestry; and native-born and immigrant whites with a variety of religious, ethnic, and class affiliations.
The foundations of jazz were established by African Americans in this urban environment before the music had a name, or when it was still referred to as ragtime or ratty music. The process unfolded as musicians gradually developed distinctive ways of interpreting a varied repertory that circulated widely in the United States, the Caribbean, and Western Europe through the movement of people, published music, and eventually recordings (Bilby, H1985, pp. 140–41). That repertory included marches, dance music (two-steps, quadrilles, waltzes, polkas, schottisches, and mazurkas), popular songs, traditional hymns, and spirituals. What might be called a nascent jazz sensibility arose when musicians started loosening the strictures of that repertory and adopting an individualistic, liberating approach that has remained at this musical tradition’s core.
Although we lack documentation that shows this process unfolding, it is possible to hypothesize some of the stages involved. Rhythms, for example, gradually may have come to be interpreted more freely than in earlier 19th-century marches, ragtime, and cakewalks. Phrases were stretched out and either played in a more relaxed manner or with more vigorous offbeat accents, not just in one instrumental part but in two or more simultaneously. Drummers enlivened simple duple and triple meters by introducing multi-metric or hemiola-like patterns and phrasing over bar lines. Players began embellishing and ornamenting melodies, inventing countermelodies, weaving arpeggiated lines into the texture, and coloring diatonic harmonies with the pitch-play of blue notes (see Blue note (i)).
Although such techniques may have been applied to music by solo pianists active in New Orleans, among them Jelly Roll Morton and Tony Jackson, they generally came to characterize a style of ensemble playing. Precursors to the jazz bands during the period 1915–20 included small dance groups led by such players as Buddy Bolden, Lorenzo Tio Sr., and Papa Celestin, together with brass bands (often featuring some of the same players) that provided music for such community functions as parades, picnics, parties, and funerals. In a Library of Congress interview with Alan Lomax in 1938, Morton recalled the typical brass band instrumentation as including “a bass horn [e.g. tuba or euphonium], one trombone, one trumpet, an alto [horn] and maybe a baritone [horn] or clarinet, and a bass drum and snare drum.” These bands gave employment and ensemble experience to early New Orleans jazz musicians such as Bunk Johnson, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong, while in the process fostering a sense of group identity, pride, and competitiveness. They contributed as well to the solidifying of a professional sphere comprised almost exclusively of men, a trait that characterized jazz in the following years, except in the area of singing, where women gained more opportunities; these bands also helped to create a performance environment in which individual expression was encouraged yet closely coordinated with the activities of other ensemble members. As the writer Ralph Ellison later observed, “True jazz is an art of individual assertion within and against the group … Each solo flight, or improvisation, represents … a definition of [the jazz artist’s] identity: as individual, as member of the collectivity, and as a link in the chain of tradition” (Ellison, H1986, p. 234).
Given the scanty documentation for New orleans jazz during these formative stages (c1895–1915), it is unclear to what extent musicians in the early dance and brass bands improvised. Judging from later exponents of the style, a description like “collective improvisation”—used by writers to suggest a basic approach to performing—might lead some to assume that the music was entirely spontaneous, invented in the moment. Like improvisers in other traditions, however, these musicians developed conventions that guided their individual and ensemble work: familiar formal plans, ordered sequences of themes and keys, specific functions for individual instruments within ensembles, and common techniques of embellishment. When they invented compelling new rhythmic devices and melodic patterns, these were imitated by others and repeated in different pieces, then passed on through oral tradition. The way Armstrong once described his approach to soloing—“First I plays the melody, then I plays the melody ’round the melody, then I routines”—hints at the conventional practice that shaped his approach to improvising, belying the primitivist myth that “instinct” or “natural feeling” produced the music and challenging the undisciplined connotations some attach to “collective improvisation.” Moreover, musicians working in certain New Orleans contexts—at high society balls and parties and on the excursion boats that went up the Mississippi River—were required to play from written parts, and their opportunities to improvise were limited accordingly. Many Creole musicians in particular, who lived in and around the city’s French Quarter, were proficient readers who combined an ability to play from notation with techniques of embellishment and variation.
Who created jazz? This has been a controversial issue in the jazz literature, especially since much of the evidence concerning its origins comes from vague and often conflicting oral testimony. Nevertheless, extant documents and the most reliable accounts support the contention that New Orleans musicians of African descent—both the blacks living uptown and the Creoles downtown—played a leading role both as inventors and expert practitioners of the techniques that came to characterize jazz. In doing so they drew both on a fund of African-derived musical practices and on performing techniques and dance forms widely dispersed in Western Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Concurrently members of other racial and ethnic groups became involved in the development and dissemination of these same techniques. The white musician Papa Jack Laine, for example, led brass and dance bands that trained other white musicians later active in jazz, among them Tom Brown, George Brunis, and Nick LaRocca. These bands furnished music for similar social functions as their African American counterparts, such as parades and riverboat entertainment. As with the early black bands, the lack of recorded documentation makes it difficult to know the styles in which these white groups played. It is conceivable, though, that white New Orleans musicians in the early 1900s were also beginning to adopt a looser and more rhythmically lively approach to the repertory of brass and dance bands.
Musicians of Caribbean ancestry and of mixed racial and ethnic heritage also contributed to the formation of a jazz performance practice. One was the Cuban American cornetist and cellist Manuel Perez, who played with the Onward Brass Band and led a well-known dance band called the Imperial Orchestra. The Creole population of New Orleans included many descendants of Haitians and Cubans who had immigrated to the city in the 19th century, and the New Orleans–Caribbean connection proved especially important for jazz rhythm. When Morton spoke of the “Spanish tinge” present in jazz, he partly had in mind patterns like the tresillo (ex.1a), habanera (ex.1b), and cinquillo (ex.1c) that defined the rhythmic composites of Cuban and other Caribbean and Latin American dance genres. Such rhythms turn up in some of his own compositions, such as “New Orleans Blues” (c1902–5; 1923, Gen.) and “The Crave” (c1910–11; 1939, General). They also appear in late 19th-century pieces published in New Orleans such as W.T. Francis’s “The Cactus Dance,” “Danza Mexicana” (1885), and his arrangements of pieces played by the Mexican Military Band at the 1885 World’s Exposition in New Orleans.
The racial and ethnic profile of early New Orleans jazz, then, was multifaceted, reflecting and refracting the mixed heritage of the city’s residents. At the same time most of the leading musicians identified with jazz were African Americans. These two generalizations would remain constant as the music spread beyond New Orleans in the years that followed.
It is likely that characteristic rhythmic and metric practices and embellishing techniques employed by black, Creole, and white musicians in New Orleans might have been heard in small ensembles elsewhere in the country. Groups that played instrumental ragtime, dance genres such as the habanera, rumba, and tango, and blues pieces like W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues” (1912) and “St. Louis Blues” (1914) probably displayed features that resembled what might be called proto-jazz. The Ohio-born reed player Garvin Bushell recalled playing with a circus band in 1916 that performed marches, ragtime, and blues throughout the South and Midwest; he also identified several accomplished black clarinetists—Percy Glascoe, J. Paul Wyer (known as the Pensacola Kid), and Fred Kewley—who traveled with circus and minstrel bands and later could be heard in jazz and blues settings. Nevertheless, there was something distinctive about the musical fusion that occurred in New Orleans, a flavor and piquancy that resulted from a subtle blending of many different ingredients. Together with this intermingling of musical traits, other extra-musical qualities helped to shape an emerging jazz aesthetic.
In the decade before 1920 players from New Orleans took this emerging style to California, Chicago, and other parts of the United States offering them employment opportunities. They also began recording jazz, which quickly catapulted a regional American vernacular idiom into the international arena.
3. Early recorded jazz (1917–23).
Audio recordings have played a crucial role in disseminating jazz. From 1917 to 1920, the years when “jazz” began appearing with increasing frequency as a stylistic label, record companies were mainly issuing 8-, 10-, and 12-inch discs which were played at 78 r.p.m. and which targeted markets segmented along lines of race, region, class, and ethnicity. The recordings, most lasting between three and four minutes, were made using acoustical methods (microphones did not come into widespread use until after 1925), and their relatively low fidelity limits what they can reveal about early jazz performance practice. For one thing, their balances of sound and timbral qualities may have been quite different in live settings. In those same settings, likewise, the durations of individual selections might have been extended beyond those of their recorded counterparts. The acoustical recording process also affected instrumentation: drummers often had to limit their activity to wood blocks and cymbals since drums might have created distortion or overwhelmed other instruments. In addition, the pieces recorded by bands may not have reflected what they performed regularly outside the studio: record producers and publishers often selected the repertory as part of a larger effort to market sheet music copies of newly published compositions. Finally, race influenced producers’ decisions regarding whom to record and what styles were appropriate for them. Black jazz musicians only started recording in significant numbers during the period 1923–5 and often found themselves expected to play a repertory emphasizing blues and “hot” jazz (fast, rhythmically energetic dance music) that ostensibly would appeal to the African American consumers targeted by record companies in their segregated race series (see Race record). As Duke Ellington’s saxophonist Otto Hardwick observed, “The field for recording was quite limited … If you didn’t play the blues, there was no room for you.” (White musicians from rural areas of the southern United States were similarly discouraged from recording anything other than what Ralph Peer later called hillbilly music.) For all these reasons, recordings may offer unreliable sonic representations of early jazz performing practice while preserving echoes of the varied jazz styles that had begun to circulate in the United States and overseas by the early 1920s.
The historical distinction for being the first group to record jazz goes to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. A quintet of white musicians from New Orleans, it made its first recordings early in 1917 in New York, where the band had been attracting attention through appearances at Reisenweber’s Restaurant on 58th Street. Although the Original Dixieland Jazz Band lacked both banjo and a bass instrument (string bass or tuba), its other instruments became standard for small New Orleans jazz units, which included three lead or melody-carrying instruments (cornet, clarinet, and trombone) with piano and drums providing accompaniment in the rhythm section. The pieces they recorded show a mixture typical for early jazz bands: blues, ragtime, popular songs, and novelty numbers. Improvisation, however, is minimal. Often the band seems to be following set routines: “Livery Stable Blues” (Vic., 1917), for example, uses a common multi-part strain form derived from 19th-century marches and ragtime (e.g., AABBCCABC), and successive iterations of individual strains vary little from their predecessors. The band must have impressed listeners with both its ebullience and its extroverted humor: the group was a seasoned vaudeville act, and its crowd-pleasing tactics—including the imitation of animal noises in the recorded version of “Livery Stable Blues”—may have reflected its stage experience more than its New Orleans jazz background. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings, another white band, showed more restraint: their rendition of “Livery Stable Blues” (Para., 1922) is smoother and more rhythmically supple than recordings of the same piece made by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917 and again in 1923, the latter for OKeh under the title “Barnyard Blues” (see Dixieland jazz).
Kid Ory and a five-piece band (cornet, clarinet, trombone, piano, and drums) provide another example of early jazz by New Orleans musicians, this time an African American group recorded in Los Angeles in 1922. Although its instrumentation is identical to that of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Ory’s group displays both a gentler, more lilting rhythmic style and a greater sense of relaxation on “Ory’s Creole Trombone/Society Blues” (Nordskog) than is evident in work by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. In other respects, however, the multi-strain formal patterns, the “set” quality of many of the instrumental lines (although the cornetist Mutt Carey does take liberties in embellishing parts), the functions of instruments within the ensemble, and the use of breaks (short passages played by soloists while the rest of the band stops) all resemble aspects heard in the earlier recordings. As with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, virtually nothing played by Ory’s band would qualify as unscripted “collective improvisation.” Instead it was highly ordered and predictable music with built-in repetitions, probably intended for dancers; however, as Gushee has suggested (G1977, p. 5), it is likely that the band’s lack of a full rhythm section (notably bass, banjo, and a complete drum kit) made it sound different on record from what listeners heard live.
In addition to these early recorded examples by small groups from New Orleans, larger ensembles playing “syncopated” dance music showed another side of the emerging jazz phenomenon. Black bandleaders in New York such as James Reese Europe, Ford Dabney, Tim Brymn, and Leroy Smith performed with groups of up to 15 or more players, including strings together with brass, reeds, and percussion. The relatively few recordings made by these ensembles during the period 1914–23 have often been cited as examples of late instrumental ragtime or pre-jazz music. Indeed, in some ways they seem closer in sound and spirit to the bands of John Philip Sousa and Arthur Pryor or to theater pit orchestras and polite society dance orchestras than to the convention-flouting strain of jazz that characterized the Roaring Twenties. Nevertheless, the energy and rhythmic verve of Europe’s orchestra—especially when the drummer Buddy Gilmore was driving the ensemble as on “Castle Walk” (Vic., 1914)—along with its loosely embellished performance practice and repertory of rags, pop songs, and blues, relate his group to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, and Ory’s band, even if its overall sonic identity seems quite different. (The frequent unison melody lines, not just the larger size or stiffer rhythmic practice, account in large part for the difference of Europe’s orchestra.) Europe, who directed the celebrated 369th US Infantry Regiment Band in France during World War I, linked his approach to that of jazz players in 1919, explaining that “jazz” was associated with certain instrumental effects (mutes, flutter-tonguing), strong rhythmic accents, and “embroidery” and “discordance” in the instrumental parts. He also made clear his belief that jazz originated in African American culture: “The negro loves anything that is peculiar in music, and the ‘jazzing’ appeals to him strongly … We have our own racial feeling and if we try to copy whites we will make bad copies” (Porter, E1997, pp. 126–7). A contemporary of Europe who led a large ensemble that included early jazz or pre-jazz in its repertory was Will Marion Cook. Although his Southern Syncopated Orchestra made no recordings, it traveled to Europe in 1919 and made a deep impression on listeners, among them the Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet who, while describing Sidney Bechet in primitivist terms, found the latter’s blues solos “admirable equally for their richness of invention, their force of accent, and their daring novelty and unexpected turns” (Walser, H1999, p. 11).
Other bandleaders provided models for organizing and standardizing the instrumental components of dance orchestras playing jazz. On the West Coast during the mid- to late-1910s, Art Hickman led a ten-piece ensemble consisting of two brass instruments (cornet and trombone), two saxophones, violin, piano, two banjos, string bass, and drums. He took the orchestra east in 1919. Evidence of the impact of New Orleans jazz style upon Hickman can be heard in the final chorus of “Whispering” (Col., 1920), both in the arpeggiated embellishing techniques of the soprano saxophonist (emulating a New Orleans clarinetist) and the loose connecting phrases of the trombonist, playing in tailgate fashion. Hickman’s configuration of brass, reeds, violin, and rhythm section was emulated by Paul Whiteman, another California-based bandleader who came to New York in 1920. The instrumental line-up of Hickman’s and Whiteman’s bands required arrangers skilled in composing embellished melodic variations and exploring different timbral combinations. One was Ferde Grofé, who worked first with Hickman in California and after 1919 as an arranger and pianist with Whiteman. Grofé helped Whiteman develop a concept of symphonic jazz through changes in orchestration. He added strings and double-reed instruments (oboe and bassoon) to the standard brass, single-reed (saxophone and clarinet), and rhythm sections and borrowed themes from the classical repertory—such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Song on the Indian Guest” (Vic., 1921) from his opera Sadko—to produce dance music that evoked the “high art” of the concert hall (see Sweet dance music and Concert jazz). In Chicago, Isham Jones was another prominent white bandleader who by the late 1910s was fronting an ensemble made up of three distinct sections (brass, reeds, and rhythm instruments) with the addition of violin, which later disappeared from the standard dance-band ensemble. Jones’s arrangements often featured “hot” sections, such as the cornetist Louis Panico’s muted, growling statement on “Never Again” (Bruns., 1924), that emphasized syncopation and improvising soloists.
By the early 1920s, then, jazz and jazz-like music could be heard on recordings made by such small ensembles as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, and Ory’s group; by medium-sized dance bands, including those of Hickman and Jones; and by larger ensembles, notably Europe’s society orchestra and Whiteman’s concert orchestra. Yet another recording outlet for jazz musicians came in the form of small pick-up groups accompanying female blues singers. Beginning with the recordings that Mamie Smith made in 1920 with her promoter Perry Bradford and continuing with the flood of “blues craze” singers that followed, it was customary for producers to hire two to five instrumentalists to accompany vocalists for recording dates, especially those made for race labels in Chicago and New York. Often these hired musicians had experience playing jazz in dance bands and displayed their skills as improvisers in their studio work. In 1920 the New York trumpeter Johnny Dunn and a small band with rotating personnel took part in a number of sessions with the singer Edith Wilson. The loose ensemble work on such recordings as “Nervous Blues” and “Vampin’ Liza Jane” (Col., 1921)—with clarinet, trombone, and trumpet sometimes doubling, embellishing, or playing around the melody—hints at the kind of informal accompanying conventions players were using in clubs and theaters. At times the interweaving polyphonic strands suggest the New Orleans small-group model, but Dunn’s style is both busier and more clipped rhythmically than that of such Crescent City lead cornetists as King Oliver and Tommy Ladnier. Other musicians with jazz credentials turn up on these blues recordings from the early 1920s, including the trumpeter Bubber Miley and the clarinetist Buster Bailey with Mamie Smith (1921), the trumpeter Joe Smith and the pianist Fletcher Henderson with Ethel Waters (1922), and the pianist Fats Waller with Sara Martin (1922).
In 1923, six years after the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded its first sides, African American jazz musicians started getting more opportunities to distribute their work via recordings. That year companies in Chicago and Richmond, Indiana, issued the first recordings of such noted New Orleans figures as Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton. In New York, Henderson and his orchestra began recording regularly for various labels, and Bessie Smith cut her first sides accompanied by jazz instrumentalists. In St. Louis Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra made its first recordings. From this time on, recordings offered a more accurate and representative sampling of jazz activity in the United States.
The recordings made in 1923 by Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band reveal the cohesive, relaxed yet hard-driving rhythmic style of a band of mostly New Orleanians working regularly on Chicago’s South Side. Although slightly larger than the Original Dixieland Jazz Band or Ory’s band, Oliver’s group featured a similar two-part configuration: a front line of melody-playing instruments made up of clarinet, trombone, and two cornets (played by Oliver and the young Louis Armstrong) and a rhythm section of piano, banjo, drums, and occasionally bass. Oliver’s repertory combined older, ragtime-based strain forms (“Froggie Moore,” Gen., 1923) with current pop songs (“I ain’t gonna tell nobody,” OK, 1923) and blues (“Jazzin’ Babies Blues,” OK, 1923). Blues lyricism was central to their brand of jazz and was epitomized in Oliver’s muted solos—notably his celebrated one on “Dipper Mouth Blues” (Gen., 1923)—which later trumpeters emulated and embellished. The fuller, more dynamic rhythm section in Oliver’s band (compared to those of Ory and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band earlier) reflected the group’s experience playing for dancers, a point that might have been more audibly obvious had the drummer Baby Dodds been able to use his entire drum kit instead of being restricted largely to wood blocks. The group’s mode of interplay, which gave each individual a voice in a harmoniously working unit, was a model of ensemble coordination positioned midway between the loosely improvised accompaniments of Johnny Dunn and his Jazz Hounds and the precisely notated arrangements of Whiteman. For these reasons and by virtue of their exuberance and rhythmic momentum, Oliver’s recordings of 1923 made a powerful statement about the expressive potential of New Orleans jazz that resonated loudly for decades to follow.
