Paper Session
Nov 11, 2021 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211111T1200 20211111T1250 America/Chicago Describing Jazz AMS 2021
Dirty Tricks and Hot Licks: Text, Sound, and Style in Early Jazz Method Books
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 18:50:00 UTC

The delineation of genre has long fascinated and troubled historiographers of early jazz; the lines between jazz, blues, ragtime, popular song, and related forms were frequently indistinct. Early jazz method books often attempted to bring clarity to this confused situation, in varied ways and with differing results. In offering methodologies for learning to perform the music, early jazz pedagogues did more than simply point to ways of playing; they made crucial contributions to the very definitions of jazz itself.

Building on Lawrence Gushee's 2009 study of terminology in "middle period" jazz, this paper presents an overview and analysis of such publications, especially on the developing language of jazz solo style. In one notable example, the 1927 text _Trix Trombonix_ by Lester Brockton (a pseudonym for band composer Mayhew Lake used in a number of such publications) presents three particular approaches to the construction of a jazz solo: "clean" jazz playing is consonant with the underlying harmonic framework. "Dirt" playing, by contrast, leans on the use of dissonance juxtaposed against the tune. Between these approaches lies "hot" playing, in which slurs and glissandi play a central role. An exploration of the distinctions between such categories will be a key consideration in this analysis.

Whereas Gushee's study focused primarily on lexicology, this paper directly addresses the particular musical content of early jazz method books, using Brockton's work as an example. In providing clear, prescriptive musical examples, pedagogical writers were engaged in an act of defining what the music _was_in both discursive and sonic terms. Brockton and his peers created a direct link between jazz performance practice, and the language used to describe it. By engaging directly with the musical content of such works, I hope to illuminate an often-overlooked area in early jazz studies, namely, the development of pedagogical materials and discourses designed to facilitate fluency in what was then a loosely defined genre.

Ken Prouty
Michigan State University
“What to Do Over the Week-End": Towards an Understanding of Distraction, Advertising, and Newspaper Coverage of the Kansas City Jazz Scene in the 1930s
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 18:50:00 UTC

In his Empty Moments, Leo Charney traces the increasingly "distracted" state of the modern city dweller in the early 1900s, noting the "reconceptualization of attention into peaks and valleys provided a regulated structure whereby forms of entertainment endeavored to control the participant's potential for unpredictably fluctuating attention." (1998:77) In the 1930s, everyday Kansas Citians distracted themselves in numerous ways following the work week and often turned to print media to discover the best place to enjoy jazz in the Midwest's vice capital. Like most cities, several newspapers served "Kaycee," notably the Kansas City Star and the Kansas City Journal-Post. Relatedly, the Kansas City Call was an important social mechanism for African Americans newly emigrated from the South. What one notices after examining these newspapers is: 1) nightclub advertisements bombard readers with vibrant sensory details-activating visual, aural, tactile, and even olfactory responses-designed to attract patrons and promote a venue's opulence and 2) the portrayal of the jazz/entertainment scene differs markedly depending on the source. 

In Ben Highmore's Ordinary Lives, Highmore echoes Charney by advocating for the concept that "distraction is often a form of vacillation of attention and sometimes fascination and that it can be a productive state for encountering the new in everyday life." (2011:119) When Highmore develops an aesthetic of distraction as "at once larger, less bounded [than concentration] and requires more nimble forms of attention," (120) he employs the work of early "distraction theorists" Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer and their examination of large German movie houses as "palaces of distraction." Kracauer's observation in 1926-"Spotlights shower their beams into the auditorium, sprinkling across festive drapes or rippling through colorful, organic-looking glass fixtures. The orchestra [is] … buttressed by the … lighting" (Quoted in Highmore 2011: 120)-likely resonated with readers of the aforementioned newspapers, accustomed to equally vivid prose describing numerous clubs in Kansas City. Applying Ben Highmore's concept of "distraction" this paper argues that "distraction advertising" paradoxically unifies-through everyday dynamics like race, sexuality, class, and even food/drink-each newspaper's depiction of the "Amusements" section while reinforcing target socio-economic, political, and racial readership demographics.

Anthony Bushard
University Of Nebraska, Lincoln
The Search for Alternative Models: Critical Pedagogy and Jazz Historiography
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 18:50:00 UTC

The history of jazz scholarship is teeming with epoch-defining moments that shape the field's discursive method, unannounced presuppositions, and even the stories worthy of a written account. From the teleological motivation informing Gunther Schuller's "Sonny Rollins and the Challenge of Thematic Improvisation" to the reflexive Derridean methodology underpinning Scott Devaux's "Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography", discourse grows ever more aware of itself as a political tool. Foucault describes this moment as an epistemological rupture, bubbling up and revealing itself, subsequently aiding in the creation of new structures underlying the production of knowledge in a particular time and place. Indeed, music theorist Philip Ewell's "Music Theory and the White Racial Frame" marks such a fracture.

Similar to Ewell's study, this paper uses Joe Feagin's sociological model to examine whiteness in the field of jazz studies. While jazz music remains an afro diasporic means of music creation and community building, white males make up a vast majority of the discipline's scholarly output. What implications does this have for our understanding of the music and its larger political ramifications? Despite many academics addressing racial, gender, and sexual polemics, they often operate from an unmarked Eurocentric epistemology. This study first discusses how whiteness functions in jazz discourse, the numerous responses by black aestheticians and scholars throughout jazz historiography, and suggests two emerging trends in theoretical work that offer a way forward: critical phenomenology and critical aesthetics.

Lee Caplan
University Of Pittsburgh
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
University of Pittsburgh
Michigan State University
No attendee has checked-in to this session!
Upcoming Sessions (Local time)