A Study in Jazz Historiography: The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

October 1, 1989

A Study in Jazz Historiography: The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

The word monumental has been overused in recent years in connection with the New Grove Dictionaries, but there seems to be no adequate substitute for describing the new addition to the series, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (hereafter, JazzGrove), published in November 1988. Its coverage is exhaustive, almost breathtaking: the work includes more than 4,500 entries, which give detailed attention to biographies and the origins, styles, and history of the music; some 220 photographs, many of them not previously published; more than 100 music examples; more than 1,800 selective discographies; and extensive reading lists for most of the articles as well as a comprehensive bibliography—all this brought together in a large-size, handsome, two-volume work of 1,400 pages with double-column format.

Editor Barry Kernfeld, the presiding genius over this monumental work, certainly has succeeded in his ambition to apply to JazzGrove the same "principles of lexicographical organization and scholarly presentation" (l:viii) as found in recent Grove Dictionaries. His able assistants include Consultant Editor Alyn Shipton, Managing Editor Rosemary Roberts, Series Editor Stanley Sadie, and some 250 contributors, experts in their fields, from all over the world.

Although the genesis of JazzGrove is to be found in the 400 jazz articles of The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (hereafter, AmeriGrove), the editor states that "most have been revised, some extensively so" (l:viii), and with the addition of the new articles, 90 percent of the material in the work is new. The articles fall into six broad categories: first, on individuals (more than 3,000), largely performers but also composers, arrangers, and other important figures in the world of jazz; second, on musical groups of all types; third, on styles, topics, and terms; fourth, on instruments; fifth, on record companies and labels; and sixth, on institutions, including festivals, nightclubs and other venues, and libraries and archives. Readers seeking information on almost any aspect of jazz are sure to find it here; in addition to the more than 1,000 cross references, the dictionary has "an interlocking hierarchical structure" (l:viii) that sets up a network of entries related to lead articles.

JazzGrove undoubtedly is unique among works of its kind in that its subject is defined in a key article, the comprehensive historical essay "jazz," by James Lincoln Collier (1:580-606). It was to Collier's article I went after having given the two volumes a preliminary examination, and there found plenty to stimulate the imagination. Remembering that modern jazz scholarship relies chiefly on oral history and recordings as its primary source materials, I wondered about a historiography for the nineteenth-century precursors of jazz, which of course would have to use printed sources as primary materials. How were these pre-jazz musics viewed by music historians, journalist-critics, professional musicians, and other commentators of the time? For that matter, what is the place of jazz today in the historiography of American music? My aim in the present essay is to address these issues and related ones.

Collier's definition lists the genres he regards as contributors to "the making of jazz": plantation and minstrel songs, ragtime, and blues.1 Of the several streams of black folk music that flowed into twentieth-century jazz, the largest comprised vocal forms—spirituals, worksongs, field hollers, street cries and other urban forms, and, later, the blues. Writings about this music date back to colonial times, but it was not until after the Civil War, when white Americans, particularly New Englanders, first came into close contact with slaves and freedmen, that a movement got under way for collecting and transcribing the songs. As pioneering collector Thomas W. Higginson pointed out:

The war brought to some of us, beside its direct experiences, many a strange fulfillment of dreams of other days. For instance, the present writer had been a faithful student of the Scottish ballads and had always envied Sir Walter [Scott] the delight of tracing them out amid their own heather, and of writing them down piecemeal from the lips of aged crones. It was a strange enjoyment, therefore, to be suddenly brought into the midst of a kindred world of unwritten songs, as simple and indigenous as the Border Minstrelsy, more uniformly plaintive, almost always more quaint, and often as essentially poetic.2

Slave Songs of the United States (New York: A. Simpson, 1867) was compiled by William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison, all three well qualified by training and musical talent to compile the first historic collection of African-American folk music.3 For the music historian the work's thirty-six-page preface is almost as valuable as the 136 songs it contains. Written by Allen, an able amateur musician and later eminent historian, the essay includes detailed analysis of the song materials and performance practice, and identification of the contributors and the geographical sources of the songs. Additionally, the head- and foot-notes that accompany many songs indicate the circumstances under which the songs were sung and other matters of historical interest.

