What Is This Thing Called Jazz?: African American Musicians as Artists, Critics, and Activists

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Univ of California Press, Jan 31, 2002 - Music - 404 pages
"Among the many books on the history of jazz. . . an implicit division of labor has solidified, whereby black artists play and invent while white writers provide the commentary. . . . Eric Porter's brilliant book seeks to trace the ways in which black jazz musicians have made verbal sense of their accomplishments, demonstrating the profound self-awareness of the artists themselves as they engaged in discourse about their enterprise."—Susan McClary, author of Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form

"With What Is This Thing Called Jazz Eric Porter has given us an original portrait of black musicians as creators, thinkers and politically conscious individuals. This well-written, thoroughly researched work is a model of a new kind of scholarship about African American musicians: one that shows them as people who are both shaped by and actively shaping their political and social context. One of the book's most important contributions is that it takes seriously what the musicians themselves say about the music and allows their voices to join that of critics and musicologists in helping to construct a critical and philosophical framework for analyzing the music. Professor Porter's work is rare in it's balanced attention to the formal qualities of the music, historical interpretation and theoretical reflection. His is a work that will certainly shape the direction of future studies. What Is This Thing Called Jazz? is an extraordinary work."—Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday

"A major contribution to American Studies in music, Eric Porter's lucidly written book is the first to thoroughly analyze and contextualize the critical, historical and aesthetic writings of some of today's most innovative composer-performers. Placing the vital concerns of artists at the center, this work provides academic and lay readers alike with important new insights on how African-American musicians sought to realize ambitious dreams and concrete goals through direct action--not only in sound, but through building alternative institutions that emphasized the importance of community involvement."—George E. Lewis, Professor of Music, Critical Studies/Experimental Practices Area University of California, San Diego


A Marvel of Paradox
Passions of a Man
Straight Ahead
Practicing Creative Music
Writing Creative Music
The Majesty of the Blues

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About the author (2002)

Eric Porter is Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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