doi:10.1558/jazz.v6i1.5

 

 

 

 

Editorial

Catherine Tackley and Tony Whyton

The articles included in this issue of the Jazz Research Journal were not intended to form a themed issue but, in fact, the research presented here addresses, in contrasting ways, the idea of marginalisation within what is often perceived as a marginalised genre in itself, and/or the conventional margins of jazz scholarship which are often productively broached in the pages of the JRJ. With regard to the former, awareness of the politics of the jazz canon in the wake of seminal and fundamental work by Krin Gabbard and Scott DeVeaux inter alia is continuing to bear fruit. This now takes the form of research into jazz that was and/or has been (not always the same thing) marginalised, work which is not only motivated by a well-intentioned but sometimes misguided desire to act as advocates and ‘put the record straight’, but also driven to understand the very processes and decisions which are brought to bear on the production, dissemination, reception and historicisation of music and musicians in the modern age. This includes development of a self-critical awareness on the part of jazz scholars and historians in recognition of their particular positions, often retrospective and ‘outsider’, with regard to the music that they are studying and the ways in which we are all empowered to contribute, productively or otherwise, to ongoing discourses and perceptions of the music.

Just as there is a thin line between tragedy and comedy, so in jazz there are idiosyncratic ideas about what constitutes success and failure to the extent that one might well transmogrify into the other. John G. Rodwan, Jnr. takes the multi-instrumentalist and composer Sam Rivers as a case study for addressing the ways in which a figure who was central to jazz for an extended period has been in effect written out of its history as a ‘forgotten man’. Rodwan demonstrates how the very infrastructure of jazz – its magazines, books and record labels, the construction of its history around movements, scenes and locations, and a lack of investigation into and therefore limited understanding of the extent and complexity of largely undocumented relationships which existed between musicians – can have a fundamental effect on our perceptions. Andrew Dubber’s ‘Keep Up with the Changes: online strategies for national jazz agencies’ also explores the infrastructures for jazz, but in the specific context of present day Europe. Drawing on theories and methodologies from media studies, Dubber offers insights into the contemporary interplay between local, national and global settings through an exploration of the relationships between perceptions and use of the internet by European national music centres and jazz agencies.

The remaining two articles in this issue are concerned with jazz as embedded within other media; specifically, film and literature. Simone Varriale’s ‘Rockin’ the jazz biopic: changing images of African American musicians in Hollywood biographical films’ examines cinematic representations of musicians with a particular focus on race. As such, his discussion of films about jazz musicians draws productively and comparatively on the wider context of representation of African American musicians from other genres, and therefore engages with the idea of jazz as ‘popular’ music, in the multiple ‘negotiated’ meanings of the term. Finally, in ‘All the metaphors you are: conceptual mappings of bebop in James Baldwin’s ‘Sonny’s Blues’ and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road Julian Levinson furthers previous work in this area by going beyond observing descriptions of jazz and relating this to authors’ biographies, but exploring more fundamentally how jazz is incorporated into particular narratives and the metaphoric function that it fulfils.

Research into the rich and complex presence of jazz in film, literature, online, and within European culture and cultural policy is very welcome in this journal, as we continue to champion the study of jazz in all its forms and manifestations. We believe that trying to understand the many various ways in which jazz operates in the twenty-first century can contribute to an understanding of, on the one hand, how genres are developed within particular national cultures and, on the other hand, the ways in which music which has origins in a particular place is disseminated and variously received and understood throughout the world. To those that perhaps feel more comfortable within the conventional limits of jazz scholarship, the study of the ‘music itself’ if we dare use that term, we suggest that these papers demonstrate a rich context for jazz musicking that scholars, musicians, and critics neglect at their peril.