The collection created a vogue for the publication of black folksong collections that has lasted to the present; more important, it set high standards for description and analysis, to which future writers had to measure up if they would be taken seriously. Quite simply, the collection is a landmark in the history of American music, the starting point for a pre-jazz historiography.

Allen's most important successors include Thomas Higginson, informant on and collector of the songs of black servicemen; Theodore F. Seward, Gustavus D. Pike, J. B. T. Marsh, and Frederick Loudin, all of whom reported on the music of the Fisk Jubilee Singers (editions published from 1872 to 1903) as editors, collectors, or transcribers; Thomas P. Fenner, Mary Ford Armstrong, Helen W. Hampton, Frederic C. Rathbun, and Bessie Cleaveland, collector-transcribers and editors of the song collections of the Hampton Student Singers (editions published from 1874 to 1916); Marshall W. Taylor, compiler of A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies (1882); and William Eleazar Barton, collector-transcriber of Old Plantation Hymns (1899). All these collectors recognized African-American folksong as a distinctive repertory with its own special features; in all the collections may be found musical analysis, description of performance practice, and discussion of the social-cultural context of the music.

The plantation songs also were discussed in music histories, of which the earliest was James Monroe Trotter's Music and Some Highly Musical People . . . (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1878), his "humble volume" on the "art-capabilities of the colored race." Trotter's achievement is extraordinary, particularly as a self-taught music historian: no writer had ever before attempted to assess an American music on the level he undertook, cutting across genres, styles, and cultures, and including representative musical compositions of a dozen contemporary composers. Like contemporaneous writers of the time, Trotter assigned first place in his hierarchy of musical values to European-style composition and performance; but as a black he appreciated the rich body of folksong his people had developed over the years of slavery, believing that "in certain of their forms of melodic expressions [i.e., the slave songs] is to be found our only distinctly American music; all other kinds in use being merely the echo, more or less perfect, of music that originated in the Old World."4

Trotter devotes a chapter to the Fisk Jubilee Singers, as the pioneering disseminators of the slave songs, and three pages to description of plantation music in general. Having had no personal contact with slavery, he quotes liberally from Frances Anne Kemble, in Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1863), and Theodore F. Seward, transcriber of the Fisk Jubilee Singers collections (as stated above).

Five years after Trotter, Frederic Louis Ritter published his Music in America (New York: Scribner, 1883), the nation's first American-music history, which was popular enough to warrant the publishing of a second edition in 1890. Sympathetic to Trotter's thesis—and the conventional wisdom of the time—that the folksong of the southern Negro was the "only distinctive American music," Ritter devotes nine pages to discussion of the slave songs in the chapter entitled "The Cultivation of Popular Music." Like Trotter, he calls upon an authoritative source for documentation, an anonymous article published in the New York Evening Post (no date is given), whose writer had had first-hand contact with slaves. Ritter's account is useful for its detailed discussion of melodic features, "rhythmic precision," vocal quality, performance practice, and texts; and it is important as history's first scholarly appraisal of the slave songs as a body of music.5

Substantive articles about plantation music were published during the turn of the century in both popular periodicals and such professional magazines as the Musical Gazette (New York), Music Review (Chicago), Musical Record (Boston), Musical Visitor (Cincinnati), the Etude, and the Journal of American Folk-Lore, as well as Hampton Institute's Southern Workman. And a few music historians reported on the songs of the slave, their musical instruments, and the new music called ragtime; among them, Louis C. Elson, W. L. Hubbard, and Frank Kidson.6 Finally came Henry Krehbiel's definitive study, Folksongs: A Study in Racial and National Music (New York: G. Schirmer, 1914); which may be regarded as a summary report on the state of the art of Afro-American folksong at the close of the nineteenth century.

Collier's list of "subforms" omits an important genre, plantation dance music, that contributed to "the making of jazz." This dance music, which represents a primary link between the plantation and the jazz arena, may be defined as follows: it was functional, intended only for accompanying the dance; it was instrumental, showing a preference for certain instruments; and it had a distinctive performance practice.