A contrasting strain of African American jazz in about 1923 is found on recordings made in New York by Henderson’s orchestra. For its leader “hot jazz” did not circumscribe his group’s identity, as it did Oliver’s in Chicago; alongside “sweet” popular songs, novelty numbers, and waltzes, hot music constituted but one of the idioms the group provided for dancers. It was in part Henderson’s versatility, as Jeffrey Magee (G2005, pp. 33–8) noted, that helped him succeed as a black bandleader competing with other white and black ensembles for jobs in New York, including a long-term engagement he secured at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan (1924). On recordings, Henderson and his musicians at times appear to be following commercially published stock arrangements (“Oh! Sister, ain’t that hot?,” Emerson, 1924); at other times they play arrangements by Don Redman, a member of the band’s reed section. In general the reliance on notation and the three-section configuration (brass, reeds, and rhythm) of Henderson’s group placed it more in the dance-band tradition of Hickman and Whiteman than in the New Orleans mold of Oliver, Ory, and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Nevertheless, traces of the New Orleans polyphonic weave show up occasionally, notably in the final chorus of “When you walked out someone else walked right in” (Puritan, 1923), an arrangement by Redman of an Irving Berlin song. Together with the active sectional interplay and set melodic variations dictated by arrangements, Henderson’s band also featured “hot” improvised (or improvised-sounding) solos by such players as Coleman Hawkins (“Dicty Blues,” Voc., 1923), the trombonist Charlie Green (“Shanghai Shuffle,” Pathé, 1924), and Armstrong (“Copenhagen,” Voc., 1924).
4. The jazz age (1920–30).
“Jazzin’, everybody’s jazzin’ now,” sang Trixie Smith in “The world’s jazz crazy and so am I” (Para., 1925). The song attested to the fever generated by jazz during the 1920s as it spread throughout North America and to Europe, Latin America, and distant parts of the globe. This expansion occurred in two concurrent phases. First, American jazz was exported overseas in the form of recordings, published sheet music, and written arrangements and by traveling ensembles. As early as 1918–19 Louis Mitchell and his Jazz Kings performed in Paris, and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band undertook a long residency in England. They were followed in the 1920s by Benny Peyton, Arthur Briggs, Sidney Bechet (who returned after his first trip in 1919), and other American musicians scattered throughout Europe. Europeans could also hear jazz interpreted by orchestras touring with such black musical revues as From Dover to Dixie (1923), Plantation Days (1923), and Chocolate Kiddies (1925–6). The market for jazz extended beyond Western Europe: Sam Wooding’s orchestra appeared in Hungary, Russia, and Argentina, and the pianist Teddy Weatherford traveled with Jack Carter’s orchestra to East Asia in the late 1920s.
At the same time as American jazz reached new listeners abroad, those living in different parts of the world began to perform, record, and write about the new music. Local jazz bands sprang up everywhere, from those led by Bernard Etté in Germany and Fred Elizalde in England to those of Dajos Bela in Hungary and Eduardo Andreozzi in Brazil. A number of these ensembles recorded for such major labels as Columbia, Decca, Odeon, and Victor. Jazz also made an impact on European composers of concert music, just as ragtime had done earlier. Attempts to incorporate (or parody) the rhythmic patterns, harmonic vocabulary, and sonorities of jazz were undertaken in France by Milhaud (La Création du Monde, 1923) and in Germany by Hindemith (Suite “1922,” 1922) and Krenek (Jonny spielt auf, 1925). During the same period writings on jazz began to proliferate in newspapers, periodicals, and literary magazines. The German periodical Der Querschnitt published articles on jazz in 1922–3, and in Leipzig Alfred Baresel turned out pedagogical materials and Das Jazz-Buch (1925), which Bradford Robinson called the first comprehensive textbook on jazz in any language.
Public reaction to jazz varied widely in the United States during the 1920s. Early on, some commentators, with concert music as a point of reference and with race and class as subtexts, condemned the music as improper, even immoral. Jazz “excite[s] the baser instincts,” said John Philip Sousa (Ogren, E1989, p. 56). It “offends people with musical taste already formed,” charged an editorial in the New York Times (8 October 1924), “and it prevents the formation of musical taste by others.” Among those oriented toward the concert hall, however, jazz also had supporters. Carl Engel, head of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, noted that “jazz finds its last and supreme glory in the skill for improvisation exhibited by its performers … [Good jazz is] music that is recklessly fantastic and joyously grotesque” (G1922, p. 187). For some, jazz symbolized the spirit and temper of contemporary American life, whether it was F. Scott Fitzgerald in Tales of the Jazz Age (1923) describing the rebellious hedonism of the younger generation or the music critic W.J. Henderson claiming in 1925 that jazz expressed “ebulliency, our carefree optimism, our nervous energy, and our extravagant humor” (New York Times Book Review, 8 February 1925). Not everyone linked jazz exclusively with the United States. For the American cultural critic Waldo Frank, jazz was emblematic of the “Machine” and symbolized the diseased condition of industrialized society, describing it as “the music of a revolt that fails” (In the American Jungle (1925–1936), New York, 1937, p. 119). In 1921, the English critic Clive Bell equated jazz with artistic modernism, identifying such figures as Picasso, Stravinsky, T.S. Eliot, and Woolf with the “jazz movement,” finding in their work an underlying quality of “impudence in quite natural and legitimate revolt against Nobility and Beauty” (“Plus de Jazz,” The New Republic, 21 September 1921).
The varied reactions that jazz occasioned in the 1920s notwithstanding, the music itself served two primary functions. First and foremost it accompanied dancing, as jazz bands supplied lively music that inspired people to dance; recordings issued by jazz groups often identified on their labels the particular dance step for which the music was suitable: Oliver’s “Chattanooga Stomp” (Col., 1923) was a “shimmy one step,” Ellington’s “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” (Voc., 1926) a “fox trot.” James P. Johnson’s “Charleston,” written in 1923 for the show Runnin’ Wild, inspired a popular craze for this dance, and its characteristic rhythmic motive (related to the tresillo; Ex.2) turned up in individual solos and arrangements played by jazz orchestras. Many jazz instrumentals referred to specific dances or implied dance movement in their titles, among them “Doin’ the New Low Down,” “St. Louis Shuffle,” “Birmingham Breakdown,” “Hop Off,” “18th Street Strut,” and “Moten Stomp.” Jazz musicians accompanied not just social dancers but professional dance acts in vaudeville and musical theater. When Coleman Hawkins performed during the period 1921–2 as one of Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds, he and other band members accompanied both the singer and various dancers appearing on the same bill. Similarly, Count Basie joined the vaudeville act of Gonzelle White (1926) in which fellow band members danced and performed stunts onstage. The drummer Freddy Crump, Basie recalled, “used to come dancing back in from the wings and hit the drum as he slid into a split. He used to grab the curtain and ride up with it, bowing and waving at the audience applauding” (Basie and Murray, F1985, p. 86).
Basie’s recollection of Crump points up the second main function of jazz in the 1920s: to provide entertainment that often had a comedic flair or novelty component. Jazz bands were often visually stimulating, with players throwing objects such as hats and drumsticks in the air, striking dramatic positions while performing and taking part in stage business, and theaters were a common venue for presenting musicians on bills with other performers. As a result, audiences often judged a jazz band by the quality of its visual presentation or act, on one hand, and its ability to play racially prescribed roles, on the other. Duke Ellington’s band once performed a routine at a Harlem theater in which the set resembled a backwoods church and Bubber Miley dressed as a preacher to deliver a musical sermon on his trumpet. Louis Armstrong had a similar preacher’s act, calling himself Reverend Satchelmouth, when he played in New York with Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra and in Chicago with Erskine Tate and the Vendome orchestra. Audiences from varying backgrounds could find humor in such performances. In some cases, though, the routines expected by “slummers” or “racial tourists” seeking exotic entertainment were haunted by the specter of minstrelsy in plantation and jungle scenarios in which black musicians and dancers—performing in venues located in transitional areas known as vice districts—catered to the “night-life fantasies cherished by white customers” (Ogren, E1989, pp. 42–3, 74–5; Kenney, E1993, pp. 15–16, 24–5). Some of the less racially demeaning theatrical aspects of performance were continued by Cab Calloway and Jimmie Lunceford in the 1930s, avoided by most after World War II, and revived in the 1960s by Sun Ra and his Arkestra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Cecil Taylor.
A concert staged by Paul Whiteman at New York’s Aeolian Hall on 12 February 1924 crystallized conflicting views of jazz in the 1920s. Entitled “An Experiment in Modern Music,” Whiteman’s event sought, among other things, to suggest that the old “discordant jazz” (the New Orleans small-group style identified with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band) was being replaced by “the really melodious music of today,” which he called “modern jazz.” George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, arranged by Grofé and first performed on this occasion, was described in the press as a “jazz rhapsody.” For Whiteman and others, then, jazz was a form of American popular music, not necessarily racially marked, suitable for polite dancing by urban sophisticates, and adaptable by composers for use in the concert hall. This perspective on jazz also dominated Henry O. Osgood’s So this is Jazz (Boston, 1926), the first book-length study of the subject in English. The main figures profiled by Osgood were all successful white bandleaders or composers, among them Whiteman, Gershwin, Berlin, and Ted Lewis.
Jazz in the 1920s was a fluid, unstable construct. Depending on who used the term, it could refer to Jelly Roll Morton, Vincent Lopez and his Hotel Pennsylvania orchestra, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, or Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The breadth of its semantic range is demonstrated by the film The Jazz Singer (1927), in which the lead character, played by Al Jolson, is a white Jewish singer who performs in blackface, employs jerky body movement, and does trick whistling. Jolson’s taut delivery and histrionic mode of “jazz” singing contrasted sharply with the work of other contemporary musicians, such as the stark tonal portrait sketched by Ellington and his orchestra in “Black and Tan Fantasy” (Bruns., 1927) and the jubilant strains of Armstrong and his Hot Five in “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” (OK, 1927). Armstrong’s landmark recordings with this group and his Hot Seven during this period also signaled the growing importance of the virtuoso soloist to jazz practices that developed further in subsequent decades.
5. Swing and big bands (1930–45).
If Paul Whiteman programmed his Aeolian Hall concert in 1924 to suggest what type of jazz would prevail in the years to come, his prediction was completely wrong. It was not his symphonic jazz that captured the public imagination. Instead, it was the rhythmically charged jazz of black bands like McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and the orchestras of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Bennie Moten along with that of such white bands as the Casa Loma Orchestra that set the tempo for developments in the 1930s and 1940s. Unlike Whiteman’s 20-piece orchestra, these ensembles, each numbering roughly a dozen players around 1930, were sleeker and usually comprised three trumpets, two trombones, three reeds (including one saxophonist doubling on clarinet), and four in the rhythm section. By the early 1930s the tuba had been replaced by a string bass and the banjo by a guitar, yielding a leaner sound overall. Arrangers for these bands, including Benny Carter, John Nesbitt, Eddie Durham, Don Redman, Horace and Fletcher Henderson, and Gene Gifford, discovered ways to translate the freedom and flexibility of improvising soloists into the parts they wrote. Sometimes they played the reeds off against the brass, as in the final “shout” chorus of Fletcher Henderson’s “New King Porter Stomp” (OK, 1932); this was based on an antiphonal call-and-response figure that reached back to such older African American musical forms as the work song and spiritual. They also devised short, repeated melodic-rhythmic cells called riffs that could accompany solos or serve a primary melodic function, as in “Casa Loma Stomp” (OK, 1930) by the Casa Loma Orchestra and the last chorus of “Moten Swing” (Vic., 1932) by Moten’s orchestra. In addition, they lightened textures by reducing the number of doubled parts and streamlining harmonies. Such techniques gave large-ensemble jazz speed and grace and made the rhythm buoyant and propulsive. The term for this rhythmic quality—taken from the vocabulary of black musicians— was “Swing,” and it soon became a stylistic designation synonymous with jazz and a rallying cry for a new generation of listeners, dancers, and critics.
Benny Goodman played a major role in popularizing the latter two senses of “swing” in the mid-1930s. Like Whiteman earlier and Elvis Presley a few decades later, Goodman was a white musician who could successfully mediate between an African American musical tradition and the large base of white listeners making up the majority of the American population. Wearing glasses and conservative suits—“looking like a high school science teacher,” according to one observer (Stowe, E1994, p. 45)—Goodman appeared to be an ordinary, respectable white American. Musically he was anything but ordinary: a virtuoso clarinetist, a skilled improviser who could solo “hot” on up-tempo numbers and “sweet” on ballads, and a disciplined bandleader who demanded excellence from his players. With these combined personal and musical attributes, he built a following through radio network programs (“Let’s Dance,” 1934–5, and “The Camel Caravan,” 1936–9), recordings made for the Victor label (from 1935), and live performances nationwide. Jazz historians have often used the date of one of these appearances (21 August 1935, when his orchestra broadcast live from the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles) to mark the beginning of the swing era, a period stretching into the late 1940s during which the large-ensemble jazz purveyed by Goodman and other bandleaders was the popular music of choice for many in the United States. Significantly, the pieces that galvanized listeners most during the Palomar performance were hot jazz numbers from Goodman’s repertory that had been arranged by an African American musician, Fletcher Henderson.
In some ways Goodman practiced a racial politics that was more inclusive than that of his predecessors, although he was not the first prominent white bandleader to perform music written by African Americans: Whiteman, for example, had commissioned arrangements from William Grant Still in the late 1920s. Besides featuring the work of such black arrangers as Fletcher and Horace Henderson, Jimmy Mundy, Edgar Sampson, and Mary Lou Williams, Goodman formed small groups that brought white musicians together on the bandstand and in the recording studio with such notable black players as Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, Charlie Christian, and Cootie Williams. During a concert he gave at Carnegie Hall on 16 January 1938, members of his band jammed onstage with musicians from Count Basie’s orchestra. Color lines were also crossed when black musicians were hired as featured soloists with white bands, such as Billie Holiday with Artie Shaw (1938) and Roy Eldridge with Gene Krupa (1941–3). Despite these short-term examples of integration, black musicians still faced systemic segregation and discrimination during the swing era, often hired to perform in venues where they would not be admitted as patrons. While they thus profited economically from the vogue for swing, an idiom their predecessors had largely invented in the late 1920s and early 1930s, most black musicians were unable to realize the level of commercial success and media visibility enjoyed by the bands of Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Harry James, and Shaw.
In the guise of swing, jazz appeared domesticated in the 1930s. Earlier, it had been associated with gin mills and smoky cabarets, illegal substances (alcohol and drugs), and illicit sex. Swing generally enjoyed a more wholesome reputation, although some preached of the dangers it posed to the morals of young people. This exuberant, extroverted music, performed by well dressed musicians and their clean-cut leaders, entered middle-class households through everyday appliances like the living room Victrola and the kitchen radio. It reached a wider populace as musicians transported it from large urban centers into small towns and rural areas. Criss-crossing North America by bus, car, and train, big bands played single-night engagements in dance halls, ballrooms, theaters, hotels, nightclubs, country clubs, military bases, and outdoor pavilions. They attracted hordes of teenagers who came to hear the popular songs of the day and dance the jitterbug, lindy hop, and Susie Q. The strenuous touring schedule of big bands was far from glamorous. Nevertheless, musicians who played in these ensembles could symbolize achievement and prove inspirational, as the writer Ralph Ellison recalled from his early years growing up in Oklahoma City (H1986, p. 220):
And then Ellington and the great orchestra came to town; came with their uniforms, their sophistication, their skills; their golden horns, their flights of controlled and disciplined fantasy; came with their art, their special sound; came with Ivie Anderson and Ethel Waters singing and dazzling the eye with their high-brown beauty and with the richness and bright feminine flair of their costumes, their promising manners. They were news from the great wide world, an example and a goal.
In less densely populated areas of the United States, bands might be based in one location but travel regularly within a circumscribed area covering two or more states. These so-called territory bands were especially active in the Midwestern and south-central parts of the country (see Territory band and Southwest jazz). Among the better-known leaders of black territory bands were Don Albert and Alphonso Trent (based in Dallas), Troy Floyd (San Antonio), Jesse Stone (Dallas and Kansas City), Walter Page (Oklahoma City), and Moten and Andy Kirk (Kansas City, Missouri). Although territory bands enjoyed modest financial success and made relatively few recordings (with the exception of those led by Moten and Kirk), they provided black musicians with important professional opportunities and fused together the vocal expressivity of the blues with the rhythmic drive of dance music and the spontaneity of improvised solos and ensemble riffs.
These latter stylistic traits became hallmarks of the Kansas City-based orchestra led by Basie from 1935. Basie had earlier worked the Southwest territory circuit with Walter Page’s Blue Devils (1928–9) and Moten (1929–35). After Moten died, he formed his own band and drew upon the local blues- and riff-oriented ensemble style to create a dynamic version of swing that had gained national exposure by the late 1930s. His orchestra featured a rhythm section renowned for its smoothly interlocking parts and relaxed teamwork, reed and brass sections capable of explosive accents and muscular phrasing, compelling improvising soloists such as the saxophonist Lester Young, the trumpeter Buck Clayton, and the trombonist Dicky Wells, and the warm, expressive vocals of Helen Humes and Jimmy Rushing. The heat and excitement generated by the Basie band comes across especially on recordings of live radio broadcasts from this period, but can also be heard on such studio issues as “Doggin’ around” (Decca, 1938), “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” (Decca, 1938), and “Oh, Lady, Be Good” (Voc., 1936).
The big bands of the swing era were entertaining for both listeners and dancers and instructive for the musicians who played with them. Although there were various means of informal, school-based, and on-the-job tuition for musicians (Chevan, H 1997, pp. 31–49), formal education specifically oriented toward jazz was scarce before the 1950s; in particular, racial discrimination often blocked access to music conservatories for black musicians. Working and travelling with big bands, however, young musicians learned how to blend and balance their playing within an ensemble, how to construct terse, shapely solos, how to set background riffs, and how to coordinate with rhythm sections; older musicians offered technical tips and help in interpreting written arrangements. Players also learned the non-musical values of presentation and appearance, managing finances, and maintaining disciplined habits. These groups, then, represented both self-contained social units as well as systems of apprenticeship. Most of the leading jazz instrumentalists who emerged in the 1940s and 1950s had spent time in big bands.
Big bands also provided a training and proving ground for vocalists. Ensembles usually carried with them at least one solo singer; some had both male and female singers as well as small vocal groups, and these expanded the timbral palette of big bands as arrangers used harmonized voices to deliver melody lines as well as to supply background harmonies. (The Boswell Sisters had begun exploring this vocal jazz territory in the early 1930s.) In 1929 Whiteman became one of the first major bandleaders to feature singers regularly with his ensemble; these included the soloist Mildred Bailey and a vocal trio, the Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Al Rinker). The practice became standard in the 1930s and 1940s, with the roster of distinguished big band vocalists including Ivie Anderson with Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb, Billie Holiday with Basie and Shaw, Peggy Lee with Goodman, Anita O’Day with Krupa, Frank Sinatra with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, and Sarah Vaughan and Billy Eckstine with Earl Hines. The exposure and experience these singers received from big bands helped them launch successful solo careers: performing each night with 15-piece orchestras, they absorbed important lessons about rhythm and phrasing and learned how to use limited space (a 32-bar vocal chorus inserted in the middle of a three-minute instrumental arrangement) to maximum advantage. Singers were also presented as featured soloists who received accompanying support from big bands; a number of Fitzgerald’s recordings with Webb’s band, such as “A-tisket, A-tasket” (Decca, 1938), “Bei mir bist du schön” (Decca, 1938), and “Undecided” (Decca, 1939), placed her at the center of attention, dominating the arrangements.
For those aspiring to compose and arrange in the jazz idiom, big bands offered a ready-made outlet. New pieces were constantly needed, whether original works or fresh arrangements of older ones; many bands hired staff arrangers to fill the demand. Commercially published arrangements were also widely used, but it was the specials (distinctive arrangements owned by individual ensembles and often not circulated) that helped give bands a unique sound, setting them apart from their competitors. Ellington’s orchestra was identified by its signature muted brass sonorities, its thick polyphonic textures, and its high level of dissonance, all of which characterized such compositions as “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” (Voc., 1926), “Ko-Ko” (Vic., 1940), and “Blue Serge” (Vic., 1941). Showmanship, novelty vocals, and razor-sharp precision contributed to the musical persona of Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra, as did the polished, economical arrangements of his staff arranger, Sy Oliver. Shaw’s big band was distinguished by the leader’s clarinet as well as its employment of a string section, effectively used by William Grant Still in his arrangement for Shaw of “Frenesi” (Vic., 1940).
