Jazz permeates many facets (historical, cultural, and sociological) of American life and maintains an unchallenged place as an art form that the United States of America contributed to the world. Today, jazz retains an active public presence in venues ranging from small clubs to symphony halls; radio stations worldwide are devoted to its dissemination, and millions of jazz recordings and digital downloads are sold annually.¹ Moreover, some 2,300 faculty members offer courses, and undertake research in jazz history and performance at almost 900 institutions of higher learning in the United States alone,² and many offer graduate degrees in jazz studies and performance; and this does not include the many people studying jazz improvisation privately. Nor does it include those studying jazz as a sociological or literary phenomenon in departments of American Studies, American History, English Literature and African-American Studies. When we add to this number the large number of students receiving instruction at international institutions offering programs in jazz history, performance and education, and the even larger numbers of jazz aficionados who take pride in their knowledge of the art form, and the amateurs who improvise in their basements, it is clear that there is a large public that would appreciate suddenly being able to access historic jazz periodicals.
Old dusty jazz magazines are great fun to peruse; they are also informative, often highly illustrated, full of crusty gossip, and frequently entertaining. They also contain, for example, items ranging from reviews to obituaries to crossword puzzles. But, most importantly, they provide a contemporary view of jazz history by those who lived it; in effect, an almost daily chronicle of jazz history and activities in America from the early 1930s. For this reason, jazz periodicals constitute an essential tool for the jazz historian and one of profound importance to anyone interested in this art form. In fact, If one wishes to study individual jazz musicians and their influence, the multiple styles of jazz, critical opinions, recordings, repertory, a dazzling and immense array of pertinent iconography, discography, jazz in cities or countries, ensembles and their musicians, the interconnections of jazz, race, gender and class, or the context of jazz in political and social life, one can begin by examining the contemporary press. For, the press provides abundant information about these subjects and almost any other related subject one might wish to explore.
Historical, sociological and geographical factors (e.g., where jazz was born, race relations, its first performance venues and initial audience), did not allow for the creation of genre-specific American jazz magazines in the early years of the twentieth century. While there are some early twentieth-century American periodicals that, on occasion, treat a subject related to jazz, and, several journals dealing with jazz-precursors, [Christensen’s Ragtime Review (1914-16) and The Ragtime Review (1916-1918)], it was not until 1933 that the first fully-fledged jazz periodicals were published in United States.³ And it is during this period that American jazz magazines begin to flourish, which they have continued to do with varying degrees of success to the present day.
¹ Some 8.1 million jazz recordings were sold in 2012, the last year for which data on jazz is available. http://www.statista.com/statistics/188910/us-music-album-sales-by-genre-2010/
² College Music Society, Online Directory of Institutions and Faculty (www.music.org, subscription required). Accessed: 10 February 2015.
³ Some important European jazz periodicals preceded those published in America: for example, Melody Maker, and Rhythm, both published in London beginning respectively in 1926 and in 1927; in Paris, La Revue du Jazz, first appearing in 1929, and Jazz Tango in 1931; in the Hague, De Jazz Wereld in 1931; in Berlin, Musik-Echo: Zeitschrift fiir Melodie und Rhythmus in 1931; and in Prague, Prehled Rozhlasu, in 1932