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MUSIC RESEARCH GUIDE: Jazz Research

Resources for music research and for finding materials in Parsons Music Library

WHERE TO START

To get an overview of a jazz topic, try Grove Music Online.  It gives background information and bibliographies.

All Music Guide is another good place to look for information about jazz artists and genres.

Eddie Meadows' book, Jazz Scholarship and Pedagogy, is an annotated bibliography of books, recordings, videos, and websites.

JAZZ RESEARCH by David Tenenholtz

Points to consider

In the field of jazz scholarship, it is vital to take note of the advanced methods of putting together scholarship or larger works for publication. Those writers of biographies on jazz artists who have musical expertise will offer transcribed examples from recordings, as well as musical analysis. Too few jazz biographers take on genealogical research to uncover the depths of a particular person's ancestry, and relating their past to events that followed in their own lives. In this case, genealogical research can be coupled with census research, to establish further background on a person's location, upbringing, history of military service, etc. We can learn from the many authors of non-musical biographies who use a large variety of research tools outside of music scholarship to discover the primary sources involved in a person's life story, such as their birth certificate, grades in school, court documents, marriage licenses, and various other public documents housed in local court buildings. To acquire facsimiles of these items requires a level of patience, professionalism, and tact on which every researcher relies.

Interviewing

While blending the general biographer's tools (e.g. census, court documents, genealogy, etc) with musical training, the advanced jazz researcher has to maintain a sense of what is accurate, what is hearsay, and what is repeated in secondary sources. Often, jazz researchers spend most of their work doing interviews with many experts, musicians, and people important to the life story of the subject. These oral histories and interviews give the writing a more personal tone. With interviews, the average reader gets brought further into the musical world of the subject,  whereas the non-musician will be put off by writing that is solely devoted to analysis, tables and graphs, and musical examples.

Interviews are important, but can be untrue, politically motivated, or misguided. Leading questions, assumptions, antagonism -- these are all pitfalls that many interviews must avoid, and navigating through many hours of interviewing with a single person can often lead to numerous unintended consequences. Above all, to gain the trust of an interviewee, the interviewer must be able to relate to that person, and make them comfortable.

Newspaper research

Newspapers, whether online or on microfilm, can offer a wealth of primary source documentation -- advertisements for gigs/appearances/concerts at clubs, festivals, and other venues. There will also be news on artists' lives, which may not survive after the "re-writing" of that person's life that sometimes takes place as time progresses. The fact is, newspaper research lets the researcher uncover the original stories, in an order that shows the piece-meal way that events occur over time, and how the news staff interpret those events around the time they happened. With newspaper research, the half-truths and pure falsehoods that arise after decades of revisionist mentalities from artists, publicists, and authors, start to melt away, and show off the public perception of that subject around the moment in time that they were active.

USING THE LIBRARY CATALOG FOR JAZZ RESEARCH

Select "Subject Heading Browse" in the "within" box on the BASIC SEARCH screen

TO FIND: ENTER THIS SUBJECT HEADING:
Biographies of jazz musicians Jazz Musicians
Jazz scholarship (any period) Jazz Analysis, Appreciation  OR
  Jazz History and Criticism
Jazz scholarship (specific decade) Jazz 1931-40 History and Criticism OR
  Jazz 1951-60 History and Criticism, etc.
Jazz methods books Jazz Instruction and Study
Fake books Music Fake Books
Discographies Jazz Discography
Interviews Jazz Musicians Interviews
Playalongs (Jamey Aebersold, etc) Recorded Accompaniments


For books about a particular jazz genre, select SUBJECT HEADING BROWSE in the "within box," and enter your genre term(s).  The catalog may link you to a different term, for example, Bop (Music) instead of Bebop.

If you have trouble, ask for the book Music Subject Headings, which is behind the circulation desk in the Music Library.  It will show you the correct subject phrases to enter for specific musical topics.

JOURNAL ARTICLES ON JAZZ TOPICS

Use the journal indexes below to find articles on jazz topics.   The International Index to Music Periodicals has the broadest coverage, with many full-text articles.  JSTOR offers recent scholarly articles in many subject areas.  RILM Abstracts contains only scholarly material, including dissertations and conference papers. 

Click here to see a list of all the jazz journals in the library catalog

WEBSITES FOR JAZZ

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Linda Fairtile
Contact:
Parsons Music Library
Modlin Center for the Arts
University of Richmond, VA 23173
804 287-6849