Some composers approached writing for big bands not only as a practical assignment but also as an opportunity for musical experimentation. Eddie Sauter stretched conventional harmonic practice in arrangements for Red Norvo and Goodman, raising dissonance to a level higher than was customary in popular dance music. In this he was joined by Don Redman in “Chant of the Weed” (Bruns., 1931), Coleman Hawkins in “Queer Notions” (Voc., 1933), Lunceford in “Stratosphere” (Decca, 1935), and Claude Thornhill in “Portrait of a Guinea Farm” (OK, 1941). Efforts to stretch the length of big-band compositions beyond the usual three-minute limit of 78 r.p.m. recordings were made by Ellington in “Reminiscing in Tempo” (Bruns., 1935) and “Diminuendo in Blue/Crescendo in Blue” (Bruns., 1937). Ellington, Sauter, Shaw, and Mel Powell invoked the classical concerto tradition when they wrote vehicles for soloists with big bands, although they did so without directly borrowing formal procedures and compositional techniques. Another example of swing-classical hybridity surfaced in arrangements for big bands of pieces from the concert-music repertory, as in Still’s version of Edward MacDowell’s “A Deserted Plantation” (Vic., 1940) for Shaw’s band.
By the late 1930s there were signs that jazz was gaining cultural and institutional respect as a musical tradition in the United States. It began to be heard more often in Carnegie Hall (where James Reese Europe’s Clef Club Orchestra had performed several times before 1920), notably during Goodman’s first concert there (1938), John Hammond’s Spirituals to Swing evenings (1938–9), and Ellington’s annual series of programs there (from 1943). Winthrop Sargeant’s book Jazz, Hot and Hybrid (New York, 1938, 3/1976) treated the music as a subject fit for musicological inquiry, analyzing rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic features in close detail. Interest in reconstructing jazz history was evident in Frederic Ramsey Jr. and Charles Edward Smith’s Jazzmen (New York, 1939/R), which explored the origins of jazz in late 19th-century New Orleans and traced the later evolution of hot jazz and blues in Chicago and New York.
Serious interest in jazz also developed in Europe during the 1930s. Such visiting American musicians as Armstrong, Ellington, and Hawkins gave jazz lovers in England and on the continent first-hand opportunities to hear major artists whose careers they had been following on recordings. Some European writers sought to define what they called authentic or real jazz in order to distinguish it from the more commercialized forms offered up by Tin Pan Alley songwriters and white “sweet” orchestras. This was the critical agenda set by the Belgian writer Robert Goffin in Aux frontières du jazz (Paris, 1932) and the Frenchman Hugues Panassié in Le jazz hot (Paris, 1934) and The Real Jazz (New York, 1942/R). Panassié’s passion for traditional and hot jazz led him to help found the Hot Club de France in 1932 and edit its magazine Jazz hot for a number of years. Another member of this group of French enthusiasts was Charles Delaunay, who published one of the first comprehensive reference guides to jazz recordings, Hot Discography (Paris, 1936), and started the French jazz record label Swing. Also affiliated with this group was the Quintette du Hot Club de France, featuring the guitarist Django Reinhardt and the violinist Stephane Grappelli. The recordings of this ensemble provided a showcase for the nimble technique and inventive soloing of Reinhardt and Grappelli and established the quintet as one of the first major jazz groups to emerge from Europe.
The vogue for swing and jazz was widespread in the late 1930s. In Holland the Ramblers (a big band formed in 1926) made recordings on its own and accompanied Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter. In England the BBC initiated the program Radio Rhythm Club (1940) that featured jazz on a regular basis. Political authorities in some nations (Germany and the Soviet Union) perceived jazz as a threat, branding it as unwholesome and decadent; the Nazis termed it entartete Musik and attempted to put forward their own sanitized forms of popular dance music allegedly purged of unwanted “black” and “Jewish” characteristics. Despite this crackdown, which in some cases resulted in the persecution of musicians, jazz continued to circulate in Nazi Germany and in the USSR under Stalin. As the historian S. Frederick Starr noted (E1983, p. 175), “Jazz everywhere proved far easier to denounce than eradicate.”
6. Small groups and soloists of the swing era.
While big bands offered many musicians steady employment and professional training during the 1930s and 1940s, smaller groups were also prevalent. They approached the problem of balancing composition and improvisation in different ways, ranging along a continuum from the highly controlled to the loosely coordinated. The Raymond Scott Quintette and John Kirby Sextet were like miniature big bands, specializing in precisely executed and, at times, intricate arrangements that displayed the talents of arrangers as much as performers. Other small groups were less rigorously scripted, relying more on head arrangements (memorized riffs and harmonized parts scattered throughout a given piece) or using composed sections to start pieces followed by improvised solos and ad-lib final choruses for the full ensemble. This latter approach, which shifted the balance away from writers and arrangers toward improvising instrumentalists, can be heard on recordings by the Kansas City Six (made up of members of Count Basie’s big band) and the various Ellington and Goodman small-band units of the late 1930s. Looser still, on the opposite end of the spectrum from Scott and Kirby, were groups that adopted an informal, jam session approach. Musicians in these settings depended little or not at all on pre-planned parts, relying instead on familiar performing conventions and a common musical vocabulary to play a repertory drawn largely from the 12-bar blues and familiar popular songs such as “I got rhythm,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and “Oh, Lady, Be Good.” Such ensembles could be heard in many situations: in nightclubs when the regular evening’s entertainment was over; on recordings, such as those made for Milt Gabler’s Commodore label, that assembled skilled improvisers in the studio and let them generate performances with minimal rehearsal; on the soundtrack to Gjon Mili’s film Jammin’ the Blues (1944), which re-created a late-night session using such players as the saxophonists Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet, the trumpeter Harry Edison, and the drummers Sid Catlett and Jo Jones; and in the series of Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts launched by the impresario and record producer Norman Granz (1944) which, like the Commodore recordings and Mili’s film, set up controlled performing contexts within which jazz musicians were expected to play with freedom and spontaneity.
Small groups were particularly valuable for soloists honing their skills. Such ensembles gave individual players more time to develop their ideas than was customary or practical in big-band arrangements. (The pianist Sammy Price recalled stopping in a Kansas City club one night when a jam session was underway, going home, then returning more than three hours later to find the same piece still being played.) In competitive “cutting contests,” musicians took turns building long, virtuosic solos designed to impress or outdo opposing players. Small-group recordings did not permit such extended excursions, but they could still let soloists luxuriate in the spotlight. The several sides made for Commodore in 1940 by the Chocolate Dandies (featuring the trumpeter Roy Eldridge, the tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, and the alto saxophonist Benny Carter) emphasized individual statements over ensemble playing. On the ballad “I surrender dear,” Hawkins states the theme in the first chorus, Eldridge solos in the second chorus, then Hawkins returns for the third; all the while the rhythm section sustains behind them a steady, secondary accompaniment. This practice of placing a higher value on creative soloing than on sectional interplay and group collaboration differed markedly from that of the big bands of the swing era (as well as the New Orleans and Chicago groups of the 1920s), which strove for more parity between soloing and ensemble playing.
The emphasis on solos in small-group jazz of the 1930s and 1940s raised prevailing standards of virtuosity and instrumental proficiency. Hawkins inspired other saxophonists who wished to learn some of the advanced ideas he applied to the changes (chord progressions) of popular songs; trumpeters admired Eldridge’s control of the upper register and daring construction of phrases. The pianist Art Tatum, who performed both as soloist and with his trio at the Onyx on 52nd Street, brought to jazz a new combination of harmonic savvy, playful wit, and transcendent technique: what he did seemed so impossible that it helped raise the ceiling for what other musicians might accomplish. The guitarist Charlie Christian, with his fluent, horn-like phrasing and clean articulation, demonstrated how his instrument could assume a leading soloistic role in jazz, and Jimmy Blanton performed a similar function for the bass through his work with Ellington’s orchestra (1939–41).
The rise of virtuosity in jazz was due not solely to exceptionally talented individuals, however. In the United States opportunities for instrumental instruction in high schools and colleges helped improve the general level of musicianship. Such African American teacher-bandleaders as N. Clark Smith and Walter Dyett in Chicago fostered the development of many young black musicians—among them Lionel Hampton, Nat “King” Cole, Milt Hinton, and Ray Nance—who later moved into the world of big bands and instrumental jazz. Jimmie Lunceford’s popular orchestra grew out of the student group the Chickasaw Syncopators, which he had formed at a high school in Memphis. Another band that emerged from an institutional program was the all-female group the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, formed in 1939 at the Piney Woods Country Life School in Mississippi. By the early 1940s the general technical ability of jazz players was significantly higher than it had been a decade or two earlier: recordings of both small groups and big bands would soon provide convincing demonstrations of the improvement.
7. Traditional and modern jazz in the 1940s.
The swing era reached its apogee in the early 1940s, with the bands of Ellington, Basie, Goodman, Shaw, Dorsey, Miller, and many others enjoying unprecedented popularity and commercial success. They faced difficulties nonetheless: wartime conscription thinned the ranks of big bands; record manufacturing was slowed by a shortage of shellac used in the war effort; shortages of rubber made it difficult for bands to tour using automobiles or buses; and the musicians’ union called for a ban on commercial recording which limited distribution of the music between 1942 and 1944 (DeVeaux, E1997). Generally, however, swing remained the popular music of choice throughout World War II, in tandem with a craze for the blues-based, ostinato-driven style of boogie-woogie.
Meanwhile other forms of jazz during the 1940s presented alternatives to the swing offered by big bands. A resurgence of interest in older, pre-swing jazz led to what some critics later called a New Orleans or Dixieland revival. The musicians identified with this movement came from different places and backgrounds. Some were older black players from Louisiana such as the clarinetist George Lewis and the cornetist Bunk Johnson, both of whom had performed mainly in and around New Orleans until they began receiving national recognition through recordings and live performances in the 1940s. Johnson in particular was hailed as a living link to an older, “authentic” jazz tradition, since he had figured prominently among New Orleans musicians in the early 1900s. Louis Armstrong praised Johnson’s playing from that period, comparing it favorably to that of his then-contemporaries Buddy Bolden and King Oliver. Yet Johnson’s recordings, made between 1942 and 1947, when he was in his 60s and perhaps past his prime, do not convincingly present him as the accomplished musician Armstrong remembered. Other exponents of earlier jazz during this period were white northerners who drew upon their experience playing New Orleans and Chicago small-group styles in the 1920s, among them the cornetists Wild Bill Davison and Muggsy Spanier, the clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow, and the guitarist Eddie Condon (see Chicago jazz). Davison’s version of “Eccentric” (Cir., 1947), a piece the New Orleans Rhythm Kings had recorded 25 years earlier, combined the instrumentation and interweaving polyphonic textures of older New Orleans ensembles with the smoother rhythmic flow of swing. Another group of musicians participating in this revival of interest in early jazz were white players on the West Coast such as the cornetist Lu Watters and the trombonist Turk Murphy, who attempted more self-consciously to recreate the styles of such celebrated early jazz bands as Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Altogether, the New Orleans revival made its impact through recordings, through performances at such venues as Condon’s and the Stuyvesant Casino in New York and Earthquake McGoon’s in San Francisco, and through articles in the jazz press, often polemical in tone, in which critics championed early jazz as more expressive and “authentic” than what they considered to be the vitiated commercial product presented by big bands. In effect, these writers, labeled as “moldy figs” because of their conservative tastes, carried on the work begun by Robert Goffin and Hugues Panassié during the previous decade, waging a similar battle with only the terrain and the opposing factions being changed.
While some musicians and fans assumed a retrospective stance in the 1940s, seeking to reclaim the roots of jazz tradition, others began to construct a musical vocabulary that would set them apart from both the traditional and swing camps. If the New Orleans revival was a nationwide phenomenon, the impetus to forge a modern jazz idiom was centered in New York, initially in Harlem, and came from a younger generation of African American musicians born between 1913 and 1925. Major figures involved in the effort included Kenny Clarke (b 1914), Dizzy Gillespie (b 1917), Thelonious Monk (b 1917), Charlie Parker (b 1920), Bud Powell (b 1924), and Max Roach (b 1924). These players did not deliberately set out to create a new jazz idiom, but the work they did with like-minded musicians resulted in one. During informal and after-hours jam sessions held in small nightclubs and musicians’ apartments, a process of collaborative discovery unfolded in which new ideas about harmonic substitutions, rhythmic vocabulary, and melodic construction were worked out, shared, and tested on the bandstand.
Among the primary sites for this activity were the Harlem clubs Minton’s Playhouse, Clark Monroe’s Uptown House, and Dan Wall’s Chili Shack, although what occurred in them is difficult to ascertain. Musicians who performed in such spaces give conflicting accounts about what happened. Gillespie, for example, recalled some of the advance preparation he did for informal Monday night jams at Minton’s: “On afternoons before a session, Thelonious Monk and I began to work out some complex variations on chords and the like, and we used them at night to scare away the no-talent guys” (Shapiro and Hentoff, E1955, p. 337). Monk, however, told Nat Hentoff in 1956 that the atmosphere was both more ordinary and supportive: “I was playing a gig, tryin’ to play music. While I was at Minton’s, anybody sat in who would come up there if he could play, I never bothered anybody. It was just a job” (Kelley, F2009, p. 67). In addition, journalists and historians have at times exaggerated and embellished data for dramatic effect. In one famous account, Parker, who first visited New York in 1939, is quoted directly describing how he spontaneously made harmonic discoveries while jamming in a Harlem “chili house.” Having grown weary of conventional pitch choices when improvising, he described a moment of revelation: “I was working over [the popular song] ‘Cherokee,’ and as I did, I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes, I could play the thing I’d been hearing. I came alive” (Shapiro and Hentoff, E1955, p. 354). According to a recent biography, however, most of the quoted material comes from a passage in an article by Michael Levin and John S. Wilson published in 1949, in which Parker’s only reported speech is “I kept thinking there’s bound to be something else … I could hear it, but I couldn’t play it” (Woideck, F1996, pp. 16–17). In any event, evidence of Parker’s “Cherokee” experimentation can be heard in a private recording made in early 1942 at Monroe’s Uptown House. This document points toward Parker’s magisterial treatment of the “Cherokee” chord progression a few years later on his commercial recording “Koko” (Savoy, 1945).
Recordings from the early 1940s can provide only limited evidence of the emergence of “modern jazz,” or Bop and bebop as it was onomatopoeically dubbed by critics. The recording ban of 1942–4 was partly to blame, but as Scott DeVeaux noted, even without the recording ban it is doubtful that companies would have found bop to be an appealing, marketable commodity, characterized as it was by “a loose, improvisatory format and an eclectic repertory of standards studded with harmonic obstacles” (DeVeaux, E1997, p. 298). There are examples in such recordings, though, of modern techniques being introduced in conventional swing contexts. Live recordings of sessions at Minton’s in 1941, when Monk and Kenny Clarke were members of the house band, contain the pianist’s dissonant, chromatically inflected harmonies and the drummer’s explosive accents, the latter of which later dominated the rhythmic topography of bop. Similarly, a few of Parker’s solos with the Jay McShann band hint at imminent departures from swing conventions, as in the saxophonist’s asymmetrical phrasing on “Moten Swing” and double-time lines on “Body and Soul” (both from the 1940 Wichita transcriptions).
More dramatic evidence of modern jazz practice, however, turns up in recordings from the period 1944–5, by which time the experimentation described by musicians had presumably been going on for several years. The use of chromatically altered pitches within a diatonic harmonic context (e.g. flattened 5th and 9th, sharp 9th, flat 13th) can be heard in some of Gillespie’s solos recorded with Hawkins and his orchestra in February 1944, and the trumpeter’s trademark double-time phrasing can be heard toward the end of the ballad “I stay in the mood for you” (Deluxe, 1944), recorded with the Billy Eckstine orchestra. The dissonant syntax, whole-tone runs, and off-kilter rhythmic patterns of Monk contrast with the longer, spun-out phrases of Hawkins on the latter’s recordings of “On the Bean” (Joe Davis, 1944) and “Flyin’ Hawk” (Joe Davis, 1944). Differences between the older swing style and the newer bop idiom are vividly illustrated by instrumentalists on Sarah Vaughan’s recording of “Mean to me” (Contl, 1945), in which the relaxed, flowing solo of the tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips is followed by the darting, agitated lines of Parker and Gillespie.
A stylistically cohesive example of bop can be heard in “Shaw’ Nuff,” recorded by Gillespie and his All Star Quintette (Guild, 1945). The ominous tone of the introduction comes from the flattened 5ths played in the bass register of the piano by Al Haig, shadowed by Sid Catlett on tom-toms. The dissonant tritone also figures in the rapidly moving melody, or “head,” played in unison by Gillespie and Parker, and returns at the end with the repeat of the introduction and the final D♭ to G fillip in the piano. The rapid tempo, irregular phrase groups (in both head and solos), sudden, sharp drum accents, chromatically altered notes, spare piano accompaniment, and the enigmatic introduction and coda are all aspects that point to the development of a modernist, “artistic” aesthetic that stood in marked contrast to the entertainment trajectory of swing and the apparent folkloric echoes of traditional jazz.
Although bop was primarily a small-group style of jazz, performed usually with two or three lead instruments (most often trumpet and saxophone) and three or four in the rhythm section, some big bands played a role in promoting this music. Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine both directed ensembles that featured young modernists in their ranks, among them Gillespie, Parker, Vaughan, and Fats Navarro. Gillespie himself led a big band in the second half of the 1940s; his recording of Gil Fuller’s “Things to Come” (also known as “Bebop,” Musi., 1946), with its breakneck tempo, seemingly frenetic phrasing, and ubiquitous flattened 5ths, is an attempt to make bop effective in a large-ensemble format. The big band of Boyd Raeburn in the mid-1940s was known for its provocatively dissonant harmonies and unusual timbral combinations. Even such an avid exponent of entertaining swing as Hampton recalled wanting “some of that bebop sound in [his] performances” and he hired Betty Carter (Lorraine Carter at that time) for that purpose in 1948. Other bands, such as those led by Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Claude Thornhill, and Duke Ellington, featured bop-flavored arrangements in their repertory without necessarily championing the cause of modern jazz.
In addition to drawing upon the newly minted expressive resources of the bop idiom, some modern groups in the 1940s began incorporating features from Afro-Latin musics. To be sure, sonic elements from the Caribbean and Latin America had been part of jazz from early on, as in Jelly Roll Morton’s “Spanish tinge” pieces and in the presence of dance forms like the Argentine tango and Cuban rhumba in the repertories of jazz orchestras in the 1920s and 1930s. Latin stylistic features had also been introduced to American dance orchestras by musicians who had come to the United States from Caribbean nations, such as Ellington’s trombonist Juan Tizol (Puerto Rico), the flutist and reed player Alberto Soccarras (Cuba), and the trumpeter Mario Bauzá (Cuba). In the 1940s some musicians from the United States, continuing the “Atlantic world” traffic in sounds and commodities that helped give birth to jazz in New Orleans, heard new possibilities for their work through the work of Frank “Machito” Grillo and his Afro-Cubans and the contributions made by the Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo to Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra in the period 1947–8. Gillespie showcased Pozo’s talents in such compositions as “Manteca” (Vic., 1947) and the two-part “Cubana Be/Cubana Bop” (Vic., 1947), composed by Gillespie with George Russell, which fused together forward-looking, dissonant harmonies with Afro-Cuban conga patterns and vocal chanting led by Pozo. Similar features are heard in Pete Rugolo’s “Cuban Carnival,” recorded by Stan Kenton’s orchestra (Cap., 1947). The impact of Afro-Cuban rhythmic practices on small-group jazz performance can be heard in Max Roach’s playing with the Bud Powell trio on Powell’s composition “Un poco loco” (BN, 1951) and Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” (BN, 1951). While inspired, these acts of incorporation were mostly superficial: rhythmic patterns extracted from much larger complexes of interlocking lines were grafted onto existing jazz formal structures without significantly altering the phrasing of soloists. Nonetheless, they were another manifestation of the exploratory leanings of some musicians.
