Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries

Overview

What is jazz? What is gained—and what is lost—when various communities close ranks around a particular definition of this quintessentially American music? Jazz/Not Jazz explores some of the musicians, concepts, places, and practices which, while deeply connected to established jazz institutions and aesthetics, have rarely appeared in traditional histories of the form. David Ake, Charles Hiroshi Garrett, and Daniel Goldmark have assembled a stellar group of writers to look beyond the canon of acknowledged jazz ...

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Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries

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Overview

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

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A sterling collection of writings. . . . There are no misfires. This collection will be useful for decades to come. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice
Choice - G. A. Akkerman
“A sterling collection of writings. . . . There are no misfires. This collection will be useful for decades to come. . . . Highly recommended.”
Popular Music - Alison Eales
"it will be interesting to observe the impact that this collection of unusual, entertaining and thought-provoking perspectives has on jazz studies."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520271043
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 1,057,004
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David Ake is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Nevada Reno, and the author of Jazz Cultures and Jazz Matters: Sound, Place and Time Since Bebop, (both UC Press). Charles Hiroshi Garrett is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Michigan and the author of Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music in the Twentieth Century, (UC Press). Daniel Goldmark is Associate Professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author and co-author of three books for UC Press: Tunes for ‘Toons, Beyond the Soundtrack, and Funny Pictures: Animation and Comedy in Hollywood

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Read an Excerpt

Jazz / Not Jazz

The Music and Its Boundaries


By David Ake, Charles Hiroshi Garrett, Daniel Goldmark

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS

Copyright © 2012 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-95135-8



CHAPTER 1

Incorporation and Distinction in Jazz History and Jazz Historiography

ERIC PORTER


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Jazz / Not Jazz by David Ake, Charles Hiroshi Garrett, Daniel Goldmark. Copyright © 2012 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments


Introduction

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

2. Louis Armstrong Loves Guy Lombardo
Elijah Wald

3. The Humor of Jazz
Charles Hiroshi Garrett

4. Creating Boundaries in the Virtual Jazz Community
Ken Prouty

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Crossing the Street: Rethinking Jazz Education
David Ake

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

Contributors

Index

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