15

Documenting Jazz 2019

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Most jazz isn’t about jazz, at least in terms of how it’s consumed —Professor Krin Gabbard, Columbia University
Documenting Jazz
Conservatory of Music and Drama
TU Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
January 17-19, 2019

Jazz music, which has pretty much always meant different things to different people, has been comprehensively documented since its arrival in the first decades of the twentieth century.

The most obvious form of documentation, that's to say studio recording, is almost as old as the music itself, whilst live recordings, both official releases and bootlegs, radio and television broadcasts, provide copious evidence of what live jazz has sounded like at almost any given point in its history.

Add to that the histories, biographies, autobiographies, individual country studies, plus all the live reviews, photographs and opinion pieces from specialist journalists the world over and it's safe to say that jazz has been extremely well served by the documenters. Or so it seems.

The academia-driven New Jazz Studies—surely in need of an updated moniker a quarter of a century on?—however, thrives on the premise that there is an awful lot about our understanding of jazz that merits serious analysis or revision.

To that end, over a hundred academics, authors and independent researchers gathered at the Technological University Dublin Conservatory of Music and Drama, where, for three days, they presented multiple papers on a broad range of subjects related to the documentation of jazz.

Documenting Jazz is the brainchild of Dr. Damian Evans. Jazz bassist, academic and one of the original founders of the Galway Jazz Festival, Evans has been a key figure on the Irish jazz scene, both as a musician and a researcher, for over a decade. In welcoming the delegates Evans acknowledged the Rhythm Changes project as the major inspiration for Documenting Jazz. Since 2013, the annual Rhythm Changes conference—held in a different city each year—has brought together the world's foremost thinkers on jazz, shedding much light and raising just as many questions about the music's history and attendant cultures.

The inaugural edition of Documenting Jazz was no less ambitious, attracting high-profile keynote speakers and an impressive range of international delegates. Alongside the dozen or so Irish presenters were academics and researchers from Australia, Russia, Indonesia, The USA, the UK, Italy, Norway, etc. Three of the delegates no less, Francesco Martinelli, Tish Oney and Bruce Lindsay are contributors to All About Jazz.

Subjects addressed included: jazz and gender; jazz archives, documenting improvisation; jazz critics; jazz photography; jazz in film; jazz in the digital age; jazz and the BBC; recording jazz; transcription, and, jazz events and identity.

"Most jazz isn't about jazz, at least in terms of how it's consumed." This thought-provoking statement was written by Kirin Gabbard—one of the keynote speakers at Documenting Jazz—in his book Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema (University of Chicago Press, 1996), and it's a statement that invites reflection. How jazz is presented by musicians, promoters and labels, how it is consumed by jazz fans and perceived by the wider world in general, raises multiple questions as to the meaning of jazz. The meaning of jazz? Well, in truth that should be meanings, for after all, as Documenting Jazz demonstrated, jazz often means quite different things to different people at different times.

Day One

The formalities got off to a nicely informal start in the Technological University's basement canteen, where Dr Evans, Dr Kerry Houston (Head of Department of Academic Studies) and Dr Lorraine Byrne Bodley (President of the Society for Musicology in Ireland) bid a warm welcome to delegates, without too much fuss or fanfare.

Jazz and Gender

Gender is one of the hottest topics in jazz, in fact in music in general, with numerous festivals of all stripes signed up to the Keychange/PRS Foundation's manifesto for 50-50 gender equality on festival programmes by 2022. This initiative reflects wider societal awareness of gender inequality, and the world of jazz is no exception.

The first paper in this session, presented by James Reddan of Western Oregon University was entitled Perceiving Gender in Jazz: Documenting the Past, Present and Theorizing of the Future. Reddan began by stating that perceptions of gender in jazz have been influenced by documentation—or lack thereof—and how such documentation has been perceived with regards to gender stereotypes.