In seeking to understand the development of “modern jazz” in the 1940s, historians have tended to stress either its affinities with swing and earlier jazz (bop as an incremental advance beyond the harmonic sophistication and virtuosity cultivated in the 1930s) or its radical, self-conscious break with tradition (bop as a revolt against the watered-down, commodified form of jazz presented by big bands). Other writers, among them DeVeaux and David Stowe, described bop as a de facto response to the contingencies of professional music-making and the economic structures of the music industry. These two scholars depicted the emergence and reception of modern jazz as a complex, socially mediated process, not merely as an artistic decision to replace a prominent older style with an innovative new one. Another way of viewing bop is as a response to social and political conditions that African Americans faced in the 1940s. Claiming that swing was not “expressive of the emotional life of most young Negroes after the war,” Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) argued that the “willfully harsh, anti-assimilationist sound of bebop” reflected the anger and alienation of those who felt themselves to be “outside the mainstream of American culture” (Baraka, H1967, pp. 81–2). Eric Lott, similarly, called bop “intimately if indirectly related to the militancy of its moment” (Gabbard, H1995, p. 246). These interpretations are not mutually exclusive, and none of them takes precedence over any other; all prove useful in understanding a dynamic musical movement that fundamentally changed the way that musicians played jazz and that they and their audiences perceived it.
8. Post-bop developments in the 1950s.
Enthusiasm for big-band swing gradually waned after World War II: the postwar generation preferred to dance and listen to other kinds of music. The popularity of rhythm and blues in the late 1940s signaled a shift in taste towards non-Tin Pan Alley songs, especially those featuring a strong, shuffling backbeat. In the emerging styles, the rich, orchestrated textures of big bands gave way to a leaner, more streamlined sound emphasizing vocals, one or two horns, electric guitar, bass, and drums. Figures formerly associated with instrumental jazz, such as the pianist Nat “King” Cole and the saxophonist Louis Jordan, highlighted their vocal talents as they moved into the more commercially driven fields of contemporary pop and rhythm-and-blues, respectively. Singers who had launched careers with big bands, such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan, found success as soloists in the later 1940s and 1950s, often recording pop songs with orchestral accompaniment in settings removed from the jazz sphere. The appeal of solo singers and close-harmony vocal groups, and the rise of rhythm and blues and early rock and roll, brought the swing era to a definitive close and created problems for many jazz musicians whose skills and/or predilections limited them to working with big bands. While a few of the most successful big bands survived this period and continued as they were, others were forced to reduce their numbers or broke up altogether. Count Basie led smaller units in the period 1950–51, then reconstituted a big band that gained popularity with slow, melodious, gently swinging pieces such as Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings” (Verve, 1956) and Neal Hefti’s “Lil’ Darlin’” (Roul., 1957) and riff-driven blues numbers with a heavier backbeat (“Every day I have the blues,” Clef, 1955, and “Blues in Hoss’ Flat,” Roul., 1959). To survive economically, big bands had to be conversant with current popular tastes or, in the case of Ellington’s and Kenton’s, assemble a repertory so distinctive and players so accomplished that they could still command a public following.
With big bands becoming increasingly risky ventures, small-group activity picked up during the 1950s. But if jazz lost popularity and commercial currency, those musicians who could afford to continue performing gained the creative freedom to try new approaches. For some this meant finding fresh ways to integrate composition and improvisation, while for others it meant tapping into the rich vein of African American vernacular idioms—blending jazz with rhythm-and-blues, blues, and gospel—and, for musicians like Milt Hinton, working as session players on rhythm-and-blues recordings. This was a time of synthesis and consolidation, in which techniques from both swing and bop were freely mixed together. Bop initially may have been, as Baraka noted, “harsh” and “anti-assimilationist,” but during the 1950s its profile changed: as a metaphoric musical language, it seemed more moderate as it was absorbed into the everyday speech of newer generations of jazz performers and cultural institutions in the United States.
The work of Miles Davis and like-minded musicians shows the processes of synthesis and consolidation in action. Although Davis had been a member of Charlie Parker’s band (1945–8), his own playing differed from the brilliant virtuoso style of Gillespie: Davis was a slower, sparer, and softer—more lyrical—performer. During the period 1949–50 he collaborated with such arrangers as Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, and John Lewis and assembled a nine-piece band to record a group of compositions which were later reissued as a long-playing album entitled Birth of the Cool (Cap., 1957). These recordings combined the harmonic language and gestural vocabulary of bop with the ensemble precision of big-band swing; all the musicians had experience playing with big bands, and Evans’s arranging for the orchestra of Claude Thornhill made a direct impact on the sound and style of the Davis nonet, particularly in his use of tuba and french horn in the ensemble and in such slow, atmospheric numbers as “Moon Dreams.” Throughout Birth of the Cool a sense of relaxation prevails quite different from the constant motion and whirling turbulence of bop. At the same time, the basic idiom on such pieces as “Move” and “Boplicity” displays features recognizable from the work of Parker, Gillespie, Powell, and other bop pioneers. Beyond transforming—and to an extent subduing—the language of bop, the Davis nonet sought in these performances to find a more flexible model for integrating solo improvisation with group ensemble passages. Improvised and written lines often intertwine symbiotically, departing from the conventional big-band practice of having soloists play only with a rhythm section or accompanying riffs.
Some of the same qualities manifest on Davis’s nonet sides (relaxed pacing, understated expression, softer-edged tone) were evident in the work of other jazz musicians of the 1950s, leading critics to describe their collective output as Cool jazz. The Modern Jazz Quartet drew upon players formerly in Gillespie’s big band: the pianist John Lewis, the vibraphonist Milt Jackson, the bass player Ray Brown (later Percy Heath), and the drummer Kenny Clarke (later Connie Kay). They specialized in classical music-tinged, small-group swing that was presented with an air of formality reminiscent of the concert hall. Like the Davis nonet, the Modern Jazz Quartet sought creative solutions to the problem of combining written parts with improvisation, with Lewis composing many of the vehicles used for such exploration. The group also introduced new formal models for jazz, not simply with extended works or suites made up of shorter movements (as Ellington had been doing since the 1940s) but with different structures used for soloing, as in the 32-bar chorus form for “Django” (1954, Prst.), organized A (6 bars) A (6) B (8) A’ (4) C (8). Another composer-driven small group of the same period that became identified with cool jazz was the Dave Brubeck Quartet (featuring the alto saxophonist Paul Desmond). They enjoyed great success with such albums as Jazz Goes to College (Col., 1954) and Time Out (Col., 1959). The latter of those albums featured pieces whose thematic statements used time signatures unusual for jazz (5/4 for “Take Five,” 9/8 for “Blue Rondo a la Turk”), but whose improvised passages did not appreciably depart from standard practice: only Desmond soloed in the conventional sense on “Take Five,” and the solos for “Blue Rondo …” were restricted to phrases and sections in 4/4. More experimental and less popular than either Brubeck or the Modern Jazz Quartet were New York-based groups led by the pianist and teacher Lennie Tristano. Two early recordings by his sextet minus the drummer Denzil Best, “Intuition” and “Digression” (Cap., 1949), were perhaps the first jazz recordings to include improvisations not governed by song forms or pre-set harmonic schemes, although Tristano did provide instructions to the musicians regarding, for example, when to enter and in what order (Shim, F2007, pp. 178–9). The pianist’s most celebrated ensembles featured two of his students, the saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, whose playing, more austere and restrained than that of Charlie Parker, also departed from bebop precedents. Historians have tended to view Konitz and Marsh, as well as Desmond, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and, in California, Chet Baker, Bud Shank, and Jimmy Giuffre—the so-called cool school of playing in the 1950s and 1960s—as having been more profoundly influenced by the tenor saxophonist Lester Young than by Charlie Parker. Young, though, played an important role in Parker’s musical development, and Parker himself (according to Gerry Mulligan, recalling the Birth of the Cool period) was the “no.1 influence on us all.” So the critically convenient opposition of 1940s bop and 1950s cool jazz belies underlying lines of musical kinship (see West coast jazz).
As the decade proceeded, Davis did not confine himself to the cool aesthetic mapped out by the nonet. Drawing inspiration from the Ahmad Jamal trio’s use of space, choice of material, and style of arrangement, Davis led a quintet in the years 1955–7 with the tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, the pianist Red Garland, the bass player Paul Chambers, and the drummer Philly Joe Jones, which delivered a mixed repertory of up-tempo bop (“Oleo,” Prst., 1955), medium-tempo blues (“Blues by Five,” Prst., 1956), and haunting ballads (“My Funny Valentine,” Prst., 1956). Beginning in 1957 he made a series of albums in collaboration with Evans, in which he held forth as a lead soloist against a lush orchestral backdrop in album-length suites that resembled extended jazz concertos. (One piece, in fact, was Evans’s arrangement of a movement from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, included on Sketches of Spain, Col., 1960). Concurrent with these Evans collaborations, Davis toured and recorded in a sextet format that contrasted his aphoristic style with the more effusive phrasing of the saxophonists Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. Whatever cool aspects might have formed part of Davis’s musical persona were effectively complemented (or countered) by fellow group members, especially the propulsive playing of the drummer Jimmy Cobb. Nevertheless, on the album Kind of Blue (Col., 1959), the Davis sextet reprised the nonet’s cool affect from a decade earlier via subdued tone poems like “Flamenco Sketches” and “Blue in Green” that, in contrast, relied mostly on individual solos rather than on pre-arranged parts. Each of the album’s selections, moreover, presented players with specific modes (other than major or minor) to guide their pitch choices rather than a series of goal-directed harmonies. In a interview with Nat Hentoff in 1958, Davis explained his approach as part of a general movement in jazz “away from the conventional string of chords, and a return to emphasis on melodic rather than harmonic variation” (Williams, G1962, p. 167) and cited J.J. Johnson and George Russell as musicians with similar ideas. Davis’s modal experiments on Kind of Blue opened up liberating possibilities that his groups and others would explore more extensively in the 1960s (see Modal jazz).
During the 1950s, though, jazz musicians discovered many other ways of assimilating and transforming the bop idiom that had seemed so experimental and self-contained in the previous decade. Among the younger players who absorbed the lessons of their “modern jazz” elders but struck out in their own directions was the trumpeter Clifford Brown, who joined with Max Roach to form a quintet in the mid-1950s that extended the reach of bop while making it more accessible. Adapting musical vocabularies from the work of Parker and Gillespie, the Brown–Roach quintet offered renditions of popular songs and bop standards that were often inventively arranged. As the quintet approached it, the idiom of “modern jazz” was less a statement of their difference or being part of an artistic vanguard, as had been the case for the first generation of boppers, than it was an effective and familiar set of guidelines for group coordination and individual expression. The intense rhythmic drive and powerful articulation of their performances—as well as their difference from “cool” ensembles like Brubeck’s—may have been what led some critics to label them as a Hard bop group. This designation, implying a stylistic variant of 1940s bop, was also applied to the work of the drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers, Horace Silver (a pianist who co-founded the Jazz Messengers before leaving Blakey in the mid-1950s), Sonny Rollins (who worked with the Brown–Roach quintet and Davis, before leading his own groups), and Davis’s mid-1950s quintet, among others.
Although such journalist-coined labels as hard bop and bop tend to restrict jazz to uncomfortably narrow categories, there were some significant departures in the small-group modern jazz of Blakey, Silver, and others from the work of those who preceded them. Tempos tended to be more moderate, allowing drummers and bass players to articulate a more elastic rhythmic groove. Melodies were smoother and simpler; the jagged intricacies of Parker’s “Donna Lee” and Gillespie’s “Be-bop” gave way to sectional, riff-based tunes such as Silver’s “Doodlin’” and Bobby Timmons’s “Moanin’” (BN, 1958). The blues presence became stronger in hard bop, and rhythms and harmonies evoking those used in (Southern) African American churches helped anchor the music solidly in the vernacular, as in the instrumental “amen” responsorial figures in “Moanin’” and the folksy melody of Silver’s “The Preacher” (BN, 1955). Even the titles of pieces became friendlier, more familiar: in place of Parker’s “Klactoveedsedstene” and Monk’s “Epistrophy,” there were Davis’s “Walkin’,” Brown’s “Swingin’,” and Silver’s “Señor Blues.” As a result, then, when recordings like the latter three were issued as 45-r.p.m., 7-inch singles, they sold moderately well, especially to jukebox vendors serving African American communities, and often helped to drive their parent albums’ initial sales to more than twice the point (2500 units) where a label would start to realize a profit (Rosenthal, E1992, pp. 62–8). If the end of the swing era meant that jazz had ceased to be the popular music of the United States, these figures indicate that it remained a popular music in some quarters.
There were many other signs which, taken together, indicate that jazz remained viable and was continuing to gain respectability in other segments of society as well. Although New York-based jazz and dance ensembles had been entertaining audiences on a circuit of summer resort towns in the northeastern United States since the mid-1920s (Tucker, F1991, pp. 183–6) and had occasionally graced the stages of concert halls, the 1950s saw jazz musicians in general performing in other prestigious settings. Using a model that had already proved successful in extra-urban classical music festivals like those established at Ravinia Park, outside Chicago, in 1915, at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachsetts, in 1937, and in Aspen, Colorado, in 1949, George Wein mounted the First American Jazz Festival (which later became the Newport Jazz Festival) in Rhode Island in 1954. The invited musicians for the first evening—Eddie Condon, Gillespie, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Konitz—represented the already broad sweep of jazz-related styles and, according to a New York Times article published on 19 July 1954, drew an audience of 7000. Despite inclement weather, the second, final night drew an additional 4000, and the festival received enough national press coverage to encourage its organizers to repeat and expand it in subsequent years (Wein, F2003, pp. 133–40). Although Newport had been preceded by an international festival in Nice, France in February 1948, it received more attention: the Duke Ellington orchestra’s appearance in 1956, for example, made it the subject of a Time magazine cover story, and the festival of 1958 was the focus of Bert Stern and Aram Avakian’s documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959). This attention was perhaps the impetus for others to organize their own festivals, such as the one established in Monterey, California, in 1958. In addition, thanks in part to a generation of writers who came of age before rock and roll became a soundtrack for adolescent white middle-class rebellion, discussions of jazz appeared more frequently in mass market, literary, and lifestyle publications in the 1950s, and the musicians themselves enjoyed more opportunities to appear on relatively high-profile programs on the still relatively new medium of television (Gennari, H2006, pp. 172–3). “The Sound of Jazz,” an episode of the CBS television series The Seven Lively Arts, was broadcast to a national audience on a Sunday evening in December 1957 and, as had been the case at Newport, such featured musicians as Count Basie, Jimmy Giuffre, Jim Hall, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Pee Wee Russell, and Lester Young who not only came from different generations, but had divergent stylistic orientations.
9. Mainstream, third stream, and the emerging avant garde.
Thus, with the fundamentals of 1940s bop having become part of daily practice, forming a common foundation for many younger musicians to follow, what was once “outside the mainstream,” in LeRoi Jones’s phrase, moved to the center. A broader, more inclusive conception of jazz began to take hold that folded bop or “modern jazz” in with other styles that made up a “jazz tradition.” This consolidating process can be seen in the jazz literature of the time, such as M.W. Stearns’s The Story of Jazz (New York, 1956), Shapiro and Hentoff’s oral-history anthology, Hear me Talkin’ to Ya (New York, 1955) and the Jazz Review (1958–61), a journal that gave serious consideration to jazz from all eras.
The perception of a common practice within the multi-layered jazz tradition led to the use of the adjective “mainstream” as a descriptive label during the 1950s (see Mainstream jazz). The British-born critic Stanley Dance, often credited with introducing the term, issued a series of albums under the rubric “mainstream jazz,” featuring artists who had emerged on the scene in the 1930s and 1940s, among them Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines, the trombonist Dicky Wells, and the cornetist Rex Stewart. Dance used “mainstream” as a delimiter, referring to musicians whose work fell both chronologically and stylistically between the “traditional” and “modern” categories. By the early 1960s, though, bop had become old and familiar enough to join the jazz mainstream that now was bounded on one side by New Orleans jazz, or Traditional jazz, and on the other by the experimentation associated with an emergent avant-garde. From this time on, “mainstream” has remained a popular signifier to imply such paradigmatic traits as improvised solos over cyclical, repeating chorus forms; the use of popular songs, blues, and short original compositions as basic units of structure; a pervasive rhythmic feeling of swing; a reliance on functional harmony within a tonal system; and a greater weight placed on improvisation than on the playing of pre-set or composed material.
Consensus about a jazz mainstream was also reflected in the term “Third stream,” coined by Gunther Schuller (1957), which described music that drew upon jazz techniques as well as aspects of the European art-music tradition. Schuller was particularly interested in finding ways to juxtapose composed and improvised parts and to integrate post-Schoenberg tonal practice into the active vocabulary of jazz musicians. These aspirations are apparent in his composition “Transformation” (on the collection The Birth of the Third Stream, Col., 1957), which was recorded by an 11-piece ensemble including the trombonist Jimmy Knepper and the pianist Bill Evans and consisted of an improvised middle section flanked by a pre-composed introduction and coda evoking Webern’s spare textures and Klangfarbenmelodie. Similar blends and juxtapositions of jazz with European art music (from the Baroque to the post-tonal) can be heard in compositions from this time by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet (“Vendome,” “La Ronde Suite,” “Concorde,” and “Piazza Navona”), George Russell (“Concerto for Billy the Kid,” written for Bill Evans, and “All about Rosie”), and Charles Mingus (“Gregarian Chant” and “Revelations”). Much of this repertory was presented not in the nightclub venues customary for jazz but in concert halls, school settings (for example, at the Brandeis Jazz Festival and the Lenox School of Jazz), and art museums. If one result of modern jazz in the 1940s had been the introduction of a musical vocabulary that later formed the basis of mainstream practice, third stream represented an ambivalent extension of its legacy, embodying, on one hand, deep knowledge and appreciation of western European art music and, on the other, anxiety that jazz could become a serious form of artistic expression only via borrowings from it.
There were other paths that musicians followed in search of fresh modes of jazz expression in the 1950s. In New York, Mingus adopted a workshop format in which players collaborated in rehearsals and public performances to produce music that grew out of a process of group composition and improvisation. Such works as “Pithecanthropus erectus” (Atl., 1956), “Haitian Fight Song” (Atl., 1957), and “Ecclusiastics” (Atl., 1961) contained thematic material supplied by Mingus, but their fluidity and sense of collective creation reflected the workshop ideals he fostered. At the same time, while some of Mingus’s work showed the forceful impact made upon him by early 20th-century European musical modernism, his pieces often drew deeply upon the African American vernacular, particularly blues and gospel, as in the 12/8 meter and plagal harmonies of “Better get hit in your soul” (Col., 1959), which displays a soulfulness and exuberance associated more with hard bop than with third stream. Indeed, even hard bop musicians were experimenting with form and harmony. Horace Silver’s “The Outlaw” (BN, 1958) featured an unusual structure which was maintained for solos, wherein two A sections (13 measures, divided into 7- and 6-bar units) were followed by a B section (10 measures), a C section (16 measures), and a break (2 measures) with shifts in feel from section to section and even within them. Likewise, Wayne Shorter’s “Simply Diana” (BN, 1960) was a 30-measure theme, structured AA´A″B and divided into 10-, 8-, 4-, and 8-bar units that only ambiguously favor a single tonal center (Julien, G2003, pp. 151–75).
