Representing Jazz

Representing Jazz

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 39 b&w photographs Published: May 1995

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Music > Jazz

Traditional jazz studies have tended to see jazz in purely musical terms, as a series of changes in rhythm, tonality, and harmony, or as a parade of great players. But jazz has also entered the cultural mix through its significant impact on novelists, filmmakers, dancers, painters, biographers, and photographers. Representing Jazz explores the "other" history of jazz created by these artists, a history that tells us as much about the meaning of the music as do the many books that narrate the lives of musicians or describe their recordings.
Krin Gabbard has gathered essays by distinguished writers from a variety of fields. They provide engaging analyses of films such as Round Midnight, Bird, Mo’ Better Blues, Cabin in the Sky, and Jammin’ the Blues; the writings of Eudora Welty and Dorothy Baker; the careers of the great lindy hoppers of the 1930s and 1940s; Mura Dehn’s extraordinary documentary on jazz dance; the jazz photography of William Claxton; painters of the New York School; the traditions of jazz autobiography; and the art of "vocalese." The contributors to this volume assess the influence of extramusical sources on our knowledge of jazz and suggest that the living contexts of the music must be considered if a more sophisticated jazz scholarship is ever to evolve. Transcending the familiar patterns of jazz history and criticism, Representing Jazz looks at how the music actually has been heard and felt at different levels of American culture.
With its companion anthology, Jazz Among the Discourses, this volume will enrich and transform the literature of jazz studies. Its provocative essays will interest both aficionados and potential jazz fans.

Contributors. Karen Backstein, Leland H. Chambers, Robert P. Crease, Krin Gabbard, Frederick Garber, Barry K. Grant, Mona Hadler, Christopher Harlos, Michael Jarrett, Adam Knee, Arthur Knight, James Naremore


Jazz among the Discourses and Representing Jazz represent something of an academic turning point in the mainstreaming of jazz studies in American academic circles. . . . [In] Representing Jazz . . . Gabbard has collected [a] dozen papers that explore the cross-fertilization of jazz in other media. Central to the argument of this collection is a challenge to the evolutionary, chronological model of jazz criticism. Instead, these critics situate jazz in its cultural moment, examining the racist and colonialist, the literary and filmic, undertaking a gestalt jazz criticism. . . . [T]hese essays provide a new dimension, another history of jazz.” — , Antioch Review

“[A] consistent sharpness, and impressively deft adaptation of both Jazz and the discursive channels that have for decades made meaning of this temporal phenomenon. Theory . . . throttles these collections into revealing that Jazz and contemporary thought are indeed compatible and mutually illuminating. Aiding and abetting the critical listener and viewer/reader, Gabbard’s selection of articles alone is worth commendation. . . . Gabbard has done a skillful service for the reader interested in collecting contemporary writings on Jazz. Likewise, those working in film studies, performance theory, and literary study will do well to peruse Representing Jazzs many facets and disciplinary hoppings.” — , Cadence

“[I]mportant for studying the interconnections between music, culture, and society. . . . [The contributors] share a commitment to understanding the complexity of the music they champion. Their efforts in opening up new perspectives for the analysis of music must be commended.” — , American Book Review

“[T]hese collections contain some real gems.” — Lee B. Brown , Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

“[T]hought-provoking, illuminating, and extremely valuable contributions reveal areas for further investigation and study. This is more than sufficient reason for these volumes to be in all academic libraries. Jazz scholarship is long overdue, and Gabbard’s collection deserves attention from those who are serious about this music because it demonstrates that there is another approach to the subject.” — , Choice

“Both anthologies will provide valuable material for the serious student of jazz. . . . And the average reader with an interest in jazz will find some stimulating reading here.” — Allegro

“Krin Gabbard, a specialist on jazz in cinema, has assembled two welcome volumes on jazz that include contributions from the fields of film, literature, dance, musicology, history, and art history. The collections share a commitment to developing an interdisciplinary vision for jazz studies that includes engagement with postmodern and poststructural critical theories. . . . Historians of American music are likely to find Jazz among the Discourses a particularly useful volume, since it emphasizes historiographic issues and collects several important previously published works.” — , American Music

“Specialists in Jazz studies will need to contend with many of the claims made in these volumes, and social historians and scholars interested in American popular culture will certainly find valuable scholarship here. . . . Reading the volumes is rather like listening to a many-layered musical call and response between contributors.” — , Journal of American History

“The essays in Representing Jazz and Jazz among the Discourses, companion anthologies edited by Krin Gabbard, seek to dismantle constricting definitions of jazz by exposing the music—as it has been played, imagined, and conceptualized—to interpretive methods in critical theory and cultural studies.” — , Voice Literary Supplement

"Bringing together all these pieces in one place is startling, and should jump-start the field of jazz studies by demonstrating, convincingly, that it need not be conducted as a bad imitation of 1950s musicology. Gabbard is to be commended not only for encouraging these diverse intellects to work on jazz, but also for gathering such an appealing and balanced collection. It works well as an overview of the possibilities of the field, while exploring idiosyncratic areas with great zeal." — Scott DeVeaux, University of Virginia

"If it is true that new knowledge always demands new tools, then we are surely on the way to a paradigm shift with the publication of Krin Gabbard’s two masterful anthologies of jazz. The wonderful introductions—in themselves masterpieces of preparation for a new discipline—are complemented in every way by a variety of absolutely first-rate writing. We may well be glancing with these anthologies through the telescope that will show us the future of jazz studies in the international academy. These are indispensable tools for anyone who wishes to understand sociology and philosophy of knowledge for our era." — Houston A. Baker, Jr.

"One of the strongest jazz anthologies I have seen. Its focus is original. Jazz in literature has been treated before to some extent, but not in the same fashion, and there is little elsewhere on jazz in dance or jazz and the visual arts."— of — Lewis Porter, author, with Michael Ullman, of Jazz: From Its Origins to the Present


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Krin Gabbard is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Writing the Other History / Krin Gabbard 1

Jazz in Literature and Film

Jammin' the Blues, or the Sight of Jazz, 1944 / Arthur Knight 11

Improvising and Mythmaking in Eudora Welty's "Powerhouse" / Leland H. Chambers 54

Fabulating Jazz / Frederick Garber 70

Signifyin(g) the Phallus: Mo' Better Blues and Representations of the Jazz Trumpet / Krin Gabbard 104

Jazz Autobiography: Theory, Practice, Politics / Christopher Harlos 131

Excursus: Cabin in the Sky

Uptown Folk: Blackness and Entertainment in Cabin in the Sky / James Naremore 169

Doubling, Music, and Race in Cabin in the Sky / Adam Knee 193

Jazz and Dance

Divine Frivolity: Hollywood Representations of the Lindy Hop, 1937–1942 / Robert P. Crease 207

Keeping the Spirit Alive: The Jazz Dance Testament of Mura Dehn / Karen Backstein 229

Picturing Jazz

Jazz and the New York School / Mona Hadler 247

The Tenor's Vehicle: Reading Way Out West / Michael Jarrett 260

Vocalese: Representing Jazz with Jazz

Purple Passages of Fiestas in Blue? Notes Toward an Aesthetic of Vocalese / Barry Keith Grant 285

Contributors 305

Index 307
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1594-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1579-7
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