JJ 08/92: Annual Review Of Jazz Studies 5, 1991

Thirty years ago Mark Gilbert was impressed by Rutgers' investigation of chromatic third relations in Coltrane's music. First published in Jazz Journal August 1992


If ever there was a case for the argument that jazz was never taken seriously in America, it no longer holds. This fifth vol­ume of heavily footnoted articles from Rutgers confirms what has been so for some years – that jazz is now analysed and dissected in American universities with a rigour previously found only in classical musicology.

This studiousness is most immediately evident in the close musical analysis of three of the essays here – Kurt Dietrich’s examination of the playing of Tricky Sam Nanton, Mark Haywood’s assessment of the harmonic role of melody in jazz and David Demsey’s particularly fascinating investigation of chromatic third relations in the music of John Coltrane.

Though mostly devoid of the arcane hierography of notation, the other articles in the book are no less thorough. Erik Weidemann’s Duke Ellington: The Composer is a catalogue-in-progress of Ellington compositions, and his Duke In Denmark is a survey of Duke’s recordings there. Gary Carner’s The Agony and the Agony considers the jazz writing of James Lincoln Collier from the viewpoint that it is ‘a calculated mix of sensationalism and scholarly pretense’, Vincent Pelote’s Annotated Bibliography of British Periodicals (1930-1940) is just that (with illustrations too) and Edward Berger’s George Duvivier: Arranger and Composer traces and lists those aspects of the bassist’s work.

Light relief comes in the form of a gallery of 32 black and white photos of mainstream players taken by vet­eran Basie trumpeter Joe Wilder. The remainder of the volume is taken up with substantial reviews of recent books, including Gunther Schuller’s The Swing Era, John Chilton’s Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz and Lincoln Collier’s Benny Goodman and the Swing Era.

There is no room here to describe any of these items in depth, but be assured that this handy-sized volume (14x22cm) is an absorbing and varied compendium of satisfyingly specialised and often exhaus­tive studies. It’s not cheap but your library should buy it even if you don’t.

Edited by Edward Berger, David Cayer, Dan Morgenstern and Lewis Porter. Pub­lished by Scarecrow Press, Inc for the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Hb, 250pp, illus, ISBN 0-8108-2478-7. Available in the UK from Shelwing Ltd, 127 Sandgate Road, Folkestone, Kent CT20 2BL (tel 0303 850501). Price £22.15