Jazz recordings as social texts

Tackley, Catherine (2010). Jazz recordings as social texts. In: Bayley, Amanda ed. Recorded Music: Performance, Culture and Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 167–186.


Recent scholarship has tended to focus on the perceived inadequacies of recording to represent live jazz performance. Nevertheless, recordings are dominant in the dissemination of jazz and as such demand our critical attention to understand the social potential of jazz in the twenty-first century. This chapter examines the ability of recordings to influence perceptions of jazz when evaluated in different ways: firstly, retrospectively, for example when writing jazz history; secondly, historically, within their original context (that is at the time at which they were first disseminated); and thirdly, in their present context, when they are encountered by new audiences. In this chapter, these three particular temporal perspectives of listeners are explored in relation to recordings chosen deliberately for their quantifiable status in the jazz canon: ‘Livery Stable Blues’ (1917) recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band from New Orleans is widely cited as the first jazz recording; Miles Davis’s album Kind of Blue (1959) is understood as the best selling and most popular jazz recording of all time.

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