The saxophonist John Coltrane was another musician searching for challenges and new means of expression in the late 1950s. Moving at first further into the realm of density and building upon the expanded harmonic vocabulary of bop, he employed techniques of chord substitution and superimposition to loosen his improvised lines from their tonal moorings. Original pieces such as “Giant Steps” and “Countdown” (both Atl., 1959) used unconventional chord movement, for example, root motion by 3rds replacing cycles of 5ths, and chromaticism to create rich harmonic environments. Like Miles Davis, his former bandleader, Coltrane gravitated toward the combination of modal melodies with stable harmonic fields. He based “Impressions” (from the album Impressions, Imp., 1961–3) on the two-mode framework (D and E♭ Dorian) of Davis’s “So What” and used pedal points in “My Favorite Things” (Atl., 1960) and “A Love Supreme” (Imp., 1964) to provide tonal reference points while permitting melodic excursions to go even further afield. Coltrane’s virtuosity and lyricism enhanced the appeal of his musical experimentation, and his personal conception of the tenor saxophone proved greatly influential for several generations of players in the following decades.
Beyond third-stream blends, structural experiments, and the modal techniques taken up by Coltrane and Davis, other means were adopted by musicians seeking to expand the tonal vocabulary of jazz. Thelonious Monk brought a high level of dissonance (for jazz, at least) in his piano solos and compositions, and his interest in chromatically rich chord progressions can be traced back to compositions written in the early 1940s, such as “Epistrophy” and “Well, You Needn’t.” As an accompanist, he often stopped playing while a horn player improvised, thus allowing soloists greater harmonic freedom as they continued with just drums and bass. (Gerry Mulligan also explored the idea of a pianoless quartet in the 1950s.) Examples of that freedom can be heard in recordings made by Monk with Coltrane (1957) and in live recordings featuring both artists when they played together at the Five Spot Café (1957). Monk’s interest in raising the dissonance threshold and rewriting the rules of functional harmony were later taken up by fellow pianist-composers Herbie Nichols, Cecil Taylor, and Andrew Hill (notably the last’s “New Monastery,” BN, 1964). Lennie Tristano had displayed a similar penchant for dissonance, although in his case it was often linear and contrapuntally derived rather than introduced through vertical harmonies. In contrast to these figures, Bill Evans treated dissonance as a coloristic device, using minor 2nds in voicings, for example, to lend an edge of tension to rich chords built upon extended triads or occasionally 4ths. Evans also pursued a piano sound ideal that was radically different from that of Monk, Taylor, and Tristano, and was distinguished by a singing, rounded tone, a legato touch, and especially on ballads a liberal use of the damper pedal, all features that pointed in the direction of 19th- and early 20th-century European composers (Chopin, Brahms, and Ravel) whose works Evans knew and admired.
In addition to developing new technical resources in the late 1950s and early 1960s, some artists showed a concern with addressing social and political issues through their music. Jazz had perhaps always implicitly modeled how individuals might exercise personal freedom within the constraints imposed by society, but it had rarely been overtly political: Billie Holiday’s performance of the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit” (Com., 1939), Duke Ellington’s satirical treatment of racial inequities in the musical Jump for Joy (1941), and Louis Armstrong’s condemnation of segregationist Arkansas governor Orval Faubus and President Dwight D. Eisenhower in September 1957 (Giddins, F2001, pp. 127–8) were unusual statements for jazz musicians to make. As already noted, however, some commentators believed that bop embodied the protest of young African Americans who felt marginalized and oppressed by Jim Crow racial strictures in the United States. And it was partly the space opened by Parker and Gillespie as well as Holiday, Ellington, and Armstrong that enabled a young musician like Mingus to comment directly on current political events and social conditions, as when he indicted the same Arkansas governor as Armstrong in “Original Faubus Fables” (Cand., 1960) or protested against the unequal treatment of African Americans in “Freedom” (UA, 1962). During this period, as the civil rights movement was gathering momentum and black nationalism was emerging as a powerful political force, other jazz musicians spoke out as well. The liner notes of Sonny Rollins’ album The Freedom Suite (Riv., 1958) contained a statement by the saxophonist decrying the fact that “the Negro, who more than any other people can claim America’s culture as his own, is being persecuted and repressed … [and] is being rewarded with inhumanity.” Max Roach collaborated with the singer and songwriter Oscar Brown Jr. on We Insist! Freedom Now Suite (Can., 1960), which featured sections entitled “Driva’ Man” and “Tears for Johannesburg”; the album implicitly connected the brutality of American slavery in the former with the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa (1960) in the latter. The pianist Randy Weston, in collaboration with the poet Langston Hughes and the arranger Melba Liston, celebrated the cultural and spiritual homeland of African Americans in Uhuru Afrika! (Roul., 1960). Abbey Lincoln, similarly, affirmed pride in her black heritage through the songs “When Malindy Sings” and Weston’s “African Lady” on her album Straight Ahead (Can., 1961). Critics, however, did not always respond positively to such efforts. Ira Gitler, in a now infamous review of Lincoln’s album in Down Beat, complained that the work was more propaganda than art and accused Lincoln of being a “professional Negro.” The ensuing controversy led the magazine’s editors in March 1962 to publish the edited transcript of a heated conversation between critics and musicians, including Gitler and Lincoln, discussing the issues raised by the review under the heading “Racial Prejudice in Jazz.”
Critics and musicians also engaged in contentious debates about the saxophonist Ornette Coleman, a musician who perhaps personified the searching spirit of progressive jazz in the late 1950s and early 1960s more than anyone else. Although steeped in the bop of Parker and the hard-edged blues of his home state of Texas, Coleman ventured far beyond this musical territory in the company of several musicians he met in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s: the cornetist Don Cherry, the bass player Charlie Haden, and the drummer Billy Higgins. Coleman’s pianoless quartet came to New York in 1959 and drew considerable critical attention performing at the Five Spot Café. Although Coleman’s compositions had discernible formal contours and although his tunes and solo lines frequently implied an underlying tonality and relied on gestures derived from the blues, the group’s collective effect suggested to some an abandonment of set chord changes, known forms, and conventional instrumental functions. Haden and Higgins proved to be not just supportive accompanists but assertive participants in a four-way conversation. Harmonic activity was unpredictable, phrase lengths were flexible, and functional tonality at times erased. “Blues Connotation” (from This is our Music, Atl., 1960) begins with saxophone and trumpet stating an aggressive theme—not quite in 12-bar blues form—that almost sounds typical of the Silver–Blakey school of hard bop. As Coleman delves into his solo, however, the structure opens up and dissolves, and the established tonality flickers in and out of focus. The blues is no longer a formal principle but a point of reference, as Coleman explained (N. Hentoff: disc notes, The Best of Ornette Coleman, Atl., 1970): “[The piece] is played in the blues tradition, which makes it sound like a blues, but as you listen throughout you hear that the minor 3rds do not dominate but act as a basis for the melody.” Coleman, like Davis around the same time, thus demonstrated an interest in “melodic rather than harmonic variation,” jettisoning the bopper’s chord-driven engine in order to increase the melodic options for improvised lines.
The titles of Coleman’s albums sought to reflect the spirit of innovation driving his activity: Tomorrow is the Question! The New Music of Ornette Coleman (Cont., 1959), The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atl., 1959), and especially Free Jazz (Atl., 1960), in which a double quartet collectively improvises, at times producing dense textures, jarring dissonance, and agitated rhythmic activity. While some hailed Free Jazz as a liberating manifesto, opening a new world of possibilities for adventurous musicians working in jazz, others saw it as a violent, even destructive act: the Down Beat reviewer John A. Tynan wrote:
This witches’ brew is the logical end product of a bankrupt philosophy of ultraindividualism in music … These eight nihilists were collected together in one studio at one time and with one common cause: to destroy the music that gave them birth.
10. Free jazz, fusion, and beyond (1960–79).
In the 1960s the bold challenges to mainstream jazz posed by such figures as Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane appealed to younger musicians seeking to find their voices. A movement formed within the jazz community, analogous in some ways to the ideological formation of the bop school 20 years earlier, in which proponents of what some called Free jazz (or “the new thing”) distanced themselves from the mainstream that had gradually taken shape during the 1950s. These musicians, most of them in their early to mid-20s, sought challenges beyond the constraints of chord progressions, pre-composed melodies, swing, the Tin Pan Alley songbook, and predictable roles for ensemble players. They gave priority to music that pressed against boundaries, formal and interactive, some favoring a more literal brand of collective improvisation. In contrast to what preceded it, their music seemed to such critics as John A. Tynan fierce, angry, passionate, chaotic, discordant, and uncompromising.
Prominent figures in this group were the saxophonists Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, Marion Brown, and John Tchicai, the trombonists Grachan Moncur III and Roswell Rudd, the cornetist Don Cherry, the trumpeter Bill Dixon, the pianist Cecil Taylor, the bass players Gary Peacock and Buell Neidlinger, and the drummers Ed Blackwell, Andrew Cyrille, and Sunny Murray. They found outlets for their music in artists’ lofts, galleries, and small concert halls. Recording studios also formed part of the free jazz scene. Coltrane’s historic recording session for Ascension (Imp., 1965) brought together members of his own quartet with seven young players based in New York. The issued disc contained a 40-minute performance that had some elements of pre-planning (melodic motifs and mode choices) but relied primarily on spontaneous collaboration. “The emphasis was on textures rather than the making of an organizational entity,” said Shepp, one of the participants. “There is no casual approach to be taken to this record,” warned A.B. Spellman in the liner notes, observing that the group formed “a plexus of voices, all of different kinds, but most belonging to that generation which grew up on Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, [Cecil] Taylor, [Jackie] McLean, Coleman, Coltrane, the human rights struggle, and nuclear weapons.” Impulse, a label which had already built an iconic visual identity with its black and orange album spines, established its sonic identity in the latter half of the 1960s beginning with Ascension. It cemented for itself a vanguardist reputation by issuing recordings by young experimental musicians under the rubric “the new wave in jazz.” Impulse’s activities were complemented by scattered album releases from Blue Note and Atlantic and much more concentrated efforts by such independent labels as ESP-disk. Typical among such efforts—musically, politically, and culturally—were pieces like Shepp’s “Rufus (swung his face at last to the wind, then his neck snapped)” (Imp., 1964) and Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts: Second Variation” (ESP-disk, 1965). Both recordings showcase fluid group dynamics: bass players and drummers perform free from their conventional time-keeping roles, while horn players, liberated from having to relate their pitch choices to repeating harmonic progressions, explored a much broader range of melodic possibilities. Like other experimental musicians of the era, moreover, all of the musicians involved exploited the timbral capabilities of their instruments more extensively than their predecessors, spending more time in precincts that some listeners might have labeled “noise.”
The styles cultivated by the free jazz players perhaps limited their music’s appeal, especially for conventional audiences, just at the point when the always volatile financial world of performing venues became even more unstable. As America’s post-World War II manufacturing and export boom subsided, the surpluses that provided even African Americans with disposable income to buy recordings and support the bars and clubs where many musicians plied their trade gradually diminished. In addition, municipalities in the United States had since the 1950s been mounting a number of urban regeneration projects which disproportionately affected poor and African American communities and forced venues that served them to close or relocate (Lewis, E2008, pp. 85–7; Isoardi, E2006, pp. 40–47). Partially in response to such conditions, a number of musicians formed collectives to help them present their own performances and connect with sympathetic audiences. These collectives functioned partially as self-help groups, helping musicians establish firmer economic bases for their activities, but their members also evinced a concern with the future through their teaching young musicians in their communities, often at no cost. One such organization, the Underground Musicians Association, later the Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension, was formed in Los Angeles in late 1961 by Horace Tapscott and became a significant force in politically oriented arts activities and in nurturing the careers of the saxophonist Arthur Blythe, the cornetist Butch Morris, and the drummer (and later critic) Stanley Crouch, among others. In Chicago, a similar group was the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, founded (1965) by the composer and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, out of which emerged the Art Ensemble of Chicago (1969) and the trio Air (1975). The Black Artists Group took shape in St. Louis (1968), serving as a meeting ground for Julius Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett, and Oliver Lake, who later formed the World Saxophone Quartet with David Murray (1976).
Other important music collectives supporting experimental jazz improvisation and composition included the Jazz Composers Guild and the Jazz Composers’ Orchestra Association in New York, the Creative Arts Collective in Detroit, the Instant Composers Pool in Amsterdam, and New Artists Guild (later Free Music Production) in Germany. The mystic, pianist, composer, and bandleader Sun Ra perhaps took those tendencies the furthest in fostering communal structures for Avant-garde jazz. He lived together with members of his Arkestra first in Chicago, later in New York and Philadelphia, rehearsing and touring with the group while issuing recordings on small independent labels such as ESP-disk and Saturn. Sun Ra and his Arkestra, like the Art Ensemble of Chicago after them, used theatrical elements and costumes drawn from an eclectic range of sources to present performance as ritualized event and cultural critique.
Because of their novelty and innovative edge, free jazz players of the 1960s have received considerable attention from historians writing about that period. But they represented only one of many currents in jazz flourishing by this time. Mainstream or “straightahead” jazz continued to be the dominant style heard around the world. This category now subsumed both the work of bop and post-bop musicians like Gillespie, Monk, Sarah Vaughan, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, and Art Blakey, as well as older musicians still active, including Earl Hines, Coleman Hawkins, and Roy Eldridge. Some among them sought to reach wider audiences by performing popular material: Louis Armstrong with “Hello, Dolly!,” Ella Fitzgerald with the country-and-western album Misty Blue, and Duke Ellington and the guitarist Wes Montgomery with songs by the Beatles. Others drew upon African American vernacular idioms like blues, rhythm and blues, and soul to bring their music closer to prevailing popular music styles. Horace Silver incorporated rock and urban Latin American boogaloo beats in “The Jody Grind” (BN, 1966) and “Psychedelic Sally” (BN, 1968), as did Les McCann and Eddie Harris on their hit “Compared to What?” (Atl., 1969). Cannonball Adderley also achieved commercial success with his rendition of Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (Cap., 1966). Some of the most inventive small-group jazz by younger players who did not exclusively embrace the free jazz aesthetic can be sampled in the series of albums Blue Note issued featuring such artists as Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Andrew Hill, Larry Young, Hank Mobley, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock.
Vital life signs in the field of big-band jazz were also present during the 1960s. Ellington produced some of the most memorable music of his career during this period on such albums as Afro Bossa (Rep., 1963) and The Far East Suite (RCA, 1966). He also turned to composing concerts of sacred music requiring the combined forces of orchestra, solo singers, choir, and dancers; these works, didactic in tone and devout in character, were performed in cathedrals and churches in the United States and Europe. Meanwhile, he and his orchestra kept touring steadily and performing for both listeners and dancers, as did other swing era survivors such as Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman. Joining these veterans on the scene were newly formed ensembles, including the Kenny Clarke–Francy Boland Big Band in Germany, the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Orchestra in New York, and the Don Ellis Orchestra in Los Angeles. These groups attested to the continued appeal of the big-band sound while seeking to attract younger listeners by incorporating features drawn from other idioms, as in the funky rhythm and blues groove in the Jones–Lewis orchestra’s version of “Central Park North” (Solid States Records, 1969).
An important stream of jazz activity during the 1960s flowed from Brazil. The popularity of Brazilian samba and bossa nova first reached American jazz musicians through recordings by Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, and Laurindo Almeida. In the early 1960s the guitarist Charlie Byrd introduced Stan Getz to bossa nova this way, and both went on to perform pieces from this repertory together and with Brazilian musicians on such albums as Jazz Samba (Verve, 1962) and Getz/Gilberto (Verve, 1963). The latter featured Jobim’s “Girl from Ipanema” performed by João and Astrud Gilberto; its nearly whispered vocals, gently plucked guitar rhythms, and cool affect occupied vastly different aesthetic terrain from the free jazz emerging at the same time. The use of Brazilian elements in jazz grew stronger in the decades to follow, from artistic collaborations between musicians (Shorter and Milton Nascimento on Native Dancer, Col., 1974) to the series of important Brazilian performers who contributed to the jazz scene, among them the percussionists Airto Moreira and Alphonse Mouzon, the singer Flora Purim, and the pianist Eliane Elias.
Japan was another country that began to figure more prominently on the world jazz scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Beyond developing a significant base of jazz fans that would draw American musicians to cities like Tokyo and Osaka and for a time support festivals like the one at Mount Fuji, Japan produced musicians who launched successful international careers as performers and recording artists, among them the pianist and bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi, the saxophonist and flutist Sadao Watanabe, the trumpeter Terumasa Hino, and the pianist Yosuke Yamashita. Record companies in Japan also issued music by American artists that featured both a higher quality of sound and at times material that had not been released in the United States and Europe.
Just as Miles Davis in the 1950s had been among those inspiring jazz musicians to embrace a “cool” aesthetic and to explore modal options, so in the 1960s and 1970s he trod a path others found attractive. The quintet he led from 1965 to 1968 featured Shorter (saxophone), Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums) and specialized in richly textured compositions written by its members. It perfected a free and fluid performance style that nevertheless remained tonally anchored, although often modally inflected, and used cyclical harmonic structures derived from earlier jazz practice. Davis was also increasingly drawn to using static harmonic fields as a basis for lengthy group jams, and this tendency, together with the adoption of a solid backbeat, even eighth-note rhythmic motion, and amplified instruments (such as bass guitar and keyboards), brought his music closely in line with rock and funk on such albums as In a Silent Way (Col., 1969) and Bitches Brew (Col., 1969). Both albums featured “compositions” that were as much a product of Davis and the producer Teo Macero’s post-hoc tape editing as they were of performances by the assembled musicians. This Jazz-rock and Jazz-funk admixture came to be called fusion by the critics, some of whom considered the music no longer part of the jazz tradition. Davis continued undeterred and later wrote of this time: “I wanted to change course, had to change course for me to continue to believe in and love what I was playing” (Davis, with Troupe, F1989, p. 298). He also observed that fewer black musicians were playing jazz in the 1960s because it was “becoming the music of the museum.”
A number of young musicians who played with Davis in the late 1960s followed their former leader’s example in creating fusions that combined elements of jazz, rock, funk, and soul, as well as those from non-western musical traditions. In 1970 Shorter and the keyboard player Joe Zawinul co-founded Weather Report, a group that combined the improvisatory freedom of jazz with a rhythmic vocabulary derived from rock and Latin American and Afro-Caribbean traditions. Weather Report could produce elastic, floating textures that resembled those of Davis’s mid-1960s quintet but was also adept at harder-driving rock grooves, as on “Teen Town” from the album Heavy Weather (Col., 1976). Chick Corea, another Davis alumnus, formed a jazz-rock unit, Return to Forever, that reached its peak of popularity in the mid-1970s. Hancock similarly extended his style through bringing experimentation with synthesizers and the possibilities of the recording studio into contact with elements of funk and soul on the albums Head Hunters (Col., 1973) and Man-Child (Col., 1975). In 1971 the English guitarist John McLaughlin, who had performed with Davis on In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, formed his own high-energy, high-decibel electric band, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which took jazz-rock fusion further into the acid-rock mode of the period, also incorporating hypnotic ostinatos and modal melodies derived from Indian music. Also in the 1970s McLaughlin pursued a different kind of fusion with the acoustic trio Shakti, in which he collaborated with the Indian musicians Lakshminarayana Shankar and Zakir Hussein. Virtually alone among these gifted Davis alumni in the 1970s, Keith Jarrett rejected the electrified rock, funk, and fusion options, preferring instead to appear before the public as a solo acoustic pianist, spinning out lengthy, discursive improvisations, as on The Köln Concert (ECM, 1975), that at times took on the aura of religious ritual.
