What Is This Thing Called Jazz?: African American Musicians as Artists, Critics and Activists
by Eric Porter
Despite the plethora of writing about jazz, little attention has been paid to what musicians themselves wrote and said about their practice. An implicit division of labor has emerged where, for the most part, black artists invent and play music while white writers provide the commentary. Eric Porter overturns this tendency in his creative intellectual history of African Am...more
Paperback, 425 pages
Published January 31st 2002 by University of California Press
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Having recently watched Ken Burns's epic documentary on jazz recently, I wanted to gain a more in depth perspective on some of the claims made in the film. Notably, I was struck by what seemed to me rather doctrinaire positions taken by Wynton Marsalis and others in dismissing the entire post-1960 avant-garde current in jazz. I do not know much about jazz, but I know enough to be deeply suspicious of the wholesale rejection of free jazz. Turning to Eric Porter's study of the discourses of jazz,...more
Aug 27, 2007 Chris Q. Murphy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in jazz history from an afrocentric perspective
porter has created what is sure to be a standard text for any jazz course for the forseeable future, as he has combined exceptional scholarship with a solid (but never heavy-handed) theory on the origins and course of jazz in america. rooted in the belief that this music is a uniquely african-american cultural creation, he finds the time to give credence to both the amiri barakas and stanley crouches of this world, all the while spinning a fantastic yarn about the development of this music and t...more
Eric Porter is Professor of American Studies, History, and History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of What Is This Thing Called Jazz? (UC Press), winner of a 2003 American Book Award, and The Problem of the Future World.More about Eric Porter...