It is not to be expected that this "trivial" music would have engaged the attention of serious scholars and folksong collectors in the same way as did the so-called Negro spiritual and other plantation songs, but if the standards for accepting the evidence of primary materials can be shifted somewhat so as to include the writings of journalists, European visitors, American travelers, local historians, even housewives, it becomes clear that the historiography for jazz dates back farther than heretofore believed. Few of the hundreds of writers who commented on slave music in the nineteenth century failed to note the exotic dancing that took place on the plantations and street corners of urban communities. Their numerous reports, when pieced together from widely scattered sources, permit a substantial view of this dance music.7

Again and again the sources indicate the basic dance-music combination (hereafter, combo) on the plantation to be a three-piece group consisting of fiddle, banjo, and small percussion—the bones of a cow or horse used as castanets or genuine castenets, triangle, tambourine, and folk-crafted types. Variants of this combo might include a small drum or, more frequently, pattin' juba, for which a description is in order:

Patting, accompanied with one of those unmeaning songs, composed rather for its adaptation to a certain tune or measure, than for the purpose of expressing any distinct idea . . . is performed by striking the hands on the knees, then striking the hands together, then striking the right shoulder with one hand, the left with the other—all the while keeping time with the feet.8

While the three-piece combo was the norm, larger groups were not uncommon. For example, a slave wedding in Natchez, Mississippi (described in the 1850s) drew on the services of three fiddles, a banjo, and castanets; a Christmas party on a Louisiana plantation (discussed in the 1860s) used music provided by a fiddle, two banjos, tambourine, kettledrum, and a tin pan.

Iconographical evidence is offered by pictorial sources of the time, particularly the engraved illustrations that filled the popular weekly and monthly magazines. The depiction of a slave ball in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1853 shows a combo composed of two straight trumpets, bones, tambourine, and string bass. Brass instruments appeared at dances, even in the slave era, more frequently than generally realized: a picture of 1871 depicting a plantation wedding in retrospect shows the trumpet in combination with a string bass; for another plantation dance, depicted in 1889, the fiddle-banjo pair is joined by a cornet. A dance combo photographed in 1897 shows the fiddle-banjo pair joined by a trombone and string bass.

In the cities one went to the red-light districts to hear the dance music of black bands. In New York City's notorious Five Points area—made famous because of Charles Dickens's visit there in 1842—the band in Almack's dance hall consisted of a fiddle, trumpet, and drum. In 1850 journalist George Foster tried to recreate the scene for his readers:

With these instruments you may imagine that the music at Dickens's place is of no ordinary kind. You cannot, however, begin to imagine what it is. You cannot see the red-hot knitting-needles spirted out by that red-faced trumpeter, who looks precisely as if he were blowing glass. . . . Nor can you perceive the frightful mechanical contortions of the bass-drummer as he sweats and deals his blows on every side, in all violation of the law of rhythm, like a man beating a baulky mule.9

By the 1890s prototypes clearly had been established for the jazz dance bands that would emerge in the twentieth century in the plantation combos consisting of fiddle, banjo, string bass (or cello), straight trumpet or cornet, and small percussion. At some time during the early twentieth century the fiddle disappeared, its melodic function taken over by the cornet or trumpet; the trombone became a regular member of the combo; clarinets were added as new members; and the guitar replaced the banjo, but very gradually, for banjos lingered on in jazz combos into the 1920s and even later in some groups.

Ragtime, obviously an outgrowth of plantation dance music, seems to have come on the scene during the 1880s, although the word rag does not appear in print until 1896. A year later, in 1897, the first recording of ragtime, "Ragtime Medley," was made by banjoist Vess L. Ossman.10

For the present discussion, the most useful of the reports that began to appear in print at the turn of the century is Rupert Hughes, "A Eulogy of Ragtime" (Musical Record no. 447 [1 April 1899], 157-59), which clearly refers to a robust, folk style of ragtime rather than the somewhat elegant piano rags of Scott Joplin and his contemporaries. "Ragging," according to Hughes, was a word used by Negroes for their "largely shuffling" dancing, and the dance itself was called "a rag." Music for ragging was provided by a banjoist, assisted by spectators who maintained a "metronomical beat" with their hand clapping and foot stomping. After considerable analysis of this music in which the "chief order is to be lawless," and "ordinary harmonic progressions are not respected," Hughes sums up the matter as follows:

Ragtime, then, as it is played and sung is an effort to translate to the piano, the dance rhythm, the banjo accompaniment and the almost inarticulate ululation of the Negro as he expressed himself on the plantation.