While many musicians in the 1970s were intrigued by the possibilities of mingling jazz with rock, funk, and non-western influences—some of them enjoying commercial success in the process—others continued to pursue the adventurous artistic agenda set by free jazz exponents in the 1960s. Interest in free jazz was especially high in Europe. Among the important musicians there contributing to a robust alternative jazz scene against the backdrop of mainstream and traditional jazz were the guitarist Derek Bailey, the drummer Eddie Prévost, and the saxophonists John Surman and Evan Parker in Britain; the trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, the vibraphone player Gunter Hampel, and the pianist Alex Schlippenbach in Germany; the drummer Han Bennink, the pianist Misha Mengelberg, and the reed player Willem Breuker in the Netherlands; and the Ganelin Trio and Sergey Kuryokhin in the USSR. Large ensembles also emerged from this activity, notably Schlippenbach’s Globe Unity Orchestra (founded in 1966), the Breuker Collective (1974), Mathias Rüegg’s Vienna Art Orchestra (1977), and Pierre Dørge and the New Jungle Orchestra (1980). These aggregations tended to be highly eclectic in style and drawn to open-ended forms and spontaneous compositional procedures. Jazz constituted only part of their musical identities, which also included folk songs, rock, 20th-century art-music techniques, and liberal doses of satire and Dadaesque humor. The European avant garde also proved nurturing for American musicians touring or living abroad, such as Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, and Anthony Braxton.
Stylistic pluralism also characterized approaches to avant-garde jazz in the United States during the 1970s. Two important centers of activity were New York and Chicago. In Lower Manhattan a vibrant scene developed in lofts and other non-commercial performing spaces that featured artists who sought alternative venues as well as those whom club owners and concert promoters might have been reluctant to book. At Sam Rivers’s Studio Rivbea in New York’s SoHo, a series of recordings made over ten days in May 1976 documented some of what occurred in such spaces; released under the title Wildflowers, the five resultant albums featured the saxophonists Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, Byard Lancaster, Marion Brown, Anthony Braxton, and David Murray, the drummers Sunny Murray and Andrew Cyrille, and the trumpeters Olu Dara and Leo Smith, among others. For these figures, as for their European contemporaries, playing “free” was more a performing option than a mandate. Although Lancaster and Murray took considerable harmonic and rhythmic liberties with the Harold Arlen song “Over the Rainbow” (Douglas, 1977), the original melody was still there for listeners; in McIntyre’s “Jays” (Douglas, 1977), similarly, the saxophonist’s free and probing solo unfolds over a bass ostinato that serves a binding rhythmic function throughout. The Wildflowers selections, like the recordings on Anthony Braxton’s two In the Tradition albums (Inner City, 1974), perhaps signaled a change in emphasis for some experimental musicians. Having established their work as an addition to the family of jazz, it mattered less whether they continued to imagine themselves as a literal avant-garde, eschewing what came before, than it did that they explored their relationships to the various mainstreams and traditions that preceded them. As the 1980s approached, in fact, musicians’ stances on such relationships became central to jazz’s development and public debates about it.
11. In the tradition? Eclecticism, canonicity, and conservatism (1979–2001).
A number of recordings released in 1979 stake out direct and dynamic positions on the idea of tradition in their selection of material as well as their approaches to it. Ornette Coleman’s progenitive role in establishing free jazz looms over the work of Old and New Dreams, a quartet consisting of Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell, and the saxophonist Dewey Redman, all of whom performed on Coleman’s 1960s recordings. The group’s second eponymous release (1979, ECM) provides an expansive view of tradition, one that reaches back in time with Coleman’s “Lonely Woman,” through space with the West African timeline patterns in “Togo,” and even across species barriers with “Song for the Whales.” In a narrower but no less profound sense, the instrumentation of the trio Air—consisting of Henry Threadgill (saxophone), Fred Hopkins (bass), and Steve McCall (drums)—presented its musicians both challenges and opportunities on Air Lore (Arista) as they revisited nascent manifestations of jazz: compositions by Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton. While the group’s two pitched instruments could only with difficulty reproduce all the inner voices of materials originally composed with piano or larger ensembles in mind, that seeming limitation facilitated a wider-ranging exploration of pieces like Joplin’s “Ragtime Dance.” Rather than replicate the piece’s notated version or a recording of it made from a piano roll, the group treated tempo, form, melody, and timbre as well as accompaniment patterns and instrumental roles elastically and perhaps blurred any distinction between looking forward and looking back. Arthur Blythe’s quartet had a similar approach on In the Tradition (Col.), an album comprising four tunes drawn from the jazz past alongside two compositions by Blythe. The quartet, which included Hopkins and McCall, treated Juan Tizól’s “Caravan” and Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” for example, in the same open-ended, exploratory manner as they did the 12-bar blues on the new composition “Hip Dripper.”
With the exception of Blythe’s recordings and those issued by Elektra/Musician, such work appeared mostly on independent labels based in Western Europe, notably ECM and Black Saint, and their US counterparts, Inner City and India Navigation, among others. In contrast, the recording industry’s largest companies, such as Warner Brothers and A&M, steered a less adventurous course, devoting their resources to the kinds of pop and R&B fusions exemplified in recordings by George Benson, Herb Alpert, and Bob James. In either case, on the cusp of the 1980s, the diverse and multifaceted character of recorded jazz, given concrete form on the first edition of the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz (1973), was striking. Nearly all the major styles from the past—New Orleans, big-band swing, bop, mainstream, free jazz, and fusion—were still being performed and freely mixed by contemporary musicians, their longevity calling into question familiar unilinear, evolutionary models of music history.
While not always sharing in a spirit of exploration, the jazz festivals of the era were likewise celebrations of the music’s diversity. Following the establishment of festivals in Montreux (1967) and New Orleans (Jazz and Heritage, 1970), a number of cities and regions turned to such events as one strategy among many to encourage tourism and promote (or invent) their contributions to jazz’s development. Like the theater and film festivals which proliferated during those years, jazz festivals made good economic sense to some civic and corporate leaders in response to such changes in global economies as currency devaluation, fuel shortages, and the decreasing viability of manufacturing as a generator of tax income. The longest-running events, in addition to those already mentioned, took place annually in Umbria (from 1973), The Hague then Rotterdam (North Sea, 1976), Chicago (1978), Detroit (1980), Montreal (1980), Lisbon (Jazz em Agosto, 1983), and Guelph (1994), in some cases consolidating disparate events under a single rubric. Many short-lived festivals emerged in other locations, often with corporate sponsorship or other private underwriting, showing the continued commercial and public relations potential of jazz performances, especially those by the music’s most senior and least controversial practitioners. Nonetheless, definitional questions frequently came to the fore when presenters included such musicians as Roberta Flack (Newport Jazz Festival New York, 1972) and Van Morrison (Montreux, 1974) on event rosters.
During the 1980s and 1990s many musicians continued to regard all previous jazz styles as well as other forms of music as potential inputs for individualized hybrids. Among those with experimental backgrounds, some took a synthetic tack, creating musics neither reducible to stylistic constituents as varied as hymns, samba, rhythm and blues, and jazz standards nor to sonorities associated with Hollywood film music or New Orleans brass bands. One can hear such hybrids on releases by the World Saxophone Quartet (Revue, BS, 1980, and Dances and Ballads, Nonesuch, 1987), the Henry Threadgill Sextet (Just the Facts and Pass the Bucket, About Time, 1983), and Steve Lacy (The Door, Novus, 1988). On such recordings, performers perhaps highlighted the importance of authorial voice (or brand) while downplaying stylistic cohesion, at least in a conventional sense. Some of their counterparts, while maintaining an emphasis on authorial integrity, opted for something more stochastic and collage-like. John Zorn’s Naked City (Nonesuch, 1989), for example, features such compositions as “Snagglepuss,” which present wildly divergent styles sequentially, sometimes in bursts lasting only long enough for them to register for attentive listeners.
During those same years, however, there were perhaps equal numbers of musicians whose hybrids had a deliberately more narrow range. On Still Life (Talking) (Geffen, 1987), the Pat Metheny Group used the harmonic, rhythmic, and timbral elements of a variety of musics from Brazil as its point of departure, while Latin American musical traditions, particularly those of Cuba and Puerto Rico, were the focus of recordings by Jane Bunnett, Roy Hargrove, Marc Ribot, and David Sánchez, among others. These recordings were part of a broad reinvigoration of Latin jazz in the 1990s, although such groups as Manny Oquendo y Libre and the Fort Apache Band had been mining that vein since the 1970s. Among the most inventive collections to emerge from attempts to fuse jazz and Latin styles were Danilo Pérez’s PanaMonk (Imp., 1996) and Conrad Herwig’s The Latin Side of John Coltrane (Astor Place, 1996). In trio and big band settings, respectively, the bandleaders highlighted what they regarded as seldom explored rhythmic, melodic, and structural potentials in compositions by or associated with canonic musicians. A similar focus on musical reimagining characterized the collaboration between Cassandra Wilson and the producer Craig Street that resulted in Blue Light ’til Dawn (BN, c1993) and New Moon Daughter (BN, c1995). On those albums, songs by such performers and songwriters from the United States and Canada as Robert Johnson, Joni Mitchell, Thom Creed, Linda Bell, Hank Williams, and Neil Young appeared alongside jazz standards and original material in arrangements that evoked southern US United States acoustic and African diaspora musical traditions more clearly than did mainstream jazz.
While all those musicians had more-or-less explicit imperatives in making those recordings, it is nonetheless difficult to escape the impression that, as had been the case at the dawn of jazz recording, concerns in addition to artistic ones governed the selection and treatment of material. This seemed particularly true of recordings that functioned as homage: the saxophonist Antonio Hart’s For Cannonball and Woody (Novus, 1993), honoring Cannonball Adderley and Woody Shaw; the pianist Jessica Williams’s In the Key of Monk (Jazz Focus, 1999); the trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas’s tribute to Wayne Shorter, Stargazer (Arabesque, 1997); and the saxophonist Joe Henderson’s series of discs devoted to the music of Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davis, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Like Wilson on her mid-1990s work, musicians undertaking such concept albums usually sought to capture distinctive traits of the artists being honored while retaining their respective individual voices and perhaps reaching audiences more familiar with their chosen subjects.
In at least one case, a recording label clearly acknowledged its role in molding a product it hoped would interest youthful, non-jazz audiences in its catalog material. Seeing commercial potential in Acid jazz—a style of electronic dance music in which producers and DJs fused the sounds of such 1960s and 1970s Soul jazz and jazz-funk artists as the Blackbyrds, Tom Scott, Bobbi Humphrey, and Roy Ayers with the rhythms, rapping, and textures of hip-hop—officials at Capitol Records gave the British duo Us3 full access to its archives and released the group’s debut album Hand on the Torch in 1993. The album’s major hit “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” employed backing tracks that were sampled from Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” (from Empyrean Isles, BN, 1964) and Pee Wee Marquette’s introduction of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers from the live recording At the Jazz Corner of the World (BN, 1959), and like other acid jazz recordings it comprised rapping over short, riff-like phrases, layered, digitally processed sound effects, and collage-like construction. Another recording by the Jazz Messengers, James Williams’s “Stretchin’” from Reflections in Blue (Timeless, 1979), furnished the primary samples for another commercially successful fusion of jazz and hip-hop, Digable Planets’ “Rebirth of Slick (Cool like dat)” (Pendulum, 1993). This process of rearranging and updating is traditional for jazz musicians. Hancock himself had done it with “Cantaloupe Island” on his album Secrets (Col., 1976). Earlier, bop musicians had supplied new melodies for familiar harmonic structures: for example, Miles Davis based “Donna Lee” on the harmonies of “(Back Home Again in) Indiana.” And arrangers had revised older pieces from the repertory, for example, Don Redman’s transformation of King Oliver’s “Dippermouth Blues” into “Sugar Foot Stomp” for Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra. While the methods of production used for acid jazz have led some to question whether it qualifies as jazz, the music is part of the jazz family, no further removed from paradigmatic work, in some ways, than the third-stream experiments of the 1950s or the free jazz of the 1960s. Questions of definition and the sales of some acid jazz releases notwithstanding, the style’s impact on the practices of improvising musicians, who were rarely featured as live performers on its most representative recordings, was minimal, and the vogue for the style was brief.
Even in those cases where jazz musicians engaged stylistically with hip-hop performers, the former were more likely to be inspired by the work of such hip-hop producers as Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of A Tribe Called Quest), DJ Premier (of Gang Starr), and Pete Rock, with whom they shared an interest in lesser-known funk and rock recordings. The saxophonists Greg Osby and Steve Coleman, both members of Brooklyn’s M-BASE Collective, were among the musicians associated with jazz to produce album-length collaborations with rappers, the former with 3-D Lifestyles (BN, 1993) and the latter with A Tale of 3 Cities (Novus, 1995). Each recording had moments pointing toward something greater than the sum of its parts, but the fluid group dynamics and harmonic and metric complexity that characterized the leaders’ other projects assumed less prominence in these final mixes than their ability to provide backgrounds for the vocalists’ work. In other words, even when skilled performers attempted such fusions, they found themselves subordinate to partners who might not have been able to follow them down more adventurous paths.
Other musicians in the 1990s incorporated aspects of popular, classical, and non-western traditions on a more limited basis. On Wish (WB, 1993), Joshua Redman performed his own compositions, standards from the swing and bop eras, and songs by Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and Pat Metheny. With his group Masada, the composer and saxophonist John Zorn filtered traditional Jewish musical materials through the lens of contemporary jazz practice and chamber music performance; in other settings he explored music from films and cartoons. The pianist Uri Caine released a series of discs exploring the music of Gustav Mahler, Bach, and Schumann, and the saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom integrated movement and live electronics into her performances. Fred Ho, Jon Jang, Francis Wong, and Tatsu Aoki drew upon East Asian musical resources in works conceived for their ensembles, while Hafez Modirzadeh incorporated Persian modal practices into his compositions and improvisational work. Among all those players, the clarinetist Don Byron has proven remarkably versatile, exploring post-bop mainstream styles, free jazz, klezmer music, small-group swing, and jazz-funk fusion inspired by Funkadelic and Mandrill on a series of albums for Nonesuch and Blue Note.
Simultaneous with these hybridizing projects were those of musicians participating in the jazz repertory movement who viewed the past and the world around them in more curatorial terms. Their ensembles, typically big bands affiliated with universities, conservatories, or large cultural institutions—the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra or Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, for example—attempted to revive the sounds of earlier well-known ensembles, such as those of Ellington, Basie, and Goodman, often playing from transcriptions of recordings and reproducing solos as well as ensemble and rhythm section parts. If the transformative recycling of acid jazz reflected African American traditions extending back for centuries, the re-creative impulse behind jazz repertory groups derived from the model of European art music, interpreting finished “works” (scores generated from recordings) and striving for “authenticity” through historically informed performing practice.
The jazz repertory movement was but one symptom of the larger process of institutionalization that jazz underwent in the 1980s and 1990s. As the Congressional Resolution of 1987 indicates (see Jazz, §1), jazz in the 1980s started receiving a level of economic support and recognition previously reserved for classical music. Private foundations, government arts agencies, museums, and major corporations became important sources of funding, underwriting special events and media projects and sponsoring fellowships, awards, and competitions for jazz musicians. Institutions of higher learning established jazz degree programs and hired seasoned professionals to serve as teachers. Those institutions, in part, helped to spur renewed interest in big bands, not as repertory units, but as outlets for new creative work from such artists as Jason Lindner and Maria Schneider. The literature on jazz expanded greatly in the form of textbooks, scholarly monographs, popular biographies and histories, and pedagogical materials, some following broader intellectual currents and taking a critical view of jazz historiography and processes of canon formation. Recordings of jazz became more readily available as record labels, spurred by the arrival of the compact-disc format, undertook extensive campaigns of reissues. And when in 1997 a Pulitzer Prize committee gave its composition award to Wynton Marsalis—after a previous board had controversially overruled a jury’s decision to honor Duke Ellington in 1965—it was evident that jazz had covered vast cultural distance over the relatively short course of its history.
Marsalis, a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and educator from New Orleans, received such recognition partly because of the crucial role he had played in popularizing and promoting jazz. After emerging in the early 1980s as a fiery soloist with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, he was signed to Columbia Records, which heavily promoted the recordings he made with groups featuring his older brother Branford on saxophone. After Wynton had won two Grammy Awards in 1984, some critics considered his work a harbinger of a jazz rebirth (following its presumed death from experimentation and fusion in the 1970s), and younger musicians who might have gone in other directions drew inspiration from albums like Black Codes (From the Underground) (Col., 1985), which highlighted Marsalis’s interest as a bandleader in exploring the rhythmic freedom, expressive vocabulary, and formal play of Miles Davis’s mid-1960s quintet and John Coltrane’s quartet (Elie, G1990, pp. 272–4). He sharply changed direction at the end of the 1980s, when he both spent more time investigating pre-bop jazz styles and became the founding artistic director of the jazz program at Lincoln Center, New York’s prestigious and powerful sponsor of European-derived performing arts (opera, ballet, and symphony and chamber music). By that point, however, his celebrity had already encouraged other record labels, large and small, to invest more money in recording and promoting mainstream jazz styles. In other words, Marsalis had helped to bring jazz solidly within the embrace of America’s cultural establishment. He increased visibility for the music through his concerts and recordings, television and radio programs, and book and video projects; he commissioned new works and sponsored high-school band competitions; he toured widely with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and appeared regularly as clinician and lecturer in schools throughout the country. At the same time, he sparked controversy by articulating views some considered to be unduly rigid and conservative, particularly through insisting that certain musical features—swing, the blues, and call and response—must be present in order for music to qualify as jazz. Others criticized his programming at Lincoln Center, claiming that it excluded members of the jazz avant garde or that it did not adequately highlight contributions of white and female musicians.
Those criticisms, perhaps, mattered little to the millions of people who watched the Ken Burns documentary Jazz, a ten-part television series which aired on American public stations in January 2001. Along with Stanley Crouch and Albert Murray—two of his advisors as well as fellow board members of Jazz at Lincoln Center—Marsalis was a star of the documentary, an on-camera personality who in charming but sometimes hyperbolic fashion extolled the artistry of such figures as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington over all others. Viewers without other historical knowledge, upon hearing the condemnations some commentators offered of 1960s experimentalism, may have come away unaware that anything of lasting significance, besides Marsalis’s emergence, happened after 1960. As a cultural event, despite the brief boost it gave to jazz record sales, “Jazz” perhaps represented the end of the era in which projects addressed the question of tradition head on.
12. Jazz in the new century.
Of course, the end of “Jazz” was not the end of jazz. Although Columbia Records and other major labels had released most jazz artists, including Marsalis, from their contracts by 2003 and some independents in the parlance of the time “diversified” their rosters to include more popular musics at the beginning of the 21st century, those actions were not necessarily indicative of any specific trouble for jazz as a set of musical styles. Although the novelty of compact discs was fading and recording and distribution became more strictly regulated by a few multinational conglomerates, record sales started declining in the second half of the 1990s, forcing all divisions of major recording corporations to implement accounting changes and show quarterly profits (Negus, H1999). Such expectations ironically caused Sony’s classical division to sign the trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who had previously been under contract to Sony Jazz, and the rock singer-songwriter Joe Jackson, and Blue Note to release recordings by Al Green and Anita Baker, among others.
As in the past, though, independent labels like ECM, Criss Cross, and Enja released recordings that represented the variety of approaches that still characterized jazz and related styles. Their work was complemented by and in many ways surpassed that of newer labels. New York’s Pi Recordings and AUM Fidelity emerged as specialists in experimental musics, presenting recordings by such established performers as Muhal Richard Abrams, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and William Parker as well as the work of newer artists including the drummer Susie Ibarra, the pianist Vijay Iyer (a former sideman of Steve Coleman), the saxophonist Steve Lehman (some of whose work adapts Tristan Murail’s ideas about spectral harmony), and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey; the last three played together in the collaborative trio Fieldwork. The St. Louis-based label Maxjazz gave such mainstream performers as the guitarist Russell Malone, the pianist Mulgrew Miller, and the trumpeter Jeremy Pelt continued exposure through instrumental and vocal series presented in visually distinctive packages. Detroit’s Mack Avenue took a slightly more varied course, including post-Marsalis straight-ahead artists like the saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Ron Blake and the bass player Christian McBride on a roster that also features the Gerald Wilson Orchestra and the guitarist Stanley Jordan.
