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Session 3-48
Jazz Off-Record: Researching "Lost" Jazz Histories

Ajay Heble (University of Guelph and Artistic Director, The Guelph Jazz Festival), Chair

 

This panel takes seriously observations of jazz studies scholars and writers who have argued that jazz historiography all too often winds up documenting the history of jazz records, privileging particular jazz performances, practices, and subjects selected by the gatekeepers of the record companies, while leaving many other jazz practices, artists, and social meanings that were not pressed into vinyl off the historical record. The panelists will share their diverse interdisciplinary methodologies and stakes, as well as discuss the challenges of researching jazz "off record," in such disparate sites as political alliances between African Americans and Africans facilitated by State Department jazz tours in the 1950s; collaborations between Italian and Jewish musicians in early New Orleans jazz; early history of Canadian jazz musicians and jazz in Canada; and the jazz practices of "all-girl" bands and historically black colleges. While the historical project of each panelist is distinct, all confront challenges in crafting jazz histories to counter received notions of what counts as jazz history; to ask who constitutes an "authentic" jazz subject and where can "authentic" jazz be played; and to raise questions about the complex political, cultural, and social meanings that have been struggled over, expressed, resisted, and negotiated in a range of historically situated jazz practices.

 

Jazz And Politics, Off the Record
Ingrid Monson (Washington University, St. Louis)

As important as audio recordings have been in documenting the musical process of jazz improvisation, their fetishization has resulted in entire histories of jazz based primarily on their reception, canonization, and documentation, to the exclusion of broader modes of historical inquiry. Overlooked in these accounts are musicians who were never (or only sporadically) recorded and the performances of major bands in unusual contexts such as political events and state department tours. This paper will focus on several performances "off the record" which provide insight into the global and domestic politicization of jazz in the 1960s. Based on materials from the archives of the State Department Cultural Presentations Program and records of civil rights organizations, Louis Armstrong's tour of Africa in 1960 (during the Congo crisis), Duke Ellington's tour of the Middle East in 1963, and Ellington's performance at Leopold Senghor's First World Festival of Negro Arts in 1966 will document the State Department's attempt to use the global prestige of jazz for its own purposes. Benefit concerts in the wake of the Freedom Rides (1961), and the Mississippi Freedom Summer (1964) document the participation of jazz musicians in the domestic struggle for civil rights. Emerging from this analysis is an argument for placing jazz recordings within a broader social and cultural framework of inquiry.

 

Stars of David and Sons of Sicily: Constellations Beyond the Canon in Early New Orleans Jazz
Bruce Boyd Raeburn (Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University)

This paper will examine the activities and contributions of Jewish and Sicilian-American (including Arbresh) jazz musicians on the New Orleans scene, 1900-1940, noting particularly the dynamics of interaction prevalent among these and African-American/Afro-French musicians, the roles available to these musicians within the jazz/legitimate music context, and aspects of transformation over time. Among the musicians discussed will be Marcus and Montague Korn, Mike Caplan, Charlie Fischbein, Godfrey Hirsch, David Winstein, and Meyer Weinberg; Arnold "Deacon" Loyacano, Margiotta Brothers, Nick LaRocca, Leon Roppolo, Anthony Parenti, Joseph "Wingy" Mannone, Sharkey Bonano, Louis Prima, Luke Schiro, and others.

 

Dear Old Northland: Embracing the History of Jazz in Canada
Mark Miller (Toronto Globe and Mail)

Jazz was introduced to Canada in 1914 when Freddie Keppard and the New Orleans Creole Ragtime Band (a.k.a. the Original Creole Orchestra) toured the Pantages vaudeville circuit in Western Canada. Despite the music's remarkably early arrival in this country, it was not until the publication in 1997 of Such Melodious Racket: The Lost History of Jazz in Canada, 1914-1949-- 83 years later --that an effort was made to document its dissemination and development on a national basis. This paper will review the attitudes behind this oversight, the sources for this research, the relationship between jazz and its history in Canada and jazz and its history more generally-- i.e., as accepted in the United States-- and the effect of this relationship on the Canadian perception of jazz in Canada.

 

Historically Black Colleges and "All-Girl" Bands: What If Jazz History Included the Prairie View Co-eds?
Sherrie Tucker (Women's Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges)

This paper will examine the history (and historical omission) of the Prairie View Co-eds, an African-American all-female big band based at Prairie View A & M during World War II. Drawn from a much larger project on "all-girl" big bands during World War II, this paper draws from interviews with seven musicians who played in the Prairie View Co-eds in the 1940s, as well as extensive secondary research in trade magazines, African-American newspapers, and publicity, annuals, and bulletins from the archives at Prairie View University. Kelso B. Morris has recently pointed out that the role of dance bands from historically black college is greatly under-estimated in jazz historiography. Indeed, the role of black college women in such musical organizations is even less acknowledged. This paper examines the race, gender, class, and other social implications of envisioning a jazz historical framework that includes the Prairie View Co-eds.

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