Iconographical support for the Hughes stance comes from a pen-and-ink drawing of the artist Phillips J. Campbell, entitled "Ragtime" (Plantation Sketches, New York: R. H. Russell, 1899), which depicts six black boys, ranging in age from eight or nine to sixteen or so, who dance on the front porch of a decrepit cabin. The banjoist, an adult, bends over his instrument, tapping his left foot as he strums. The obvious intent of the artist is to show boys dancing (i.e., ragging) a special kind of dance (i.e., a rag), and he uses the term "ragtime" to denote the activity.

There is some confusion about the exact time when the dance hall and nightclub began to adopt the folk ragtime and adapt it to other purposes, nor is it certain when the banjo was replaced by a piano and the word ragtime came to be applied to the music rather than the dance. Certainly, however, the Hughes article illuminates the shadows associated with the origin of the genre, and thereby has earned a secure niche in the historiography of ragtime.

The last of the precursors of jazz to emerge was the blues. Less is known about its origin than of ragtime's, but obviously the blues as a tradition flourished among black folk for some time before it became known to collectors and the white public. At the head of a required list of readings on the blues stand the publications of W. C. Handy (1873-1958), particularly his Father of the Blues: An Autobiography (New York: Macmillan, 1941) and "The Heart of the Blues" (Etude, March 1940, 152). Although he published these writings late in life, his recollections are surprisingly strong and vivid, offering concise detail about the folk blues he encountered as a youth. His most meaningful contacts with the folk blues came in 1903, however, when he lived in Clarksdale, Mississippi; and it is against that background that he discusses the music's style, structure, themes, performance practice, and cultural context. Handy published his "Memphis Blues" in 1912, thus popularizing the "composed" blues; and, in 1914, his immortal "St. Louis Blues," which became a perennial favorite.

Blues historiography begins with several articles published around the turn of the century, in which writers note the emergence of a new kind of folksong among black folk, later to be called the blues, but to which no name had yet been given. Archaeologist Charles Peabody, excavating in Mississippi during the summers of 1901 and 1902, distinguished between two types of songs his black workers sang—the one, without accompaniment, when "digging or wheeling on the mound," and the other, with guitar accompaniment, when in their quarters or on the road.11 Further, he observed that the songs fell into definite categories: traditional Methodist hymns sung on Sundays "in unhappy strains"; ragtime melodies; and, most "interesting" of all, "distichs and improvisations . . . sung to an intoning more or less approaching melody." Peabody's analysis of the "distichs"—the themes, texts, use of words, voice quality, and chromatic inflections in the melody, along with the examples he presents, clearly indicate the songs to be blues, although Peabody does not use the word. In this article also is one of the earliest references in print to the use of the guitar as an accompanying instrument for the new songtype, thus replacing the ubiquitous banjo.

Predictably, some of the early twentieth-century collections of Negro folksong contain the "new" types along with traditional plantation songs.12 In Howard Odum's collection of 127 secular song texts, a number have the three-line, AAB structure (occasionally the variant AAAB); blues themes are well represented; and the blues vocabulary is pervasive. Some of the texts have long traditions, such as "Dey tell me Joe Turner he done come" (the real Joe, a prison officer, flourished in the early 1890s) and "I got the blues, but too damm mean to cry"; and at least one song, "Make me a palat on de flo'," had moved into the jazz repertory, as a favorite number of the Buddy Bolden band in New Orleans, long before Odum's work was published in 1911.

