[Dixielandjazz] Jazz records, jazz history, etc.

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Thu Jun 2 11:20:35 PDT 2005

On Jun 1, 2005, at 4:02 PM, Norman Vickers wrote:

> Listmates:  Here is a long article from the New Yorker.  Alex Ross'
> essay talks about the effects, good and bad, of recording and its 
> effect
> on listeners and the artists.  It mentions Louis Armstrong and Bing
> Crosby so I think it will pass the  OKOM-test.  I found it interesting
> and I hope you will.

The New Yorker articles are usually of interest to me. This long, long 
one made some good points but the tortuous exploration can’t over-ride 
the simple fact (acknowledged in passing) that recordings have made 
music accessible to the masses in ways undreamt of before the 20th 

A few other observations—

CDs are now made by countless jazz groups that don’t expect reviews, 
airplay or wide publicity. They sell them at gigs. There are too many 
of them to get reviews in print, although CODA mag does more than most, 
and reviews on websites take up some of the slack.
Question: Is this a wasteful glut, or tomorrow’s collectors’ items.

Related Question: Are print mags threatened by the many jazz websites, 
or have the latter made publication in a print source even more of an 
“elite” and prestigious thing? I’m old as hell and don’t need to build 
a vita, so I’m still stuck with thinking that being published or 
reviewed in a print journal has more clout than in an e-zine or other 
website. I wonder what aspiring young writers think about this.

Writers like Brian Priestly and Jed Rasula have pointed out that “jazz 
history” after 1920 has typically been a history of jazz recordings, 
since many historians seem incapable of or neglectful of going to 
documentation like old print sources, interviews of surviving artists 
and listeners, archives, etc. It seems “obvious” that the recordings 
covered the range of what was happening and captured the “best” 
artists. This is less true of historians of early jazz (Hardie, Kmen, 
Marquis, and other worthies) who must rely on other sources since 
recordings of early jazz didn’t exist before 1917 and was pretty 
non-inlcusive for many years after that.

Beyond that, artists of the swing and early bop era who didn’t get on 
record or weren’t well represented on record remain mute inglorious 
Miltons unless historians go beyond the audio resources. In New 
Orleans, players like Ed Blackwell, Ellis Marsalis, Bill Huntington and 
other early modernists did get on record, but I had to go elsewhere to 
document the contributions of Mouse Bonati, Mike Serpas, the Dooky 
Chase band, and others.

Charlie Suhor

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