Jazz venues and festivals also experienced changes that were signs less of a decline than they were of a return to the leaner state of affairs preceding what in retrospect can be seen a boom time for jazz. The most famous and best-capitalized clubs, including the Village Vanguard in New York and Yoshi’s in Oakland, California, continued doing business as they had before, although perhaps with fewer tourists and casual spectators in their audiences. The proprietors of many other venues— particularly such non-profit arts spaces that had been supportive of jazz musicians as the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, the Hot House in Chicago, and the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia—were forced to become concert presenters without a fixed location or to alter the balance of jazz in their programming. The organizers of festivals faced similar issues, and their responses were often to scale down their offerings and to focus less on variety and more on targeting specific segments (demographics) of the jazz audience. Ironically, perhaps, the Vision Festival, first presented in 1996, might have furnished a model for organizers attempting to succeed in difficult financial times. Just as experimental musicians had formed collectives in the 1960s to help them and sympathetic audiences to find one another, a number of Lower East Side musicians and their supporters worked together to create this festival which, although originally ignored by major press outlets, quickly became a critical and financial success precisely because of its small scale and focus on experimentation rather than the whole of jazz performance (Currie, H2009, pp. 189–97).
Strategies like those employed by Vision’s organizers seemed even more necessary at a time when public radio stations—the last major outlets for presenting jazz recordings on radio and promoting performances by jazz artists—were becoming increasingly dependent on grants and listener donations and acted on the advice of marketing consultants in replacing jazz (and classical music) with news and lifestyle programming. Festival organizers and program directors were responding to demographic changes in their audiences. Indeed, the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts published by the NEA in 2008 indicated that jazz audiences were not only aging but declining for the first time since 1982. However, far from auguring the imminent death of jazz, which had been proclaimed several times since the 1970s, the report suggested that jazz was again one of many areas with which a broader public seemed less engaged.
Partly because of their own desires for challenges, but also in response to such market realities, jazz musicians continued adapting to new technologies and styles of performance as well as revisiting older formats. Uri Caine’s trio Bedrock experimented with electronics and the textures of the dance music subgenre drum ′n′ bass (Shelf-life, Winter and Winter, 2005), and the drummer Karriem Riggins excelled as a straightahead performer while also producing album tracks for the hip-hop and R&B artists Erykah Badu, Common, and the Roots. The bass players Dave Holland and Ron Carter, the pianist Orrin Evans, and the guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel undertook big band projects that were far from nostalgic, and the drummer Brian Blade, in addition to long-term collaborations with the rock producer Daniel Lanois, led the Fellowship Band, an ensemble that explored the same range of musics as Cassandra Wilson had in the 1990s, although in new compositions that were both more expansive and meditative. Blade also held the drum chair in a quartet formed by the saxophonist Wayne Shorter in 2000 which featured the pianist Danilo Pérez and the bass player John Patitucci as well. Revisiting material from each of the manifestations of Shorter’s career—including his time with Weather Report in the 1970s and with Miles Davis and Art Blakey in the 1960s—the quartet nonetheless seemed to bring together both a reverence for what had gone before and a desire for the in-the-moment invention that had characterized jazz practice through much of the music’s first century.
During that period, Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, and Art Blakey, among others, likened jazz to a tree, and with that metaphor suggested that the music had roots extending deep into African American, African, and European musical traditions. Since its emergence, jazz has grown upward and outward, its branches and limbs representing varied styles all joined to a sturdy trunk that keeps alive connections to a rich musical past. Music scholars have also described jazz as a family of styles, each containing enough traits in common with its counterparts to resemble them while remaining distinctive. However jazz performers have been perceived—as branches on a tree or members of a global extended family—and wherever they have performed—in nightclubs, concert halls or festival stages, street parades, or high school jazz programs—they have been able to trace their work back to late 19th-century New Orleans, a time and place equally alive with mixtures and creative collaborations and fraught with questions of inequality. They and their audiences have been drawn one and all to a resilient musical tradition that beckons with a promise of self-discovery and preserves the hope of freedom.
A: General reference
- L. Feather: The Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York, 1955, suppl. 1956; enlarged 2/1960/R)
- L. Feather: The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties (New York, 1966)
- J. Chilton: Who’s Who of Jazz: Storyville to Swing Street (London, 1970, 4/1985)
- R. Kinkle: The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz, 1900–1950 (New Rochelle, NY, 1974)
- L.G. Feather and I. Gitler: The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies (New York, 1976)
- I. Carr, D. Fairweather, and B. Priestley: Jazz: the Essential Companion (London, 1987)
- I. Carr and others: Jazz: the Rough Guide (London, 1995)
- B. Kirchner, ed.: The Oxford Companion to Jazz (New York, 2000)
- J.F. Szwed: Jazz 101: a Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz (New York, 2000)
- M. Cooke and D. Horn, eds: The Cambridge Companion to Jazz (Cambridge, 2002)
- C. Delaunay: Hot Discography (Paris, 1936, 4/1943, enlarged 1948 by W.E. Schaap and G. Avakian as New Hot Discography)
- C.E. Smith: The Jazz Record Book (New York, 1942)
- B. Rust: Jazz Records, A–Z (London, 1961–5, enlarged 5/1983 as Jazz Records, 1897–1942)
- J.G. Jepsen: Jazz Records, 1942– (Holte and Copenhagen, 1963–71)
- W. Bruyninckx: 50 Years of Recorded Jazz (1917–1967) (Mechelen, 1968–75, enlarged 6/2007 as 90 Years of Recorded Jazz (1917–2007))
- M. Ruppli: Prestige Jazz Records, 1949–1971 (Copenhagen, 1972)
- M. Cabanowski and H. Choliński: Polskie Dyskografia Jazzowa, 1955–1972 (Warsaw, 1974)
- M. Harrison and others: Modern Jazz: the Essential Records, 1945–1970 (London, 1975)
- M. Ruppli: Atlantic Records (Westport, CT, 1979)
- H. Nicolausson: Swedish Jazz Discography (Stockholm, 1983)
- J. Leder: Women in Jazz: a Discography of Instrumentalists, 1913–1968 (Westport, CT, 1985)
- G.G. Simon: Magyar Jazzmelek 1912–1984 (Pecs, 1985)
- M. Ruppli and B. Porter: The Clef/Verve Labels (New York, 1987)
- M. Cuscuna and M. Ruppli: The Blue Note Label (New York, 1988)
- J. Mitchell: Australian Jazz on Record, 1925–80 (Canberra, 1988)
- T. Lord: The Jazz Discography (West Vancouver, BC, 1992–)
- E. Raben and O.J. Nielsen: Jazz Records, 1942–80 (Copenhagen, 1995)
- A.P. Merriam and R.J. Benford: A Bibliography of Jazz (Philadelphia, 1954/R)
- R. Reisner: The Literature of Jazz: a Preliminary Bibliography (New York, 1954, enlarged 2/1959 as The Literature of Jazz: a Selective Bibliography)
- C.G. Herzog zu Mecklenburg: International Jazz Bibliography: Jazz Books from 1919 to 1968 (Strasbourg, 1969, 2/1975)
- D. Kennington: The Literature of Jazz: a Critical Guide (London, 1970, rev. 2/1980 by D. Kennington and D.L. Read)
- B. Hefele: Jazz Bibliography (Munich, 1981)
- E.S. Meadows: Jazz Research and Performance Materials: a Select Annotated Bibliography (New York, 1981, 2/1995)
- D.-R. De Lerma: Bibliography of Black Music (Westport, CT, 1984)
- W.H. Kenney: “Jazz: a Bibliographical Essay,” American Studies International, xxv/1 (1987), 3–27
- G. Carner: Jazz Performers: an Annotated Bibliography of Biographical Materials (New York, 1990)
- J. Gray: Fire Music: a Bibliography of the New Jazz, 1959–1990 (New York, 1991)
Australia: Australian Jazz Quarterly (1946–57); Jazz (1981–); Jazz Australia (1976–)
Austria: Jazzforschung (1969–); Jazz Forum (1967–)
Belgium: Jazz Hot (1945–)
Canada: Coda (1958–2008), Critical Studies in Improvisation (2004–)
England: Crescendo (1962–1990); Jazz Journal (1974–7); Jazz Journal International (1977–2009); Jazz Monthly (1955–71); Jazz Perspectives (2007–); Jazz Research Journal (2007–); Music Mirror (1954–8); The Wire (1982–)
Finland: Rytmi (1934–7, 1949–)
France: Cahiers du jazz (1959–); Jazz-hot (1935–9); Jazz magazine (1954–); Revue du Jazz (1948–)
Germany: Jazz Revue (1950–54)
Japan: Swing Journal (1947–)
Netherlands: Jazz Wereld (1965–73)
USA: American Music (1983–2008); Annual Review of Jazz Studies (1982–2009); Black Music Research Journal (1980–); Black Perspective in Music (1973–90); Cadence (1976–); Clef (1946); Down Beat (1934–); Hot Record Society Rag (1938–41); Jazz (1962–7); Jazz: a Quarterly of American Music (1958–60); Jazz Review (1958–61); Journal of Jazz Studies (1973–81, 2010–); Journal of the Society for American Music (2007–); Metronome (1885–1961); Record Changer (1942–58); Record Research (1955–); Signal to Noise (1998–); Tempo (1933–40)
- A. Baresel: Das Jazz-Buch (Leipzig, 1925)
- R. Goffin: Aux frontières du jazz (Paris, 1932)
- W. Hobson: American Jazz Music (New York, 1939/R)
- F. Ramsey Jr and C. Smith, eds.: Jazzmen (New York, 1939/R)
- R. Goffin: Jazz: from the Congo to the Metropolitan (Garden City, NY, 1944, 2/1948 as Nouvelle histoire du jazz: du Congo au bebop; Eng. trans., 1975)
- B. Ulanov: A History of Jazz in America (New York, 1952)
- N. Shapiro and N. Hentoff: Hear me Talkin’ to ya: the Story of Jazz as Told by the Men who Made it (New York, 1955, 2/1966)
- M. Stearns: The Story of Jazz (New York, 1956, 3/1970)
- N. Hentoff and A.J. McCarthy, eds.: Jazz: New Perspectives on the History of Jazz by Twelve of the World’s Foremost Jazz Critics and Scholars (New York, 1959)
- S.B. Charters and L. Kunstadt: Jazz: a History of the New York Scene (Garden City, NY, 1962)
- J. Goldberg: Jazz Masters of the Fifties (New York, 1965/R)
- R. Hadlock: Jazz Masters of the Twenties (London, 1965/R)
- I. Gitler: Jazz Masters of the Forties (New York, 1966/R)
- H.A. Kmen: Music in New Orleans: the Formative Years, 1791–1841 (Baton Rouge, 1966)
- M. Williams: Jazz Masters of New Orleans (New York, 1967)
- D.H. Kraner and K. Schulz: Jazz in Austria: a Brief History and a Discography of all Jazz and Jazz-Like Recordings Made in Austria (Graz, 1969/R1972 as Jazz in Austria: Historische Entwicklungund Diskographie des Jazz in Osterreich)
- F. Kofsky: Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (New York, 1970, 2/1998 as John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960s)
- M. Williams: Jazz Masters in Transition 1957–69 (New York, 1970)
- R. Russell: Jazz Style in Kansas City and the Southwest (Berkeley, 1971)
- A. Shaw: The Street that never Slept: New York’s Fabled 52nd Street (New York, 1971/R1977 as 52nd Street: the Street of Jazz)
- E. Southern: The Music of Black Americans: a History (New York, 1971, 3/1997)
- R. Stewart: Jazz Masters of the Thirties (New York, 1972)
- I. Carr: Music Outside: Contemporary Jazz in Britain (London, 1973)
- D. Morgenstern: The Jazz Story: an Outline History of Jazz (New York, 1973)
- L.W. Levine: Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk thought from Slavery to Freedom (New York, 1977)
- F. Tirro: Jazz: a History (New York, 1977, 2/1993)
- V. Wilmer: As Serious as your Life: the Story of the New Jazz (London, 1977, 2/1980)
- J.L. Collier: The Making of Jazz: a Comprehensive History (Boston, 1978)
- A. Bisset: Black Roots, White Flowers: a History of Jazz in Australia (Sydney, 1979, 2/1987)
- C. Nanry and E. Berger: The Jazz Text (New York, 1979)
- E.A. Berlin: Ragtime: a Musical and Cultural Study (Berkeley, 1980)
- F. Driggs and L. Harris: Black Beauty, White Heat: a Pictorial History of Classic Jazz, 1920–1950 (New York, 1982)
- M. Miller: Jazz in Canada: Fourteen Lives (Toronto, 1982)
- S. Placksin: American Women in Jazz, 1900 to the Present: their Words, Lives, and Music (New York, 1982)
- S.F. Starr: Red and Hot: the Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union, 1917–1980 (New York, 1983, 2/1994 as Red and Hot: the Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union, 1917–1991)
- L. Dahl: Stormy Weather: the Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen (New York, 1984)
- J. Godbolt: A History of Jazz in Britain, 1919–50 (London, 1984)
- J. Litweiler: The Freedom Principle: Jazz after 1958 (New York, 1984)
- S. DeVeaux: Jazz in Transition: Coleman Hawkins and Howard McGhee, 1935–1945 (diss., U. of California, Berkeley, 1985)
- L. Feigin: Russian Jazz: New Identity (London, 1985)
- I. Gitler: Swing to Bop: an Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940s (New York, 1985)
- R. Gordon: Jazz West Coast: the Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s (London, 1986)
- A. Medvedev and O. Medvedeva: Sovetskiy dzhaz: problemï, sobïtiya, mastera (Moscow, 1987)
- W. Schworer: Jazzszene Frankfurt: eine musiksoziologische Untersuchungen zur Situation anfangs derachtziger Jahre (diss., Giessen U., 1987)
- C. Small: Music of the Common Tongue: Survival and Celebration in Afro-American Music (New York, 1987)
- J.L. Collier: The Reception of Jazz in America: a New View (Brooklyn, NY, 1988)
- D.D. Harrison: Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920s (New Brunswick, NJ, 1988)
- L.A. Erenberg: “Things to Come: Swing Bands, Bebop, and the Rise of a Postwar Jazz Scene,” Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of Cold War, ed. L. May (Chicago, 1989), 221–45
- J. Godbolt: A History of Jazz in Britain, 1950–70 (London, 1989)
- K.J. Ogren: The Jazz Revolution: Twenties America and the Meaning of Jazz (New York, 1989)
- P.J. Broome and C. Tucker: The Other Music City: the Dance Bands and Jazz Musicians of Nashville, 1920 to 1970 (Nashville, 1990)
- S. Nicholson: Jazz: the Modern Resurgence (London, 1990)
- T. Gioia: West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945–1960 (New York, 1992)
- M.H. Kater: Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany (New York, 1992)
- B.W. Peretti: The Creation of Jazz: Music, Race and Culture in Urban America (Urbana, IL, 1992)
- D.H. Rosenthal: Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955–1965 (New York, 1992)
- C. Ballantine: Marabi Nights: Early South African Jazz and Vaudeville (Johannesburg, 1993)
- P. De Barros: Jackson Street after Hours: the Roots of Jazz in Seattle (Seattle, 1993)
- W.H. Kenney: Chicago Jazz: a Cultural History, 1904–1930 (New York, 1993)
- C.E. Kinzer: The Tio Family: Four Generations of New Orleans Musicians, 1814–1933 (diss., Louisiana State U., 1993)
- B. Moody: The Jazz Exiles: American Musicians Abroad (Reno, NV, 1993)
- L. Porter and M. Ullman: Jazz: from its Origins to the Present (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1993)
- D.G. Such: Avant-garde Jazz Musicians: Performing “Out There” (Iowa City, IA, 1993)
- T.J. Hennessey: From Jazz to Swing: African-American Jazz Musicians and their Music, 1890–1935 (Detroit, 1994)
- W. Knauer, ed.: Jazz in Europa (Hofhenn, 1994)
- D.W. Stowe: Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America (Cambridge, MA, 1994)
- L. Gourse: Madame Jazz: Contemporary Women Instrumentalists (New York, 1995)
- E. Kolleritsch: Jazz in Graz: von den Anfängen nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg bis zu seiner akademischen Etablierung (Graz, 1995)
- H.H. Lange: Jazz in Deutschland: die Deutsch Jazz-Chronik bis 1960 (Hildesheim, 1996)
- S. DeVeaux: The Birth of Bebop: a Social and Musical History (Berkeley, 1997)
- T. Gioia: The History of Jazz (New York, 1997)
- M. Miller: Such Melodious Racket: the Lost History of Jazz in Canada, 1914–1949 (Toronto, 1997)
- L. Porter: Jazz: a Century of Change (New York, 1997)
- S. Nicholson: Jazz Rock: a History (New York, 1998)
- K. Whitehead: New Dutch Swing (New York, 1998)
- R.M. Sudhalter: Lost Chords: White Musicians and their Contribution to Jazz, 1915–1945 (New York, 1999)
- L. Tournés: New Orleans sur Seine: histoire du jazz in France (Paris, 1999)
- S. Tucker: Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s (Durham, NC, 2000)
- E.T. Atkins: Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan (Durham, NC, 2001)
- L. Björn and J. Gallert: Before Motown: a History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920–60 (Ann Arbor, 2001)
- A.F. Jones: Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age (Durham, NC, 2001)
- B. Looker: Point from which Creation Begins: the Black Artists’ Group of St. Louis (St. Louis, 2004)
- M. Heffley: Northern Sun, Southern Moon: Europe’s Reinvention of Jazz (New Haven, 2005)
- S.L. Isoardi: The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles (Berkeley, 2006)
- G.E. Lewis: A Power Stronger than itself: the AACM and American Experimental Music (Chicago, 2008)
- L. Armstrong: Swing that Music (New York, 1936)
- M. Mezzrow and B. Wolfe: Really the Blues (New York, 1946)
- L. Armstrong: Satchmo: my Life in New Orleans (New York, 1954)
- S. Bechet: Treat it Gentle: an Autobiography (London, 1960)
- W. Smith: Music on my Mind: the Memoirs of an American Pianist (Garden City, NY, 1964)
- A.B. Spellman: Four Lives in the Bebop Business (New York, 1966/R2004 as Four Jazz Lives)
- S. Dance: The World of Duke Ellington (New York, 1970)
- C. Mingus: Beneath the Underdog: his World as Composed by Mingus (New York, 1971)
- C. Albertson: Bessie (New York, 1972)
- D. Ellington: Music is my Mistress (Garden City, NY, 1973)
- B. Holiday: Lady Sings the Blues (New York, 1973)