William Holcombe Thomas, writing in 1912, attributes the emergence of the new "hardship" songs to changes in the black man's economic circumstances within the past two decades, his increased economic insecurity brought about by heightened competition from European immigrants for the relatively few jobs available, and the changing of the southern agricultural society from a "feudalistic to a capitalistic basis," which pushed him off his farm. The author illustrates the changes in texts and themes with examples of the old and the new song types, the former reflecting the influence of the Bible and religious beliefs, the latter concerned with "two primal necessities"—work and love.

Other scholars who included texts of blues-types and commentary in their collections were Eber C. Perrow and John Avery Lomax. An anonymous article published in 1919, "Enigmatic Folksongs of the Southern Underworld" (Current Opinion, September, 1919, 165-66), neatly summarizes the state of blues scholarship up to that year: the author assumes without question that the blues is a distinctive genre, has no hesitancy about using scholarly apparatus in describing it, and draws a sharp distinction between it and other Afro-American folk musics. When the first blues recording was made in July 1914, predictably it was W. C. Handy's "Memphis Blues."

While the plantation songs, ragtime, and the blues would continue to play essential roles in the making of jazz, by the 1920s each genre had begun to establish its own historiography: in addition to articles such as those discussed above, came more collections, biographies, dictionaries, bibliographies, analytical studies, and historical surveys.

In 1910 few persons, if any, had heard of a music called jazz; ten years later familiarity with the music called jazz was so widespread that its name was adopted for a time period—the Jazz Age. Various theories have been advanced about the origin of the word "jazz," of which the most widely accepted is that it was first used in 1915 to describe the music of a white New Orleans band playing in a Chicago nightspot, Lamb's Club. According to the Charters/Kunstadt version, the five-piece band led by trombonist Tom Brown

created such a sensation that Chicago musicians, trying to discredit the new style, began spreading word that it was "jazz" music. There is considerable confusion as to what the word originally meant and why it was used to describe the music, but the Chicago men intended it as a ribald insult. The management at Lamb's hung a sign out in front, "Brown's New Orleans Jazz Band," and people stood in line to get in.13

For New Yorkers in 1915, however, the word jazz was no longer a novelty, but a term commonly used to refer to the hot music of New York's black dance bands. The place to hear this music was in the area called Black Bohemia on the city's West Side, particularly in such nightspots as Barron Wilkins's Little Savoy on West 35th Street, and the Marshall Hotel cafe on West 53d Street. Frequented by black and white stage celebrities, artists, musicians, intellectuals, and bohemians of all stripes, the clubs also attracted foreign visitors, as Harlem would do in the 1920s. Among the European avant-garde painters who flooded the city in 1913 to exhibit at the Armory Show were two whose first contacts with black music inspired them to produce paintings on the theme: Francis Picabia, who called his paintings Chanson nègre I and Chanson nègre II (both 1913) and Albert Gleizes, whose painting of black banjoists is titled Jazz (1915).

But it was the American painter Charles Demuth who, with his watercolors, most thoroughly documented the early history of jazz. His several scenes of nightlife in the Marshall Hotel cafe include three depictions of the resident jazz band, two of which are titled Negro Jazz Band (both, 1916), which consists of pianist, banjoist, and drummer, assisted by a girl singer.14

Over the next few years the word jazz began to appear frequently in the print media. In 1916, for example, the black newspaper Chicago Defender advertised on 30 September that Estelle Harris and her Jass Band would be appearing at the Grand Theatre the next month; and on 18 December the black Freeman of Indianapolis noted that B. Benton Overstreet had introduced his new song, "Jazz Dance," at the Haymarket in Chicago. On 27 October 1916 in New York, the trade journal Variety credited Chicago for its "discoveries" of jazz bands, noting that they were "composed of three or more instruments [which] seldom play regulated music."15

When Tom Brown's band played an engagement in New York in 1916, the public recognized the new music, although the group was billed as the Five-Rubes musical-comedy act. The big news of the time, however, was the Dixie Jasz Band, which opened in January 1917 at one of the Reisenweber restaurants. Within a month, the band was making recordings (as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band) for Columbia and Victor, which created a sensation when released and brought national notoriety to ODJB—and to jazz.

