14

Documenting Jazz 2019

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
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.

Archival photographs record Hispanic swing bands in Topeka between 1930-1950, documenting the continuous and evolving Hispanic presence in jazz. Despite being isolated from the main community of Topeka and despite often racist policy toward them, Lloyd said, Mexicans attempted to adapt to some of the American ways of life.

Portraits of Mexican bands such as the Martinez Jazz Orchestra preserved in the Kansas Memory Project reveal instrumentation typical of Kansas City jazz bands of the 1930s trumpet, trombone, sousaphone, piano, banjo, drums, woodwind players. A portrait of the Manuel Corona Band from 1944 shows how the instrumentation had developed, reflecting the popularity of swing, with a rhythm section comprised of bass, piano, guitar and drums, plus three saxophones, three trumpets and one trombone. Unfortunately, it appears that no sound recordings of these bands exist, nor documentation of the audiences they played for.

The embrace of jazz by Mexican bands, Lloyd suggested, was a step towards cultural assimilation, though as documentation was rare and has been poorly preserved, it is difficult to ascertain just what influence Mexican bands played in the development of jazz in Kansas, though that they were active participants, Lloyd said, is seemingly evident. More research on this narrative would be welcome.

The third paper, presented by John Gennari of the University of Vermont, was titled Photographing the Jazz Salon: Clemens Kalischer at Music Inn.

Gennari's paper looked at the photos of Clemens Kalischer, a German-Jewish war refugee who came to New York in 1946. Specifically, Gennari focused on the photos Kalischer took at Music Inn in Lennox, where during the summer months jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, George Russell, Ornette Coleman and others, along with critics and writers including Marshall Stearns, Nat Hentoff and Langston Hughes, gathered to propagate a formal understanding of jazz.

Their efforts were, according to Gennari, an attempt "to mainstream jazz socially and culturally in post-war America...to evangelize jazz as a force of racial harmony...to sanitize it of its affiliations with political radicalism and racial bohemian subcultures". The Berkshires of western Massachusetts in the post-war years was a thriving centre of literature, summer festivals and tourism, and it was in this landscape that the Music Inn in Lennox existed. Jazz was therefore placed and presented in the context of middle-class cultural tourism.

Gennari presented some of Kalischer's five hundred photos of Music Inn, which showed Marshall Stearns delivering a lecture in 1952 to a small but diverse audience, Connie Kay talking to a student, Gunther Schuller and other intellectual heavyweights teaching jazz history. There was a jazz school where jazz history was taught and there was a concert series. Students, in 1959, included Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, one photo capturing the former singing Bach chorales.

Clemens died in 2018 aged 97. Curiously, Clemens knew nothing about jazz and actively disliked it, according to Gennari—who got to know the photographer quite well in his final years— and yet the photographer became a very close friend of Ornette Coleman John Lewis and Gunter Schuller. For Gennari, Clemens jazz photography was a blend of art photography and iconography, and very different from other 1950s jazz photographers such as Francis Wolfe, William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard and William Claxton.

Clemens brings an outsider's eye to his photography, clearly recognizing the cultural richness at play when jazz musicians, intellectuals and writers gathered for a leisurely three weeks in the Berkshires. The importance of Clemens' photography, Gennari stated, was because "it can allow us to think about a jazz narrative that moves us away from the classic jazz narrative that is connected to a classic look...".

Jazz and the Digital Age

The digital age has had an enormous impact in how jazz is documented, with YouTube allowing musicians who have never owned a record or CD, who have never been to a jazz concert, to not only access a vast performance and recorded library of music but to learn from the masters [see interview with Vangthanousone Bouaphane: The Lao Jazznova].

Jeremiah Spillane of the University of London then delivered a paper titled Documenting 'Gypsy Jazz': Understanding the Posthumous Influence of Django Reinhardt and the Ongoing Interpretation and Codification of His Music Through Pedagogy and Performance Online, which demonstrated how YouTube has been hugely influential in the documentation and dissemination of manouche jazz performance techniques.

Spillane demonstrated how peer to peer exchange of knowledge via YouTube, "the disembodied performance", as he called it, has changed the oral tradition of Gypsy jazz performance techniques. Spillane showed the specialist Gypsy jazz YouTube channel Patrus53.com. The subscription site is run by a Canadian simply known as Patrus. Over eight hundred Gypsy jazz performances, recorded by Patrus around the world, are available to subscribers, as our interviews with the musicians.

The performances are recorded to camera without an audience, with musicians facing the camera so that finger positioning is clear. The success of Patrus 53, Spillane said, makes it a powerful platform for Gypsy jazz musicians the world over, on a promotional and professional level, enabling musicians to reach promoters and gain cultural capital within the scene.

Django Reinhardt is still revered as an innovator in Gypsy jazz and a giant of the genre, but with so little live footage available, and even less of good quality, he is not, Spillane said, the primary source of instruction for today's Gypsy jazz practitioners, who are far more likely to visit Patrus 53 to gain knowledge on the techniques of hundreds of their peers than they are to go to an old Django Reinhardt vinyl or CD. Patrus 53, with its high-quality production values and curation has made it, Spillane said, "an immensely valuable archive and document of styles and approaches to the music at an important time in the Gypsy jazz scene."

If YouTube has to a large degree replaced the LP in jazz pedagogy, then the internet has also enabled jazz Real Books to enter the digital age. The presentation of Tim Nikolsky, jazz guitarist and independent scholar, was titled Digitally Curating the Australian Jazz Real Book. Nikolsky spoke about how his inspiration for the Australian Jazz Real Book came from the jazz Real Book created by students at Berklee College of Music in the 1970s.

In a 2011 interview with All About Jazz, Nikolsky described the process by which the Australian Jazz Real Book developed from a doctoral thesis, the exhaustive selection of songs and the input of many Australian jazz musicians with regards as to what should be included. Five years of toil paid off when the Australian Jazz Real Book was published, in print and on-line in 2013.

Nikolsky summarized the criteria for tune selection in the Australian Jazz Real Book, based on a survey and qualitative interviews with musicians. The book covers over seventy years of Australian jazz, over a hundred and sixty composers and features four hundred songs. But a printed book, Nikolsky said, has no room to expand, except for additional volumes every few years. The digital curation of the Australian Jazz Real Book on the other hand, has all the printed version's tunes and then some, expanding by as many as fifteen tunes per month—by established and emerging artists—and supporting Nikolsy's statement that "Jazz is a living, breathing art form...".

At the time of this conference the digital Australian Jazz Real Book contained over one thousand, one hundred tunes. The AJRB has been designed, Nikolsky explained, to enable students in Australian music education to play Australian jazz tunes, an option that wasn't previously available in Australian curriculums, as most of the music had never been archived properly. Additionally, the AJRB has profiles of the musicians whose tunes are featured, plus links to their websites, Bandcamp, YouTube and so on.

Nikolsky spoke of Australian jazz's national and regional identities, something promoted by the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, where Australian performers participating for the National Jazz Awards must play Australian music. As to the AJRB's effect on the Australian jazz scene, Nikolsky said:"There is a greater awareness amongst the younger generation, because of its availability, because it's been written into curricula. Everyone is checking everyone else out a bit more."

The third paper of the session was presented by José Dias of Manchester Metropolitan University. His paper was titled Documenting the Now and Projecting Ahead: Contemporary Portuguese Jazz in a Multi-Media Platform and Research Resource.
About Count Basie
Articles | Calendar | Discography | Photos | More...

Tags

Watch

Jazz Near Dublin
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related