Whilst acknowledging that there has been an increase in the roles of both men and women in jazz since the 1990s, Reddan noted that jazz documentation still presents a perception of clear gender differences. How jazz is taught, the images students see, the material they read and the music they hear, is key in establishing notions of gender in jazz.

To support this argument, Reddan presented the results of a qualitative survey he conducted with thirty undergraduate music students, split equally between male and females. Focus groups of ten members met on different occasions to examine jazz books (The Oxford Companion to Jazz, Women in Music), magazines (Downbeat) and over a hundred album covers. Participants noted that men were bandleaders and played the loud instruments like trumpet, drums and trombone while women played violin, piano or sang. Male composers and lyricists received greater attention than their female counterparts.

It was generally agreed amongst the survey participants that when it comes to imagery, women jazz musicians/singer tend to be hyper-sexualized. One student remarked how her first experience of a jazz singer was Jessica Rabbit, the sex-symbol toon wife of Roger Rabbit. Students found that writing about jazz women was mostly done by women and was largely objective, while articles written by men on women musicians seemed more critical and opinionated. Tellingly, students noted that "for both women and men there was an exaggerated focus on the artist as object rather than artist as musician."

[In Dale Chapman's The Jazz Bubble: Neoclassical Jazz In Neoliberal Culture (University of California Press, 2018) there is an illuminating chapter on Dexter Gordon's 1976 homecoming that illustrates the objectification and stereotyping that typically surrounds iconic male jazz musicians in the press.]

Returning to the survey, the students also noted racial stereotypes in the material studied. One participant related that as a black singer the common assumption was that she must be a jazz or gospel singer, when in fact she was studying opera.

In conclusion, the survey participants noted the need for a non-binary approach to jazz documentation. If gender stereotypes in jazz are to change it will depend on how jazz is documented moving forward, argued Reddan, adding that care is needed when marketing jazz, and equally, when teaching it.

The second presentation on jazz and gender, entitled In Her Own Words: The Current Reality of Women in Jazz, was jointly given by Alexandra Manfredo and Kiernan Steiner from the University of Miami, Florida and Arizona State University respectively. Their research has been influenced by the work on gender politics and sexism in jazz recounted in Jazzwomen (Indiana University Press, 2004) by Wayne Enstice and Janis Stockhouse.

Having conducted interviews with a small sample of female jazz musicians in higher education, Manfredo and Steiner began by quoting the interviewees. The musicians spoke of dealing with and managing other people's expectations of them, of putting up a wall to counteract the predatory sexual climate, of being described as "the partner of another jazz musician", of feeling pressured to use macho gestures when leading a big-band or to yell when directing a band to get results.

One of the biggest obstacles is the "othering" of women in jazz, whereby documenting them and their contributions to jazz as somehow separate from men only disparages them and their gender. In jazz histories women are often grouped together with little consideration of their individual contributions.

Quoting musicologist, music historian and author Sherrie Tucker, Manfredo said: "And to add women in means they are not already in, subtract them and you still have jazz. Women jazz musicians go missing unless the framework is explicitly 'women in jazz.' But 'women in jazz' depends on the assumption that jazz does not already have women in it -a frustrating premise for women who play jazz and the people who write about them."

This imbalance, Manfredo and Steiner noted, is also reflected in jazz programmes in the United States, many of which don't have a single female professor. As regards female jazz students, Manfredo and Steiner found that their respondents were often the only female on a course, or one of a small handful, leading at times to feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and tokenism. In both the classroom and rehearsal environments, the paper's authors stated, many interviewees complained of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and gender stereotyping at the hands of both their professors and male students.

Going forward, Manfredo and Steiner advocated initiatives such as blind auditions for jazz ensemble placements, curriculum adjustments that address women role models, as well as training on inclusion and diversity for all students and staff.

The Q&A session that followed indicated that there was much more to discuss on the issue of gender equality, such as differences in generational attitudes and responses towards objectifying or discriminatory behaviour. Or worse. As Jen Wilson of Jazz Heritage Wales pointed out, more serious forms of abuse are frequently not reported.