Jazz fast became a permanent fixture on the American scene, although some perplexity existed at first among journalist-critics as to the place it should occupy. An anonymous article in the Literary Digest questioned "The Appeal of the Primitive Jazz" (25 August 1917), but two years later, jazz had become respectable enough to warrant a serious assessment, "Delving into the Geneology of Jazz" (Current Opinion, August 1919).

One other major development of the times called for press comment: the transportation of the music to France during World War I by black combat units. James Reese Europe's 369th Infantry Band, which landed on French soil on New Year's Day, 1917, was soon followed by other black units, and invariably the press used the word jazz in referring to the music of the black bands (generally called "syncopated orchestras" in the States). By the end of the war, the press on both sides of the Atlantic was using the word jazz for any dance orchestra, black or white, which played the new music. When Jim Europe was killed in 1919, headlines screamed "The Jazz King Is Dead."

If the historiography of jazz had a somewhat timid beginning, later writers more than compensated for it. Beginning in the 1920s, literally hundreds of articles were published over the next few years in the States and abroad. By the late 1920s, jazz periodicals and books were beginning to appear—Henry O. Osgood's So This Is Jazz (1926) was the first. The extensive, classified bibliography attached to the article on Jazz in AmeriGrove—which lists writings in twelve categories, ranging from bibliographies and encyclopedias to pedagogies, sociological studies, and analytical works—is hardly complete, however, for all its length. Borderline publications generally are excluded, such as, for example, the magazine Melody Maker (established in 1926), which some bibliographers regard as the first jazz periodical; and the cut-off date of 1984 necessarily eliminates works published since that time. Nevertheless, the bibliography is impressive in its efforts to bring bibliographical control to a vast, widely diverse literature.

JazzGrove is even more ambitious. Its Appendix I is a densely packed, twenty-page, double-column bibliography, consisting basically of items cited at the ends of the articles and supplemented by more items "to make a comprehensive (though not exhaustive) listing of resources on jazz" (2: 661). The listing comprises five broad categories (each in alphabetical arangement): (1) Bibliographies and Reference Materials, (2) Discographies, (3) Record Labels, (4) Books, and (5) Periodicals. It is difficult to imagine that researchers, confronted with such riches, could fail to find anything they were seeking.

It is another case, however, for the browser or nonspecialist. Since one cannot always determine the contents of a book from its title, a classified index of the "Other Books" list, such as the one in AmeriGrove, would have been more useful. Indeed, I have found it necessary to consult the AmeriGrove jazz bibliography more than once in the course of my research when answers for my questions could not be found in JazzGrove.

* * *

At this point, it will be instructive to consider the amount of exposure to jazz for the nonspecialist in the textbooks on American-music history used in the classroom or found on open library shelves. Presumably, a large number of JazzGrove users will come from this group.

The first history of American music to treat jazz as a legitimate subject for scholarly inquiry was Gilbert Chase's America's Music (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1955). Approximately 15 percent of the total coverage (780 pages) is given over to jazz or jazz-related musics, with a chapter devoted to each of the following topics: African carryovers, spirituals, ragtime, blues, and "The Growth of Jazz," which includes comments on "Some Modern Jazzmen." Interestingly, in the third edition of the book (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), only 12 percent of the material is about jazz, this despite the fact that much new information is added. Tightened considerably, with fewer and shorter quotations, the text allows for more detail about style and sources, but musical examples are sparse. On the other hand, the discussion of jazz is thoroughly integrated into the larger context of American music, and relationships are clarified, as suggested by the title of Chapter 28, "Jazz: Tradition and Transformation."

Chronologically, America's Music is followed by A Short History of Music in America, by John Tasker Howard and George Kent Bellows (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1957, 1967). Unlike Chase, the authors give minimal attention to jazz-related musics—only 11 pages out of 456, or just over 2 percent. Their discussion includes some historical outlining, light analysis (primarily of the blues), and a brief note on the new jazz style, "swing," of the 1950s.

H. Wiley Hitchcock's Music in the United States (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969, 1974, 1988), one of the histories most widely used in the classroom, limits its coverage of American music to that of "A Historical Introduction." Understandably, this limits as well the amount of space given to jazz-related music, but the author's style is both concise and precise, and in somewhat less than 9 percent of the total of 346 pages, he covers the subject of jazz from its nineteenth-century roots to the post-bop jazz of modern times. His analysis is brief but detailed; the musical examples are ample and instructive; the historical outlines and biographical sketches contribute to placing the music in context; and bibliographical and discographical references are more than adequate.

A more expansive work is Charles Hamm's Music in the New World (New York: Norton, 1983), in which about 16 percent of the book is devoted to jazz-related musics. Although there are relatively few musical examples, the author compensates for this with meticulous explication of musical styles and with documentation through frequent reference to primary sources and recordings.

One last question may be relevant to the present discussion: how much space is given to jazz-related musics in histories of black music? For many white music historians, the only significant contributions made by black Americans to American music are associated with the jazz-related musics: black composers of concert music generally are ignored, with only a passing bow made in the direction of composers of stage music and vernacular styles other than those related to jazz. Do black writers approach the subject from a different viewpoint than white writers? Is jazz for black historians more or less important a part of the whole?

Maud Cuney Hare's Negro Musicians and Their Music (Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1936), the first history by a black author to follow Trotter's landmark publication of 1878, devotes over 20 percent of the 432-page text to discussion of African music; of the remainder, about 35 percent deals with jazz-related music, primarily through historical narrative and short biographical sketches of jazzmen.

In recent years three histories of black music by black authors have been published: my second edition of The Music of Black Americans: A History (New York: Norton, 1971, 1983), which devotes approximately 17 percent of its 605 pages to jazz-related music; America's Black Musical Heritage by Tilford Brooks (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984), which devotes somewhat more than 35 percent of its coverage (328 pages) to jazz-related musics; and the second edition (vol. 1) of Hildred Roach's Black American Music (Malabar, Fla.: Robert E. Krieger, 1985), which gives over 20 percent of 201 pages to jazz.

In all three books, musical analysis (in some cases, quite detailed) supplements historical and biographical narrative, musical examples are used to further illustrate analysis, and there are numerous photographs, many of them previously unpublished. Finally, more space is allotted to discussion of the various black popular-music styles and to gospel than in comparable histories of American music, which may explain why less space is given to jazz than might be expected.

This brief survey of histories of American music, written from the perspective of both white and black authors, indicates that jazz does not yet occupy the place in the mainstream of American-music history that is suggested by the size and scope of its newest milestone, JazzGrove. Internationally, jazz may be recognized along with America's popular music as "the most successful and important musical product of the New World,"16 but Americans themselves do not quite see it that way—at least, not those who write the American-music histories.

Ultimately, of course, JazzGrove's significance lies in the breadth, depth, and reliability of the information it offers to jazz scholars and jazz enthusiasts. AmeriGrove was severely criticized for its coverage of jazz, and editor Kernfeld obviously has taken extreme care to insure that its inadequacies are not repeated in JazzGrove. Consider, for example, the question of jazz figures omitted or inadequately represented in AmeriGrove. Jazz critic Gary Giddins compiled lists of such figures in several categories in his AmeriGrove review, "The Grove of Academe" (Village Voice, 13 January 1987, 75-76), and almost all he listed are now included in JazzGrove. Moreover, they are given the appropriate "scholarly appendages" (term used by Giddins, 75). If one searches in vain for an Aretha Franklin or a Muddy Waters, it is because Kernfeld consciously excluded persons he felt were "not directly associated with jazz" (l:viii).

Reviewers are sure to disagree with his decisions to include or exclude certain figures. I find it strange, for example, that such major bandleaders as Ford Dabney, George Morrison, Egberth Thompson, and Will Vodery, along with others of that generation, should have been bypassed. To be sure, the music they played in their early careers was called "syncopated dance music," but by the time of their mid-careers it was being identified as jazz. In any event, the syncopated dance music was a direct precursor of jazz.

Because of its exhaustive coverage, JazzGrove will resist a conventional approach to reviewing its contents; moreover, it is too soon after publication for anyone to attempt an assessment based on full study and evaluation. When reviewers have had the time necessary to acquaint themselves with the JazzGrove materials, there will be high praise and, more than likely, some adverse criticism, particularly from those who feel their own areas of expertise have been poorly handled. But only after JazzGrove has passed the test of use by readers over a period of time will it be possible to arrive at a definitive assessment of its value and place in the context of worldwide musical historiography.

