[Dixielandjazz] Gunther Schuller's Books (was Miff Mole)

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Fri Aug 21 14:42:50 PDT 2009

Hi Mike, Paolo et al,

Mike wrote: "I wonder could you give us more details of Gunther Schuller's books?"  

It looks like Paolo beat me to it with the titles, but you might find publisher and ISBN number info useful.

Early Jazz, Its Roots and Development - published by Oxford University Press first as hardback in 1968 and in paperback 1986. ISBN 0-19-504043-0

The Swing Era, the Development of Jazz 1930 - 1945 - publ Oxford University Press 1989
ISNB 0-19-504312-X My copy is hardback, but I'm sure it also exists in paperback.

Both books are packed with scholarly analysis and transcriptions, making them a fascinating read for musicians, but probably much too technical for non-musicians. His research involved listening to literally thousands of old records, of which the vast bulk didn't get discussed in the book. It was the sheer scale of the research which forced him to abandon the proposed third volume covering bop and beyond, which is a huge loss to the jazz community, as he writes with great clarity, has a deep scholarly understanding of all technical matters, has fantastic ears to undertake some complex transcriptions and above all he has outstandingly good taste and an obvious deep love of the music and respect for its greatest performers.

His research has occasionally led him to write about usung heroes of the music, such as trumpeter/arranger John Nesbitt, whose writing for McKinney's Cotton Pickers c1928-30 comes in for handsome praise. Up to the point where I read about him in Schuller's book, I had never heard of Nesbitt or his music, but on the strength of Schuller's analysis, I listened to a number of the pieces on redhotjazz.com and have set about transcribing the best of them and reducing them for my 8-piece band as they are stunningly inventive and exciting.

If you don't know these books, I'm sure you'll find them informative and fascinating. I certainly use them constantly for information, opinions, musical examples and sheer pleasure.


Ken Mathieson 

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