Way out East

cowboys and pioneer women on Berlin's jazz frontier


  • William Kirk Bares University of North Carolina, Asheville




European jazz, gender, nationalism, race, sexuality


Making sense of Europe’s ascendancy in the jazz world entails connecting and contrasting the ways American and European jazz musicians and communities use modalities of race, class, age, gender, sexuality and regional identity to assert proximity and distance within local, national and international contexts. This article argues that the ‘frontier’—conceptualized as both an actual place distinguished by a geographical and cultural distance from the American mainstream, and also as a constellation of ideas reconfigured by jazz musicians in the process of carving out their own self-reliant musical identities—offers one fruitful meeting-point for comparison. Riffing on historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s influential frontier thesis (1920) that cast the Western frontier as the quintessential site of Americanization, the broad issue considered is how the frontier, like jazz, can be appropriated and recoded as a new site of Europeanization by jazz musicians in Berlin.

Author Biography

William Kirk Bares, University of North Carolina, Asheville

Jazz pianist/scholar William Kirk Bares has taught at Harvard University, Brown University, Suffolk University, the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, and is now director of jazz studies at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. He has spent the past decade conducting fieldwork among jazz communities in Europe, and has published related work in Darmstädter Beiträge zur Jazzforschung, American Music Notes, and the Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2nd ed. He is currently preparing his dissertation, Eternal Triangle: American Jazz in European Postmodern, for publication


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How to Cite

Bares, W. K. (2013). Way out East: cowboys and pioneer women on Berlin’s jazz frontier. Jazz Research Journal, 6(2), 170–200. https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v6i2.170