Academic journal article Notes

Comprehensive Discographies of Jazz, Blues and Gospel

Academic journal article Notes

Comprehensive Discographies of Jazz, Blues and Gospel

Article excerpt

smaller; were the minimum number of citations lowered substantially, it would expand.

We also have a different set of wonders about this study. Crawford and Magee write that "Everyone agrees, then, that there is such a thing as a repertory of jazz standards". The goal of their study is to try to identify, for jazz before 1942, those enduring standards (i.e., the core repertory). We have no qualms about the general concept of a "jazz standard," but we find the idea of identifying a specific core repertory for a specific period to be extremely complex. Is there any constancy to the core repertory in jazz? Can it meaningfully be extracted from the repertory in a statistical discographical manner? Or has the social context of the jazz life created a PART ONE

In baseball there is an old expression that presumably comes from the ballpark vendors: "You can't tell the players without a scorecard." This sales pitch well explains the relationship of discography to jazz, blues, and African-American gospel recordings. At the risk of stating the obvious, it might be useful to say why: for anyone who wants to think about these musical genres carefully, discographies often provide more extensive and more accurate information than do the labels of piano rolls, records, tapes, compact discs, films, and videos, or the liner notes, inserts, and pamphlets associated with these various sorts of sound recordings. The reason is obvious too. Recording companies aim to make money--or at least to survive in the marketplace--and to make good recordings, whatever that may mean. Consistency of approach, fastidious documentation, the desire to please scholars of recordings--none of these have much to do with the real world. And so, in an effort to keep up with the ever-changing vagaries of jazz, blues, and gospel recording, discography has grown into an area of labyrinth and problematic complexity, to an extent that the expression may be turned back upon itself: "You can't tell the scorecards without a scorecard." That is what this article aims to provide.

Part One of the article begins with a close look at a few discographies focusing on a single individual or band, to ask: what sort of information might possibly be included in a discography of jazz, blues, and gospel? This investigation of the realm of possibilities will then serve as a point of reference for a long and hard look at comprehensive discographies: Jazz Records, 1897-1942, by Brian Rust; Blues and Gospel Records, 1902-1942, by John Godrich and Robert M. W. Dixon; Jazz Records, 1942-196X (various closing years), by Jorgen Jepsen, and its successor, Jazz Records, 1942-1980, by Eric Raben; Blues Records, January 1943 to December 1966, by Mike Leadbitter and Neil Slaven, and its successor Blues Records, 1943-1970, of which only A-K has so far been published; and Gospel Records, 1943-1969, by Cedric J. Hayes and Robert Laughton. In part two the survey continues with analyses of 50 . . ., 60 . . ., and now 70 Years of Recorded Jazz, by Walter Bruyninckx, and The Jazz Discography, by Tom Lord, and it concludes with a brief overview of the field.(1)

Because this essay is intended for a library journal, rather than for jazz, blues, and gospel experts, every effort has been made to spell out in full detail and in plain English the jargon and the arcane abbreviations that sometimes appear in those segments of a discography pertaining to issues and reissues. But abbreviations for instrumentation are not spelled out in full, the reader being presumed to understand that "t" or "tp" or "tpt" means "trumpet."

This attempt to spell out the basics does not mean that the essay is just a beginner's guide to jazz, blues, and gospel discography. It supplies, for each discography, full bibliographical detail and a history of publication. In some cases these histories are involved and rather interesting, particularly insofar as they raise questions of piracy and plagiarism: in bootleg editions of Jepsen, and of Godrich and Dixon; in Bruyninckx's works, which began life as little more than a plagiarism of the work of extant north European discographies and then over a quarter of a century evolved into something quite substantially original; and in Lord's new work, which on the evidence of an item-by-item comparison seems to be as shameless a plagiarism as Bruyninckx's first effort. …

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