Wilson, a veteran jazz pianist, has written a history of Welsh Jazz and related how much of the personal testament of women jazz musicians interviewed was too sensitive, for the women themselves, to be published. "What's in an oral history is not always all that's actually said," Wilson stated. "It's what you are able to put out. There's a clean history, there's a dirty history and the dirty history tends to be hidden."

Almost three times as many women declined to respond to Manfredo and Steiner's interviews as those who did. What this signifies is impossible to say. Perhaps, despite assurances of total anonymity, many women felt that participation might jeopardize their careers. Or it may just be that most women were just too busy leading their own bands to spare the time.

Many more women are leading jazz ensembles than ever before, which is undoubtedly a good thing, but one of the reasons for this is perhaps because men, in the main, are still reluctant to invite women into their bands. Or the jam sessions. As jazz forges ahead in the twenty-first century, the music's oft-lauded claims as the most democratic and inclusive form of music ring rather hollow.

There were many fascinating sessions during the three days of Documenting Jazz but surely none as important as the one on jazz and gender.

Jazz Archives

Central to the on-going history of jazz is the archiving of jazz material. The oral histories, venue and festival programmes, the diffusion of jazz in popular culture, the media's reportage on jazz, specialist magazines, photographs, posters, flyers, recordings, newspaper obituaries-all are part of jazz's story. If not carefully archived and preserved, then much of jazz's history would be lost.

One of the most significant jazz publications for many years has been The History of European Jazz: The Music, Musicians and Audiences in Context (Equinox Publishing, 2018). The driving force behind this impressive 650-page tome is Francesco Martinelli of Siena Jazz Archive. In a presentation entitled The Jazz Archive in Europe Martinelli explained the challenges of putting together a work of such scope—the first of its kind. Finding appropriate writers was one thing, but not all countries have organized and catalogued jazz archives. Material stored in national libraries often doesn't have detailed enough information on, for example, photographs or recordings.

In many countries, Martinelli noted, a personal archive is often the seed for a national archive. Inevitably, when individual, private archivers pass away some or all their material may be lost, which is why organized national jazz archives are so necessary. "We would not have a jazz history today if not for the 78 [records] collectors of the '40s" , Martinelli said, "because the Library of Congress was not holding those records."

Essential in the research and writing of The History of European Jazz: The Music, Musicians and Audiences in Context, Martinelli stressed, was finding contributors not only native to each of the twenty-seven countries in question but immersed in the jazz scene and the culture of their respective country.

The ability to source and research original language material, to converse with jazz musicians in their own language, and so on, was a prerequisite for the book from the start and was vital to what Martinelli described as the "vibrancy of connection to the local culture that can't be duplicated by somebody who comes from somewhere else."

Twenty minutes was a short time to talk about and discuss such a major document but for anyone interested to learn more about the making of the book then Martinelli's in-depth interview with All About Jazz may be a good place to start.

The second presentation of the jazz archive session saw Frank Ferko, Sound Archive Librarian at Stanford University, give a talk entitled Collaborative Documentation: The San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Collection at Stanford University. The SFTJF has been collecting information on all kinds of jazz in the Bay Area since 1981. The jazz-loving individuals behind the collection are heading towards old age and wished for the material to be preserved for posterity. The ensuing collaboration with Stanford University resulted in a two-year project that saw the digitization of much of the material.

The digitized material has been converted into an on-line exhibit, which can be viewed at www.exhibit.stanford.edu The material includes features, photographs and multiple audio recordings. To put the exhibit into context, Ferko, with the use of slides, gave an overview of the history of traditional jazz in San Francisco, whose roots go back to social dancing in the 1890s. Many musicians made their way from New Orleans to San Francisco, including Bunk Johnson, Freddie Keppard, Kid Ory and Jelly Roll Morton, heavily influencing the Bay Area musicians.

