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One of the inevitable rites of passage for graduate school in the humanities comes in that fateful seminar grappling with the intellectual legacy of what is vaguely termed Social Theory. That is exactly what I’m up to this quarter at UCLA, in a seminar aptly titled “Integrating Theory With Ethnography,” taught by the esteemed music scholar Timothy D. Taylor. In this class, we read a whole bunch of this Social Theory stuff and then figure out on our own how to integrate it into our own ethnographic work with music.
After having spent the last year or so “in the trenches” of the jazz business, this Social Theory is having all sorts of interesting and strange resonances with my experiences there. This week, it struck me especially hard as I read Max Weber’s famous book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. As I see it, Weber’s insights have particular relevance for the current challenges facing the jazz community. Read the rest of this entry »
When I reviewed Bruce Boyd Raeburn’s New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History, I thought that I would be able to offer more insight into what I have been reading for my M.A. at Rutgers. Life has since intervened, but after finishing Blues People by LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka) last night, I am compelled to revive the concept.
The book, the first book on jazz by an African American author, offers a compelling and comprehensive narrative based on what he calls “the Negro experience in White America.” Working chronologically forward from early slavery, Jones offers prescient analysis and a cohesive framework for thinking about jazz and its African American legacy.
Despite the academic language, the book overflows with the author’s passion for the music. The author’s love for his favorite musicians — Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman in particular — is deeply felt. He even offers some musical analysis that resonates with the musician in me — a true rarity among most jazz writing. Furthermore, the concepts that Jones lays out in the early chapters carry through into his analysis of more modern music, and the changes in context that he documents are fascinating. Read the rest of this entry »
As I mentioned earlier, the year 2010 will see me delving deeply into the still-emerging field of jazz academia. As a part of that process, I’m going to be reading a lot of books and articles. Furthermore, I am going to be summarizing and commenting on their contents for my own research.
Given that, I thought that Lubricity would be a good place for me to share these thoughts, and provide a place for others to share their own opinions on the subjects that these books discuss, all of which are relevant to the current issues of jazz writing to which I have always paid particular attention here at the blog.
The first book that I’ve been reading, New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History by Bruce Boyd Raeburn, has been a real eye-opener. The book takes a look at how “New Orleans style” has been codified. He cleverly posits that the rigid understanding of the style that began to develop in the late 1930s — instrumentation, repertoire, etc. — was influenced primarily not by New Orleans musicians, but by record collectors: a white, educated, leftist parallel culture that developed alongside recorded jazz. Read the rest of this entry »