- A. Lomax: Mister Jelly Roll: the Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Creole and Inventor of Jazz (Berkeley, 1973)
- S. Dance: The World of Swing (New York, 1974)
- H. Hawes and D. Asher: Raise up off me (New York, 1974)
- R.M. Sudhalter, P.R. Evans, and W. Dean-Myatt: Bix, Man and Legend (New York, 1974)
- J.C. Thomas: Chasin’ the Trane: the Music and Mystique of John Coltrane (Garden City, NY, 1975)
- C. Calloway and B. Rollins: Of Minnie the Moocher & Me (New York, 1976)
- S. Dance: The World of Earl Hines (New York, 1977)
- M. Waller and A. Calabrese: Fats Waller (New York, 1977)
- D. Gillespie and A. Fraser: To be, or not … to Bop: Memoirs (Garden City, NY, 1979)
- A. Pepper and L. Pepper: Straight Life: the Story of Art Pepper (New York, 1979, 2/1994)
- S. Dance: The World of Count Basie (New York, 1980)
- A. O’Day and G. Eells: High Times, Hard Times (New York, 1981/R1989 with updated discography)
- I. Carr: Miles Davis: a Critical Biography (London, 1982, 2/1998 as Miles Davis: the Definitive Biography) [incl. discography by B. Priestley]
- B. Priestley: Mingus: a Critical Biography (London, 1982)
- J. Chambers: Milestones, i: The Music and Times of Miles Davis to 1960 (Toronto, 1983); ii: The Music and Times of Miles Davis since 1960 (Toronto, 1985); complete edn (1989)
- D. Travis: An Autobiography of Black Jazz (Chicago, 1983)
- W. Basie and A. Murray: Good Morning Blues: the Autobiography of Count Basie (New York, 1985)
- D. Barker: A Life in Jazz (London, 1986)
- J. Chilton: Sidney Bechet: the Wizard of Jazz (Basingstoke, 1987)
- T. Fitterling: Thelonious Monk: sein Leben, seine Musik, seine Schallplatten (Waakirchen, 1987; Eng. trans., 1997, as Thelonious Monk: his Life and Music)
- G. Giddins: Celebrating Bird: the Triumph of Charlie Parker (New York, 1987)
- G. Bushell: Jazz from the Beginning (Ann Arbor, 1988)
- G. Giddins: Satchmo (New York, 1988, 2/2001)
- M. Hinton: Bass Line: the Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton (Philadelphia, 1988)
- J.L. Collier: Benny Goodman and the Swing Era (New York, 1989)
- M. Davis (with Q. Troupe): Miles: the Autobiography (New York, 1989)
- J. Chilton: The Song of the Hawk: the Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins (London, 1990)
- R. O’Meally: Lady Day: the Many Faces of Billie Holiday (New York, 1991)
- D. Rosenberg: Fascinating Rhythm: the Collaboration of George and lra Gershwin (New York, 1991)
- R. Stewart: Boy Meets Horn (Ann Arbor, 1991)
- M. Tucker: Ellington: the Early Years (Urbana, IL, 1991)
- J. Litweiler: Ornette Coleman: a Harmolodic Life (London, 1992)
- L. Wright and E. Anderson: “Fats” in Fact (Chigwell, Essex, 1992)
- S. Nicholson: Ella Fitzgerald (London, 1993)
- R.M. Radano: New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton’s Cultural Critique (Chicago, 1993)
- E.A. Berlin: King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and his Era (New York, 1994)
- W.D. Clancy: Woody Herman: Chronicles of the Herds (New York, 1995)
- G. Lees: Leader of the Band: the Life of Woody Herman (New York, 1995)
- S. Nicholson: Billie Holiday (London, 1995)
- D. Hajdu: Lush Life: a Biography of Billy Strayhorn (New York, 1996)
- F.M. Hall: It’s about Time: the Dave Brubeck Story (Fayetteville, AR, 1996)
- D.L. Maggin: Stan Getz: a Life in Jazz (New York, 1996)
- C. Woideck: Charlie Parker: his Music and Life (Ann Arbor, 1996)
- J.F. Szwed: Space is the Place: the Lives and Times of Sun Ra (New York, 1997)
- L. Porter: John Coltrane: his Life and Music (Ann Arbor, 1998)
- S. Nicholson: Reminiscing in Tempo: a Portrait of Duke Ellington (Boston, 1999)
- A. Shipton: Groovin’ High: the Life of Dizzy Gillespie (New York, 1999)
- G. Wein and N. Chinen: Myself among Others: a Life in Music (Cambridge, MA, 2003)
- E. Determeyer: Rhythm is our Business: Jimmie Lunceford and the Harlem Express (Ann Arbor, 2006)
- H. Silver: Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty: the Autobiography of Horace Silver, ed P. Pastras (Berkeley, 2006)
- E. Shim: Lennie Tristano: his Life in Music (Ann Arbor, 2007)
- R.D.G. Kelley: Thelonious Monk: the Life and Times of an American Original (New York, 2009)
G: Theory, Analysis, and Criticism
- C. Engel: “Jazz: a Musical Discussion,” Atlantic Monthly, cxxx (1922), 182–9
- H.O. Osgood: So this is Jazz (Boston, 1926/R)
- H. Panassié: The Real Jazz (New York, 1942/R)
- R. de Toledano, ed.: Frontiers of Jazz (New York, 1947, 3/1994)
- A. Hodeir: Hommes et problèmes du jazz (Paris, 1954; Eng. trans., enlarged, 1956/R, 2/1979 as Jazz: its Evolution and Essence)
- J.F. Mehegan: Jazz Improvisation (New York, 1958–65)
- E.J. Hobsbawn: The Jazz Scene (London, 1959, 2/1993)
- L. Ostransky: The Anatomy of Jazz (Seattle, 1960)
- B. Green: The Reluctant Art (London, 1962, enlarged 2/1991)
- A. Hodeir: Toward Jazz (New York, 1962/R)
- M. Williams, ed.: Jazz Panorama: from the Pages of the Jazz Review (New York, 1962/R)
- F. Tirro: “The Silent Theme Tradition in Jazz,” MQ, liii (1967), 313–34
- W. Russo: Jazz Composition and Orchestration (Chicago, 1968)
- M. Williams: The Jazz Tradition (New York, 1970, 3/1993)
- M.L. Stewart: Structural Development in the Jazz Improvisational Technique of Clifford Brown (diss., U. of Michigan, 1973)
- R. Wang: “Jazz circa 1945: a Confluence of Styles,” MQ, lix (1973), 531–46
- N.T. Davis: The Early Life and Music of Charlie Parker (diss., Wesleyan U., 1974)
- E. Jost: Free Jazz (Graz, 1974)
- T. Owens: Charlie Parker: Techniques of Improvisation (diss., UCLA, 1974)
- F. Tirro: “Constructive Elements in Jazz Improvisation,” JAMS, xxvii (1974), 285–305
- R. Byrnside: “The Performer as Creator: Jazz Improvisation,” Contemporary Music and Music Cultures, ed. B. Nettl and others (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1975), 233–51
- W.E. Taylor: The History and Development of Jazz Piano: a New Perspective for Educators (diss., U. of Massachusetts, 1975)
- T.D. Brown: A History and Analysis of Jazz Drumming to 1942 (diss., U. of Michigan, 1976)
- M. Harrison: A Jazz Retrospect (Newton Abbot, 1976, 2/1991)
- C.C. Blancq: Melodic Improvisation in American Jazz: the Style of Theodore “Sonny” Rollins, 1951–1962 (diss., Tulane U., 1977)
- L. Gushee: disc notes, Steppin’ on the Gas: Rags to Jazz, 1913–1927, New World NW 269 (1977)
- L. Gushee: “Lester Young’s ‘Shoeshine Boy’,” IMSCR XII: Berkeley 1977, 151–69
- R.L. Stein: The Jazz Trumpet: Development of Styles and an Analysis of Selected Solos from 1924 to 1961 (diss., U. of Miami, 1977)
- M.J. Budds: Jazz in the Sixties: the Expansion of Musical Resources and Techniques (Iowa City, IA, 1978, 2/1990)
- J. Coker: Listening to Jazz (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1978)
- M.C. Gridley: Jazz Styles (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1978, 7/1997)
- D. Bailey: Improvisation: its Nature and Practice in Music (Ashbourne, 1980)
- G. Giddins: Riding on a Blue Note (New York, 1981)
- B. Kernfeld: Adderley, Coltrane, and Davis at the Twilight of Bebop: the Search for Melodic Coherence (1958–59) (diss., Cornell U., 1981)
- O. Perguson: The Otis Ferguson Reader (Highland Park, IL, 1982/R1997 as In the Spirit of Jazz: the Otis Ferguson Reader)
- A. Jaffe: Jazz Theory (Dubuque, IA, 1983)
- G.F. Smith: Homer, Gregory, and Bill Evans? The Theory of Formulaic Composition in the Context of Jazz Piano Improvisation (diss., Harvard U., 1983)
- P. Alperson: “On Musical Improvisation,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, xxxxiii (1984), 17–29
- G. Giddins: Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation in the ’80s (New York, 1985)
- H. Martin: Enjoying Jazz (New York, 1985)
- L. Porter: Lester Young (Boston, 1985)
- M. Williams: Jazz Heritage (New York, 1985)
- W. Balliett: American Musicians: Fifty Six Portraits in Jazz (New York, 1986, 2/1996 as American Musicians II: Seventy-Two Portraits in Jazz)
- F. Davis: In the Moment: Jazz in the 1980s (New York, 1986)
- G. Schuller: Musings: the Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller (New York, 1986)
- C. Suhor: “Jazz Improvisation and Language Performance: Parallel Competencies,” Etc., xxxxiii (1986), 133–40
- S. Larson: Schenkerian Analysis of Modern Jazz (diss., U. of Michigan, 1987)
- O. Keepnews: The View from Within: Jazz Writings, 1948–1987 (New York, 1988)
- J. Pressing: “Improvisation: Methods and Models,” Generative Processes in Music: the Psychology of Performance, Improvisation, and Composition, ed. J.A. Sloboda (New York, 1988), 129–78
- E.S. Meadows: “Africa and the Blues Scale: a Selected Review of the Literature,” African Musicology … a Festschrift presented to J.H. Kwabena Nketia, ed. J.C. Djedje and W.G. Carter (Los Angeles, 1989–92), 263–76
- R.F. Rose: An Analysis of Timing in Jazz Rhythm Section Performance (diss., U. of Texas, Austin, 1989)
- G. Schuller: The Swing Era: the Development of Jazz, 1930–1945 (New York, 1989)
- D. Baker, ed.: New Perspectives on Jazz (Washington, DC, 1990)
- A. Beeson: “‘Quoting Tunes’: Narrative Features in Jazz,” Collectanea, i (1990), 1–15
- F. Davis: Outcats: Jazz Composers, Instrumentalists, and Singers (New York, 1990)
- L.E. Elie: “An Interview with Wynton Marsalis,” Callaloo, xiii (1990), 271–90
- W. Friedwald: Jazz Singing: America’s Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop (New York, 1990)
- W. Knauer: Zwischen Bebop und Free Jazz: Komposition and Improvisation des Modern Jazz Quartet (Mainz, 1990)
- G. Potter: “Analyzing Improvised Jazz,” College Music Symposium, xxx/1 (1990), 64–74
- S. DeVeaux: “Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography,” Black American Literature Forum, xxv (1991), 525–60
- J. Gennari: “Jazz Criticism: its Development and Ideologies,” Black American Literature Forum, xxv (1991), 449–523
- R.T. Dean: New Structures in Jazz and Improvised Music since 1960 (Philadelphia, 1992)
- J. Taylor: Earl Hines and Black Jazz Piano in Chicago, 1923–1928 (diss., U. of Michigan, 1993)
- M. Tucker, ed.: The Duke Ellington Reader (New York, 1993)
- P.F. Berliner: Thinking in Jazz: the Infinite Art of Improvisation (Chicago, 1994)
- G.P. Ramsey Jr.: The Art of Bebop: Earl “Bud” Powell and the Emergence of Modern Jazz (diss., U. of Michigan, 1994)
- N. Hentoff: Listen to the Stories: Nat Hentoff on Jazz and Country (New York, 1995)
- B. Kernfeld: What to Listen for in Jazz (New Haven, CT, 1995)
- J.A. Prögler: “Searching for Swing: Participatory Discrepancies in the Jazz Rhythm Section,” EthM, xxxix (1995), 21–54
- G. Carner: The Miles Davis Companion (New York, 1996)
- H. Martin: Charlie Parker and Thematic Improvisation (Newark, NJ, 1996)
- I. Monson: Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (Chicago, 1996)
- T.F. Coolman: The Miles Davis Quintet of the Mid-1960s: Synthesis of Improvisational and Compositional Elements (diss., New York U., 1997)
- J. King: What Jazz is: an Insider’s Guide to Understanding and Listening to Jazz (New York, 1997)
- P. Julien: The Structural Function of Harmonic Relations in Wayne Shorter’s Early Compositions: 1959–1963 (diss., U. of Maryland, College Park, 2003)
- J. Magee: The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz (New York, 2005)
- T.A. Jackson: Blowin’ the Blues Away: Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene (Berkeley, 2012)
H: Other studies
- M. Berger: “Jazz: Resistance to the Diffusion of a Culture Pattern,” Journal of Negro History, xxxii (1947), 461–94
- S. Finkelstein: Jazz: a People’s Music (New York, 1948)
- H.S. Becker: “The Professional Dance Musician and his Audience,” American Journal of Sociology, lvii (1951), 136–44
- R.A. Waterman: “African Influence on the Music of the Americas,” Acculturation in the Americas: … XXIXth International Congress of Americanists: New York 1949, ed. S. Tax (Chicago, 1952), 207–18
- J. Berendt: Das Jazzbuch: Entwicklung und Bedeutung der Jazzmusik (Frankfurt, 1953, 6/1992 as The Jazz Book: from Ragtime to Fusion and Beyond )
- W.B. Cameron: “Sociological Notes on the Jam Session,” Social Forces, xxxiii (1954), 174–82
- A.P. Merriam and R.S. Mack: “The Jazz Community,” Social Forces, xxxviii (1960), 211–22
- P. Oliver: Blues Fell this Morning: the Meaning of the Blues (London, 1960, 2/1990)
- N. Hentoff: The Jazz Life (New York, 1961/R)
- N. Leonard: Jazz and the White Americans: the Acceptance of a New Art Form (Chicago, 1962)
- A. Baraka [L. Jones]: Blues People: Negro Music in White America (New York, 1963)
- R. Ellison: Shadow and Act (New York, 1964)
- R.S. Gold: A Jazz Lexicon (New York, 1964/R1975 as Jazz Talk)
- A. Baraka [L. Jones]: Black Music (New York, 1967)
- A.P. Merriam and F.H. Garner: “Jazz: the Word,” EthM, xii (1968), 373–96
- M. Stearns and J. Stearns: Jazz Dance: the Story of American Vernacular Dance (New York, 1968, rev. 2/1994 by B. Buffalino)
- R.A. Stebbins: “A Theory of the Jazz Community,” Sociological Quarterly, ix (1968), 318–31
- C.A. Nanry: The Occupational Subculture of the Jazz Musician: Myth and Reality (diss., Rutgers U., 1970)
- W.C. Allen, ed.: Studies in Jazz Discography (Newark, NJ, 1972)
- D. Meeker: Jazz in the Movies (London, 1972, 3/1981)
- G. Stevenson: “Discography: Scientific, Analytical, Historical, and Systematic,” Library Trends, xxi (1972), 101–35
- J. Buerkle and D. Barker: Bourbon Street Black: the New Orleans Black Jazzman (New York, 1973)
- A. Murray: Stomping the Blues (New York, 1976)
- Z. Knauss: Conversations with Jazz Musicians (Detroit, 1977)
- F. Kofsky: “The State of Jazz,” BPM, v (1977), 44–68
- A. Taylor: Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews (Liège, 1977)
- L. Ostransky: Jazz City: the Impact of our Cities on the Development of Jazz (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1978)
- D. Sudnow: Ways of the Hand: the Organization of Improvised Conduct (Cambridge, MA, 1978)
- J.S. Roberts: The Latin Tinge: the Impact of Latin American Music on the United States (New York, 1979, 2/1999)
- M. Gordon: Live at the Village Vanguard (New York, 1980)
- L.A. Erenberg: Steppin’ Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890–1930 (Chicago, 1984)
- B. Rusch: Jazztalk: the Cadence Interviews (Secaucus, NJ, 1984)
- G. Sales: Jazz: America’s Classical Music (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984)
- K. Bilby: “Caribbean Crucible,” Repercussions: a Celebration of African American Music, ed. G. Haydon and D. Marks (London, 1985), 128–51
- U.B. Davis: Paris without Regret: James Baldwin, Kenny Clarke, Chester Himes, and Donald Byrd (Iowa City, IA, 1986)
- R. Ellison: Going to the Territory (New York, 1986)
- A. Baraka and A. Baraka: The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues (New York, 1987)
- D.J. Elliott: “Structure and Feeling in Jazz: Rethinking Philosophical Foundations,” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, no.95 (1987), 13–38
- N. Leonard: Jazz: Myth and Religion (New York, 1987)
- E.S. Meadows: “Ethnomusicology and Jazz Research: a Selective Viewpoint,” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, no.95 (1987), 61–70
- S. DeVeaux: “Bebop and the Recording Industry: the 1942 AMF Recording Ban Reconsidered,” JAMS, lxi (1988), 126–165
- T. Gioia: The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture (New York, 1988)
- H. Gray: Producing Jazz: the Experience of an Independent Record Company (Philadelphia, 1988)
- F.A. Salamone: “The Ritual of Jazz Performance,” Play and Culture, i (1988), 85–104
- G. Early: Tuxedo Junction: Essays on American Culture (New York, 1989)
- M. Gridley and others: “Three Approaches to Defining Jazz,” MQ, lxxiii (1989), 513–31
- R.J. Powell, ed.: The Blues Aesthetic: Black Culture and Modernism (Washington DC, 1989)
- R.T. Buckner and S. Weiland, eds.: Jazz in Mind: Essays on the History and Meanings of Jazz (Detroit, 1991)
- P. Chevigny: Gigs: Jazz and the Cabaret Laws in New York City (New York, 1991)
- G. Tomlinson: “Cultural Dialogics and Jazz: a White Historian Signifies,” BMRJ, xi (1991), 229–64
- R. Crawford: “Notes on Jazz Standards by Black Authors and Composers, 1899–1942,” New Perspectives on Music: Essays in Honor of Eileen Southern, ed. J. Wright and S.A. Floyd (Warren, MI, 1992), 245–87
- R. Crawford and J. Magee: Jazz Standards on Record, 1900–1942: a Core Repertory (Chicago, 1992)
- Y. Hayashi and others: Tokyo Shitamachi Jazzdori (Tokyo, 1992)
- K. Stratemann: Duke Ellington, Day by Day and Film by Film (Copenhagen, 1992)
- P.L. Sunderland: Cultural Meanings and Identity: Women of the African American Art World of Jazz (diss., U. of Vermont, 1992)
- J.L. Collier: Jazz: the American Theme Song (New York, 1993)
- B. Johnson: “Hear me Talkin’ to Ya: Problems of Jazz Discourse,” Popular Music, xii (1993), 1–12
- D. Meltzer, ed.: Reading Jazz (San Francisco, 1993)
- G.L. Starks Jr: “Jazz Literature and the African American Aesthetic,” The African Aesthetic: Keeper of the Traditions, ed. K. Welsh-Asante (Westport, CT, 1993), 143–57
- C. Keil and S. Feld, eds.: Music Grooves: Essays and Dialogues (Chicago, 1994)
- W. Marsalis and F. Stewart: Sweet Swing Blues on the Road (New York, 1994)
- S. DeVeaux: Jazz in America: Who’s Listening (Carson, CA, 1995)
- S.A. Floyd Jr: The Power of Black Music: Interpreting its History from Africa to the United States (New York, 1995)
- K. Gabbard, ed.: Jazz among the Discourses (Durham, NC, 1995)
- K. Gabbard, ed.: Representing Jazz (Durham, NC, 1995)
- W. Minor: Unzipped Souls: a Jazz Journey through the Soviet Union (Philadelphia, 1995)
- T. Owens: Bebop: the Music and the Players (New York, 1995)
- K. Gabbard: Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema (Chicago, 1996)
- R. Gottlieb, ed.: Reading Jazz: a Gathering of Autobiography, Reportage, and Criticism from 1919 to Now (New York, 1996)
- D. Chevan: Written Music in Early Jazz (diss., City U. of New York, 1997)
- R.G. O’Meally, ed: The Jazz Cadence of American Culture (New York, 1998)
- K. Negus: Music Genres and Corporate Cultures (London, 1999)
- R. Walser, ed.: Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History (New York, 1999) [incl. E. Ansermet: “A ‘Serious’ Musician Takes Jazz Seriously,” 9–11]
- J. Gennari: Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics (Chicago, 2006)
- A.S. Currie: Sound Visions: an Ethnographic Study of Avant-Garde Jazz in New York City (diss., New York U., 2009)
- D. Ake, C.H. Garrett, and D. Goldmark, eds.: Jazz/Not Jazz: the Music and its Boundaries (Berkeley, 2012)