Swing and big-band music pushed the traditionalists aside, though a revival came in the late 1930s, led by Turk Murphy, Lu Watters and Bob Helm. Ferko namechecked the clubs, personalities and recordings that marked the history of the traditionalists in San Francisco. Many of the leading figures of the jazz scene donated material to the Stanford collection, some of which, Ferko acknowledged, had little or nothing to do with the traditional jazz scene and therefore was weeded out, including, perversely enough, underwear and a full-size gorilla suit.

The Stanford University and San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation held monthly meetings, a timeline was established, and goals were marked, such as digitizing over two thousand items and, with the aid of sophisticated software, creating an on-line repository. Some items have restricted access—items that are copyrighted, for example—but for research purposes, Ferko said, access can be granted in most cases due to the notion of fair use enshrined in copyright laws.

Ferko then summarized the main content of the online exhibit, including feature articles on traditional jazz musicians, the clubs, photographs, manuscript scores, audio documentation and links to videos etc.

Ferko's presentation was an example of the vital role that both individual collectors and national institutions play in the archiving and presevation of jazz history. Without the individuals much of the traces of jazz, especially the ephemera of jazz, would be lost. Without the funding and expertise of institutions, such material would not be widely available for future researchers.

Documenting Improvisation

Two very different papers were presented under the banner of Documenting Improvisation. Anja Bunzel, from Maynooth University spoke of free improvisation in the German Democratic Republic, while Marian Jago of the University of Edinburgh addressed Lennie Tristano's extended studio techniques.

Bunzel's paper, The Petit Jazzwerksttat (1873-1982): Documenting Free Jazz in the German Democratic Republic was based on an exhibition in Peitz and examined the documentation surrounding the Petiz Jazzweksttat (jazz workshops/festival) between 1973 and 1982 These workshops and festivals were organized by Uli Blobel and Peter Metag until the GDR authorities shut it down. In 2011 Blobel relaunched the festival, which takes place every year in June.

Bunzel began by examining jazz in the context of post WWII Europe, particularly in the Eastern Bloc countries, where jazz was for some time, though not uniformly, considered subversive. Not surprisingly, perhaps, in the divided Germany of the Cold War years, nearly any music could be viewed as politicised to some degree. Bunzel then referenced some of the most significant German publications on jazz in this period, most of which viewed jazz as a socio-cultural phenomenon.

The exhibition, Bunzel said, reflected a predominantly male environment in those years, both among the musicians and in the audiences. Jazz was covered only sporadically in the media during this period. What archival material does exist is often difficult to locate, due to changing archival structures since Germany's reunion. Radio listings from 1973 show that three programmes were dedicated to the Petiz Jazzweksttat that year, though no details as to the programmes' contents are displayed.

Bunzel concluded by advocating further research on jazz in the GDR, stating her wish to publish recordings of GDR jazz festivals. Bunzel mentioned the website www.liebo.de, an online archive by Robert Liebo which includes twenty-nine recordings made by his father from the Peitz Jazz Festival between 1974 and 1981.

The second paper, by Dr Marian Jago was titled Lennie Tristano and the Use of Extended Studio Techniques in Jazz. Jago's paper was based on the controversy aroused by Tristano's album Tristano (Atlantic, 1956), a recording that employed studio techniques including multi-tracking, overdubbing and the manipulation of tape speeds on the first four tracks. In jazz circles, the studio techniques Tristano used were divisive, to say the least.

For Jago, the album and the reaction to it, offers an opportunity to consider notions of genre and labelling. Tristano's embrace of extended studio techniques, Jago said, was a bit ahead of its time. Jago posited that a lot of Tristano's artistic decisions were related to his blindness, and raised the question as to the place of disabilities in jazz studies.

