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Blowin’ the Blues Away

Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene

Travis Jackson

Publication Year: 2012

New York City has always been a mecca in the history of jazz, and in many ways the city’s jazz scene is more important now than ever before. Blowin’ the Blues Away examines how jazz has thrived in New York following its popular resurgence in the 1980s. Using interviews, in-person observation, and analysis of live and recorded events, ethnomusicologist Travis A. Jackson explores both the ways in which various participants in the New York City jazz scene interpret and evaluate performance, and the criteria on which those interpretations and evaluations are based. Through the notes and words of its most accomplished performers and most ardent fans, jazz appears not simply as a musical style, but as a cultural form intimately influenced by and influential upon American concepts of race, place, and spirituality.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Music of the African Diaspora


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pp. 1-1

Series Page, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xviii

...Although the cover and title page indicate that this book has one author, it is in fact the result of a wide- ranging series of relationships— with musicians, colleagues, friends, and family— spanning a life, several cities, and three academic institutions. Indeed, the number of intellectual and spiritual gifts I have received over that time and in those places has left me with an obligation to reciprocate that I will fulfi ll gladly, though many of my return gifts, sadly, will be prestations to the...


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1. Studying Jazz

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pp. 3-23

...As the second de cade of the twenty- fi rst century begins, we are undoubtedly at a pivotal moment in the development of jazz. Major and in depen dent record labels and a number of cultural institutions have, particularly since the early 1980s, presented jazz to varied publics in ways that promote both its essential “Americanness” and its supposed universality. They have devoted considerable resources to preserving and promulgating the music via new recordings...

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2. History and Memory, Pathways and Practices: The African Americanness of Jazz

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pp. 24-48

...There are perhaps no issues more vexed in discussions of jazz than the concepts of race and culture. Whenever one encounters them, whether those offering their opinions are musicians, critics, historians, or musicologists, what is arguably at stake is legitimation: who can rightfully lay claim to jazz and on what grounds? Is it African American...


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3. Jazz and Spatiality: The Development of Jazz Scenes

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pp. 51-69

...On many nights during my fi eldwork, I would leave my apartment on 119th Street and walk to the 1/9 train station at 116th and Broadway. After descending the stairs on the downtown side, I would proceed to the far end of the station in order to get a seat in the front car. Upon arriving at 14th Street, I’d exit the station on the downtown side and walk up the stairs into the New York night. Turning...

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4. The New York Jazz Scene in the 1990s

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pp. 70-106

...of musical style than on the contours and effects of a temporally and spatially located scene. Building on the previous discussions of history, memory, race, culture, and practices, on one hand, and spatiality, on the other, I offer as a corrective a focus not only on the people moving through and populating the scene, but also on the spaces and institutions they manipulate (and that manipulate them) in the pro cess of making jazz. Central here are the relationships between all...


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5. Toward a Blues Aesthetic

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pp. 109-135

...that Reisner— who recounts an apocryphal tale of how Parker got the nickname “Bird” but does not explore the myriad implications of nicknames and their signifi cation of movement from given to achieved status— has missed the opportunity to uncover something of Parker’s importance for those who gave to him and continued to use the nickname. In somewhat similar fashion, commentators on African American musics have frequently...

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6. Jazz Performance as Ritualized Activity

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pp. 136-154

...The scene and a blues aesthetic are two related means of framing musical events as jazz and as per for mance. Although the scene— space and place through time— constitutes both a setting for and snapshot of jazz perfor mance, the criteria of a blues aesthetic provide participants a way to negotiate the resultant spatio- temporal formation. Other forms of music or per for mance might be framed...

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7. In the Studio and on Stage

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pp. 155-204

...They emphasize, as well, relating that single event to others and noting how each event is constituted by references and responses to others displaced in time and space. Building on those ideas, I shift the focus here to the ways that the work of different actors and institutions shapes musical events in recording studios or clubs. For recordings, I will indicate whether the released version of a tune...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 205-216

...The events analyzed in chapter 7 could be viewed exclusively in terms of the musical pa ram e ters preserved on a compact disc and capable of being transcribed into Western notation. Presenting a per for mance thus transcribed might privilege and perhaps encourage the analysis of the sounds in terms similar to those for Western concert music (see Seeger 1958, 186). Such analysis, although perhaps making...


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pp. 217-222

Appendix: Excerpt from an Interview with Steve Wilson

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pp. 223-230


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pp. 231-262


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pp. 263-288


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pp. 289-298

Production Notes

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pp. 299-299

E-ISBN-13: 9780520951921
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520270442

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Music of the African Diaspora
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OCLC Number: 794493901
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Blowin’ the Blues Away

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Jazz -- New York (State) -- New York -- History and criticism.
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