*The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, ed. Barry Kernfeld (London: Macmillan Press, and New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music, 1988), Vol. 1, xxviii + 670 pp., Vol. 2, xiv + 690 pp.

1The Making of Jazz is the title of Mr. Collier's "comprehensive history" of jazz (New York, 1978).

2Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment (Boston, 1870), 197. Reprint of selected passages in Eileen Southern, Readings in Black American Music, 2d ed. (New York, 1983). The quotation from Higginson is on p. 182.

3See further about the compilers in Dena Epstein, Sinful Tunes and Spirituals . . . (Urbana, 1977), 303-42.

4Trotter, Music, 324. See further about Trotter in Robert Stevenson, "America's First Black Music Historian," Journal of the American Musicological Society 26 (1973): 383-404.

5A less positive view of the slave songs would prevail in later years. Dvorak's suggestion in 1893, published in the New York Herald (25 May), that "the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called the negro melodies . . . [that they] must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States" stirred considerable controversy among music scholars and professionals about the musical worth of the slave songs, and even their originality. For several decades thereafter, contributors to the periodical and daily press took sides in the controversy, either attacking or defending the slave music—or totally ignoring it as unworthy of discussion.

6Elson, The History of American Music (New York, 1904); Hubbard, History of American Music (Toledo, Ohio, 1908); Kidson, "Negro Music of the United States," Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London, 1907) 3:359-62.

7See further in Eileen Southern and Josephine Wright, Afro-American Traditions . . . 1630-1920: An Annotated Bibliography (forthcoming). See also Lynne Emery, Black Dance in the United States from 1619 to 1970 (Palo Alto, Calif., 1972); and Frederick Crane, "Black American Music in Pictures," Black Music Research Joumal 6 (1986): 27-47. For discussion of plantation dance music up to the Civil War, see Epstein, Sinful Tunes, 139-60.

8Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave . . . (Auburn, N.Y., 1853), 219. See reprint in Southern, Readings, 100.

9Foster, New York by Gas Light (New York, 1850), 73. See reprint in Southern, Readings, 139.

10A song published in 1896 by Ernest Hogan, "All coons look alike to me," uses as a heading for its second chorus, "Choice Chorus, with Negro 'Rag' Accompaniment by Max Hoffman." Regarding early ragtime recordings see Harold H. Hartel, "The H3 Chrono-Matrix File," Record Research 175-76 (September 1980), 3.

11Peabody, "Notes on Negro Music," Journal of American Folk-Lore 16 (1903): 148-52. Reprint in The Black Perspective in Music 4 (1976): 133-37.

12Most important of the collections are the following: (1) Howard Odum, "Folk-Song and Folk Poetry as Found in the Secular Songs of Southern Negroes," Parts 1, 2, Journal of American Folk-Lore 24 (1911): 255-94, 351-96. Reprint in Negro Workaday Songs, by Howard Odum and Guy Johnson (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1925). (2) William Holcombe Thomas, "Some Current Folk-Songs of the Negro . . ." (Published by the Folk-Lore Society of Texas, 1912). (3) E. C. Perrow, "Songs and Rhymes from the South," Parts 1-3, Journal of American Folk-Lore 25 (1912): 137-55; 26 (1913): 123-73; 28 (1915): 129-90. (4) John Avery Lomax, "Self-Pity in Negro Folk-Song," Nation 105 (9 August 1917): 141-45.

13The story of the "first jazz bands" is widely published. My discussion is based on Samuel B. Charters and Leonard Kunstadt, Jazz; A History of the New York Scene (Garden City, N. Y., 1962), 53-7.

14One of Demuth's jazz-band paintings is reproduced in Alvord L. Eiseman, Charles Demuth (New York, 1986), 39.

15The Variety statement is quoted in John Tasker Howard and George Kent Bellows, A Short History of Music in America (New York, 1957), 215.

16Hamm, New World, 654.

3448 Last modified on October 23, 2018