Sidney Bechet employed overdubbing techniques in the early 1940s, but the difference to note, Jago said, is that those recordings were marketed as novelty records. Tristano had used extended studio techniques as early as 1951, but, Jago noted, these were releases on minor labels and failed to stir much attention. With Tristano, by contrast, so great was the controversy that Downbeat dedicated an entire issue to an interview with Tristano in which he defended his artistic choices.

Whether music is considered by critics to be jazz, or non-jazz, or jazz-inflected music, Jago intimated, seems to depend on the 'authenticity,' or 'purity' of the performance. On hearing the general hype surrounding Kamasi Washington, Jago related being surprised at the level of disinterest among certain jazz critics and musicians she contacted to get their opinion on his music. The conclusion Jago seemed to draw was that if pop-type recording techniques are employed, then many of those who position themselves in the jazz mainstream are often or dismissive or simply disinterested.

In discussing Tristano's blindness, Jago offered a rebuttal to those who would suggest that blindness is not an impairment when it comes to playing jazz. Whilst blindness doesn't affect sound production, Jago agreed, it does limit one's professional opportunities. And, in the context of small jazz ensembles blindness obviously cuts out visual cues between the musicians. In the Q&A that followed, the BBC's Alyn Shipton argued that blindness isn't necessarily an impairment in a small combo, citing the chemistry in George Shearing's groups post-1960.

Day Two

In the coffee breaks and during lunch there was opportunity to take in several exhibitions. Jazz on the Terrace, a collection of concert/festival posters and photographs, highlighted the efforts of Allen Smith in promoting jazz in Dublin for over thirty years. Jazz on the Terrace was the forerunner to Improvised Music Company and Smith was involved the founding of both.

Jazz Heritage Wales, a poster curated by Deborah Checkland and Jen Wilson, highlighted the work of the Jazz Heritage Wales Collection. Since 1986, JHWC has archived thousands of audio and visual documents, books and scores, and much more relating to jazz in Wales. It also serves to promote the history of women in jazz and African- American music in Wales.

Coltrane in Pop Culture, a poster exhibition by Ramsey Castaneda of Los Angeles College of Music, highlighted mass media representations of John Coltrane and how Coltrane's name has come to signify things other than just jazz music.

Keynote Speech 1: Professor Krin Gabbard: Representing Jazz in the Twenty-First Century

Global attitudes towards jazz are about as diverse as the music itself. Musicians, fans and critics will have their opinions and disagreements, but for Krin Gabbard, author of Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus (University of California Press, 2016), perhaps a more revealing insight into global attitudes towards jazz may be found in the novels, films and TV programmes of popular culture.

Gabbard identified a number of associations or myths that surround jazz in the twenty-first century. Often in films and literature jazz is used to provide atmosphere, typically in film noir. Jazz in film is also used as a nostalgic device, signifying, as Gabbard put it, "the good ol' days. Jazz in literature, is sometimes used to denote transcendence, where the musicians and the audience are transported to a near out-of-body experience. Then there is jazz as exotica; here, Gabbard cited the figure of Charles Mingus, known for his antics and troublesome reputation by people who may not have heard his music. Knowledge of Mingus's music, on the other hand, means esoteric knowledge, of belonging inside a small circle and outside the rest of the culture for whom Mingus doesn't exist.

Gabbard gave examples of detective novels where jazz culture is employed for atmospheric effect. One standout example tells of a serial killer who is bumping off light- jazz musicians, leaving haikus at the murder scenes to toy with the cops. Baffled, the cops turn to jazz detective Evan Horne.

Though jazz is often associated with film noir, Gabbard said that it was more TV shows like Peter Gunn (1958-1961) and Johnny Staccato (1959- 1960) that used jazz more liberally to create atmospheric effect. Gabbard showed a clip of a Super Mario game with a jazz soundtrack, clips of films such as Whiplash (2014), La La Land (2016), The Terminal (2004) and Collateral (2004) -all of which use jazz to signify very different things. Jazz, as experienced by millions of people around the world, is associated variously with rare virtuosity born of obsessive dedication; nostalgia and exuberance; utopian transcendence, and hipster cool.

The uses and myths of jazz in popular culture in the twenty-first century, Gabbard noted by way of conclusion, are rooted in the twentieth century.

Nearly all of Gabbard's examples of film makers and authors who have used jazz to color or situate their work were male. Examples of women authors that came from the audience included Kerry Greenwood, Australian author of the Phryne Fischer detective series, and Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Eudora Welty, whose short story Powerhouse was inspired after seeing a Fats Waller concert.

As an addendum to Gabbard's presentation, it's perhaps also worth adding, that for millions of people, thanks to the likes of coffee-shop chains, jazz is merely background music—a not unpleasant soundtrack to conversation. Small wonder then, that some people might see nothing wrong with chatting all the way through a performance in a jazz club.

Jazz as Popular Culture

In its early incarnations around the world, jazz was essentially dance music—an exotic mongrel that took elements of local music and mixed it with US influences. In his paper Jazz, The Body and Popular Culture, Seán Shanagher of Ballyfermot College of Further Education, turned the spotlight on a rural community in County Roscommon, Ireland, were early jazz was experienced in relation to, and mixed with, local music in the 1930s-1950s.

Shanagher's research was based on oral histories of forty-five musicians and dance-goers—small farmers all—who frequented the rural dance halls in those years. Photos of the rural halls showed extremely modest, cottage-like buildings, that have since reverted in the main to agricultural usage, if they haven't been reclaimed by nature. Foxtrot, quick-step and waltzes, which were equated with jazz in Ireland at that time, were the popular dances.

Ireland was in a process of nation-building after the turbulent years of the independence struggle, civil war and partition. Consequently, cultural nationalism was widely promoted and encouraged. Shanagher mentioned the Anti-Jazz campaign led by Father Peter Confrey in County Leitrim. For the Catholic Church, jazz—which effectively meant modern dance imported from the US— represented immorality, and Father Confrey led three thousand people through Mohill with banners proclaiming 'Down With Jazz' and 'Out With Paganism'.

Shanagher made the point that one young man interviewed who went to rural dances had turned out for the Anti-Jazz march, not as a participant, but just to see what all the fuss was about. This raises the question as to just how many in attendance were outraged by 'jazz' and how many were simply along for the craic.

The bands at these 'jazz' events, Shanagher related, would play ceili dances, sets of traditional music as well as popular songs by the well-known singers of the day. One musician interviewed recalled the use of clarinet, accordion, fiddle, trumpet and drums combined, a hybridization of traditional Irish and modern instrumentation, though unfortunately, no recordings exist. Little documentation in general exists about these dances, which, Shanagher suggested, is perhaps due to a still ongoing process of cultural nationalism in Ireland "that doesn't necessarily make room for a slightly messy, hybrid form of jazz-Irish."

The focus of most documentation, Shanagher said, has been on the suppression of jazz/modern dance in those decades and not on the cultural practices themselves. This was the first post-independence generation in Ireland and Shanagher made the point that Irish youth then were negotiating a complex cultural landscape of modernism and cultural nationalism.

Irish cultural nationalism, in all its forms, can only be fully understood in relation to the so-called transgressions—as defined by the Catholic church and government—of rural dances that embraced modernism. More research on this fascinating aspect of the arrival and gradual adoption of jazz in an Irish society in flux would be most welcome.

Professor Catherine Tackely of the University of Liverpool, in her paper entitled Finding Jazz: Jazz as Popular Culture in Interwar Britain, argued that jazz had an impact on the local culture that was not directly connected with visiting American jazz musicians or specific jazz forms. Specifically, she looked at the dance bands of the time, which, not unlike the Irish dance hall bands of the previous presentation, played an important role in introducing notions of jazz to the British public. The dance bands would incorporate elements of jazz that fitted in with their popular form of entertainment.

Variety shows were all the rage in the interwar years, with a balance between music and dance, comedy, acrobatics and novelty. Tackely's focus was on the West Indian musicians who began arriving in Britain in the 1930s, and in particular Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson, who was originally from what was then British Guiana.

Johnson, a dancer, joined and later took over the band of Jamaican trumpeter Leslie Thompson. The success of the band, which played a mixture of jazz and swing, saw it broadcasted on the BBC and hold down a residency at a London nightclub called Café Paris. Unfortunately, during The Blitz of 1941, German bombs struck the venue, killing thirty- four people, including Johnson.

Johnson's West Indian band was a novelty, and although famous for his 'snakehip' dancing, the climax of his show was dancing up and down a flight of stairs to a backdrop of swing music. Johnson's band, like others, Tackley noted, had to adapt to cater to changing tastes and fads. Jazz, swing, calypso and rumba were all part of the band's repertoire, while a choir was employed for radio broadcasts.

Racial stereotypes, both in the presentation and in the reception of Johnson's music, were ever-present, particularly in the regions, and followed on from a tradition of minstrelsy in British variety halls. It is worth noting, however, that a review of Johnson's Orchestra from a Belfast newspaper in the 1930s remarked upon "a thrilling demonstration of how swing and jazz should be played."

It was more entertainment dance bands, such as Johnson's, and not jazz records, jazz magazines and visiting US artists, argued Tackley, that has enabled jazz to remain in popular culture in the UK to this today.

With Liverpool Hope University's Mike Brocken unable to attend, the paper entitled Liverpool's Hidden Histories of Popular Music, Gender and 'Sweet' British Dance Band Music: A Case Study of Mary Daly Hamer at the Grafton Rooms, was presented solely by Laura Hamer of Open University. The presenter made the disclaimer from the off that the Mary Daly Hamer of the study was not her grandmother, or indeed any other sort of kin.

Like Shanagher and Tackley before her, Hamer's focus was on the dance-band culture of the inter-war years, which, like most other forms of popular music in Liverpool has been overshadowed to a large degree by scholarly attention to The Beatles. Thanks largely to The Beatles' global fame, Liverpool was named a UNESCO City of Music in 2015, though as Hamer demonstrated, there is another musical history in Liverpool besides Merseybeat and The Fab Four.

In a period when theatre, cinema, boxing and all manner of neon-lit venues were popular, Hamer underlined the fact that dancing was the most popular form of entertainment for young people, with the city boasting ten dance halls by 1934, with dances held at various times throughout the day. But if dance-hall music culture in inter-war Liverpool has largely been ignored by musical historians, then even more peripheral have been the stories of the women who played a role in that world.

One of the biggest dance halls was the Grafton Rooms, frequented ion the main by Liverpool's second-generation Irish community. The focus of Hamer's study was the dance band led by Mary Daly Hamer, one of the only examples of an all-male band led by a woman during that period. Daly Hamer—a pianist and exhibition dancer—took over the reins of the band when her husband, Wil Hamer, died in 1936. Thereafter she led the band under the banner Mrs Wilf Hamer and Her Boys, until the mid-1950s. The 'Mrs' in the band name was more than a tribute to her late husband, Hamer explained, and represented "a cast-iron guarantee of respectability."

Daly Hamer directed the band to play 'sweet' dance-band music, according to the wishes of the audiences, even though her band urged her to let them play 'hot' jazz music and jives. Although this was a golden period for all-girl bands, it was still very unusual for a woman to lead an all-male band. Also unusual was that Daly Hamer tended to wear jackets and trousers. Her attire, the presenter noted, could be interpreted as an attempt to downplay her sexuality, or to show who was 'wearing the trousers,' so to speak. It may also simply have been a question of practicality.

Playing what the public wanted made Daly Hamer's band one of the most successful dance bands from the 1920s to the 1950s, though their success and relevance in terms of popular culture has been relegated to the margins of popular music history in Liverpool due to the attention given to The Beatles, from its inception in the early 1960s until today.

Jazz and Photography

Photography has played a very particular role in documenting jazz over its first century, going some way to mythologizing some of jazz' best-known practitioners. Photography, however, plays an important role in documenting time and place, providing evidence of the conditions musicians play in, the audience make- up, dress codes, venue type and seating arrangements—all of which speak about jazz's socio-cultural roles at any given place and time.

This panel began with a presentation by Isaac Maupin from the University of Kentucky entitled Photographing the Carnival of Swing: An Immigrant's Perspective on the First Jazz Festival. The first jazz festival, according to Maupin, was the Carnival of Swing, which was held in Randall's Island Stadium on May 29th, 1938. Twenty-three thousand people turned out, between 10am and 5pm to watch and dance to twenty-five swing bands.

A stellar line-up included bands led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stuff Smith, Vincent Lopez, Artie Shaw, Chick Webb, Woody Herman and Gene Krupa. Benny Goodman featured on the festival poster but, due to another commitment, did not, in fact, appear. Each band played for ten minutes. Proceeds from the festival went to the New York Musicians Hospital Fund.

Documentation of this historic event was limited at the time to a review in The New York Times and silent news reel. In 1969, however, a collection of photos was donated to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. These photos, which captured the bands on and off-stage, as well as the public, were taken by Otto Hess, a German immigrant who became a professional photographer in the United States.

Maupin, who worked a summer as archivist at the above-mentioned library, discovered Hess' photos of the Carnival of Swing. In this presentation Maupin gave biographical detail on Hess and argued that Hess' photos reflected his immigrant identity. Hess's photos presented a narrative of the Carnival of Swing, with shots of people making their way to the stadium in the morning, shots of a radio host interviewing festival attendees, wide-angle shots of the grandstands and close-up images that show an audience of mixed gender and mixed race. His photos, Maupin said, were "very searching, very curious.", and revealing of his outsider identity.

Hess documented the musicians on stage, back -stage practising their dance moves, Gene Krupa signing autographs, Duke Ellington with W.C. Handy. Hess' photos reveal an interest in all aspects of this vast gathering of music fans and bands. Pictures of musicians loading a bus, the make-up of the crowd, and so on, reveal the photographer's ethnographic interest in the festival, not only as a musical event argued Maupin, but as a manifestation of American culture.

For Maupin, Hess' photography not only brings the historic Carnival of Swing visually to life, but also contributes to the history of the importance of immigration to American culture, underling that it sometimes takes an outsider's perspective to capture the extraordinary and the beautiful in what may seem like the every day.

The second paper, presented by Abby Lloyd of Texas A&M International University, was titled Preserved Through Portraits: Mexican-American Frontier Bands (ca. 1930-1950).

To escape economic depression and the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), large numbers of Mexican migrants were seduced by the opportunity of a better life working in Kansas' on the Santa Fe railroad or in the sugar beet industry. Indeed, they were actively recruited. And discriminated against, being forced into isolated colonias near the commercial centres of Kansas towns. The first significant wave of Mexican migration coincided, Lloyd described, with many African-American labourers and their families moving from rural areas to Northern urban centres.

The large-scale migration of Mexicans prompted Lloyd to research what role Mexicans and Mexican-Americans may have played in the rise of jazz in the mid-west in the first half of the twentieth century. Mexican communities, she argued, may have been more involved in the American jazz movement than historical documentation suggests. In Chicago, for example, Mexicans were the fourth largest immigrant group in the city and lived in close proximity to African-Americans. Lloyd's research, however, drew her to study the Mexican communities in the frontier town of Topeka, where Mexicans working the railroads and farms lived in segregated communities.

Post a comment

Watch

Tags

View events near Dublin
Jazz Near Dublin
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop Amazon

More

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.