Drawing from contemporary journalism, reviews, program notes, memoirs, interviews, and other sources, Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History brings to life the controversies and critical issues that have accompanied every moment of jazz history. Highlighting the significance of jazz as a complex and consequential social practice as well as an art form, this book presents a multitude of ways in which people have understood and cared about jazz. It records a history not of style changes but of values, meanings, and sensibilities.
Featuring sixty-two thought-provoking chapters, this unique volume gives voice to a wide range of perspectives, stressing different reactions to and uses of jazz, both within and across communities. It offers contributions from well-known figures including Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Wynton Marsalis, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis; from renowned writers such as Langston Hughes, Norman Mailer, and Ralph Ellison; and from critics including Leonard Feather and Gunther Schuller. Walser has selected writings that capture the passionate reactions of people who have loved, hated, supported, and argued about jazz.
Organized chronologically, Keeping Time covers nearly 100 years of jazz history. Filled with insightful writing, it aims to increase historical awareness, to provoke critical thinking, and to encourage lively classroom discussion as students relive the tangled and conflicted story of jazz. It enables readers to see that jazz is not just about names, dates, and chords, but rather about issues and ideas, cultural activities, and experiences that have affected people deeply in a great variety of ways. Concise headnotes provide historical context for each selection and point out issues for thinking and discussion. An excellent text for a variety of jazz courses, Keeping Time can serve as supplementary reading in popular music, American Studies, African American studies, history, and sociology courses, and will also appeal to anyone interested in jazz.
These two compilations take very different approaches to understanding jazz. Keeping Time is a fairly traditional documentary history, using newspaper and magazine articles, interviews, and excerpts from autobiographies and secondary accounts. After explaining the early years of the music, Walser, chair of musicology at UCLA, provides fascinating material dealing with the jazz age in the 1920s, swing in the Thirties, and bebop in the Forties. The book is less convincing on the hard-bop 1950s, provides very little information on the avant-garde in the next decade, and largely ignores Seventies fusion. It ends with an excellent outline of the Wynton Marsalis-led return to traditionalism in the 1980s and a more general, less satisfying examination of jazz today. The Jazz Cadence of America attempts to show the reciprocal effects of jazz and American culture on each other. After dealing with definitions of "jazz," O'Meally (American literature, Columbia; Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday, LJ 11/1/91) traces the place of jazz in American society; the influence of the music on painting, architecture, photography, film, and dance; jazz history from different perspectives; and the impact of jazz on literature. Some sections provide fascinating insights into the relationship of jazz to the other arts, especially painting and literature. However, the book seldom shows the connection between jazz and American society or the effect of other aspects of American culture on jazz. Despite obvious flaws, The Jazz Cadence offers an innovative approach to understanding jazz within a larger social context. Complementing each other with little overlap, these two compilations are recommended as classroom texts.--David P. Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle