Types of Jazz Periodicals
One can slice the jazz-journal “pie” into a number of different categories.
Generally having long publication runs and with a broad-based audience (fans, aficionados, musicians, and those involved in the business of jazz); these contain news, opinions, recording reviews, photographs, cartoons/caricatures, gossip, advertising (often significant), interviews with musicians, some content of which can be sensationalism and prone to favoritism. In the 1930s and 1940s, most of these general jazz journals were aimed largely at white audiences, with the exception of Down Beat.¹
Examples: Down Beat (Chicago, IL, 1934- ), Metronome (New York, NY, 1885-1961; which began transitioning to jazz-specific content in 1932)
There are two types in this category. First, the wide-ranging recording review journals intended for a wide public. These journals contain larger prose pieces such as editorials, articles on musicians or jazz trends, and recording news. They also include discographies, advertisements for record companies, dealers, and collectors, and items sought, for sale, or on auction.
Examples: Record Changer (also contains well-known iconography; Washington, DC; Fairfax, VA; New York, NY, 1942-1957), The Needle (New York, NY, 1944-1945), Jazzfinder / Playback (New Orleans, LA, 1948-1952), H. R. S. Society Rag (New York, NY, 1938-1941)
The second discographical category focuses more on record collections. These, in the main, contain discographies, some of which are annotated, itemized records of personal collections for sale or auction, with much less prose than is found in the first category.
Examples: Good Diggin’ (Portland, OR, 1947-1949), Jazz Discounter (Evansville, IN, 1948-1951)
These are rare journals written, edited, published, produced by and intended for the African-American public. African-American jazz journals do not appear until the 1940s, and, due to mostly economic reasons,² often had very short publication runs. This makes locating a procuring existing copies extremely difficult.
Examples: Music Dial (New York, NY, 1943-1945) and, Rhythm (New York, NY, 1945-1947), neither of which appear in the bibliography of the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
Big Band and Swing Journals
Produced during the big-band era, these contain news, photographs, interviews, and biographies, the focus of which is often centered on white bands and musicians.
Examples: All-American Band Leaders / Band Leaders (New York, NY, 1942-1947), Swing: The Guide to Modern Music (New York, NY, 1938-1941)
Critical Research Journals
These journals contain more “elevated” criticism and articles (but not necessarily academic) and reputedly contain some of the best writings on jazz during this and the following decades.
Examples: The Jazz Review (New York, NY, 1958-1961), Jazz: A Quarterly of American Music (Berkeley, CA, 1958-1960)
Location Specific Journals
These focus primarily on jazz-related activities in a particular region or city.
Examples: The Jazz Blast (Mt. Ephraim, NJ, 1970-1973), The Second Line (New Orleans, LA, 1950-1976), Big Apple Jazz (New York, NY, 1977)
As jazz was connected with broader artistic and literary trends, such as the affinity of the Beat Generation for jazz or the influence of the 1950s and 1960s musical avant-garde on free jazz, much pertinent writing can be found in journals with an avant-garde focus.
Examples: Climax (New Orleans, LA, 1955-1956), Change (Detroit, MI, 1965-1966)
"Traditional" Jazz Journals
Journals predominantly concerned with “traditional” jazz – blues, Dixieland and ragtime – provide an interesting mixture of news, reviews, and research. While many periodicals in the collection discuss the stylistic origins of jazz, two journals deserve special mention: The Mississippi Rag, whose monthly publication reached subscribers in all fifty of the United States and in twenty-six other countries, had a remarkable publication run of over thirty years, and 78 Quarterly, published original research and reviews about country blues and traditional jazz on 78rpm records.
Examples: The Mississippi Rag (Minneapolis, MN, 1973-2006), 78 Quarterly (New York, NY; Key West, FL, 1967-2002)
Entertainment Industry Journals
Jazz was at times linked to Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large. A number of journals focus on these aspects, with news often rich with photography, especially of those musicians who crossed over to film and, later, television.
Examples: Hollywood Note (Hollywood, CA, 1946), Capitol: News from Hollywood (Hollywood, CA, 1943-1952)
So-called “rags” were usually produced by only a few people and distributed within a small network. Often consisting of valuable criticism, commentary, and news, these rare journals are distinguished by a less formal presentation in that they are often reproductions of type-written pages.
Examples: Floy Floy (Chicago, IL, 1938), Jazz Report (Ventura, CA, 1960-1974)
Jazz and Other Genres
Jazz was a central component in the development of many subsequent musical genres including rhythm and blues and soul. The content of several journals in this collection is primarily focused on these derivative art forms.
Examples: The Soul and Jazz Record (Hollywood, California 1975-1977), Rhythm and Blues (Derby, CT 1952-1964)
Foreign Journals (non-U.S.)
The wide-spread international interest in jazz led to the creation of periodicals in many languages, including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Japanese and Icelandic. These journals will be added at a later date.
Examples: Revue du Jazz (Paris, 1949-1952); Jazz Revue (Berlin, 1950-1954); Jazzwereld (Amsterdam, 1931-1940); Swing Journal (スイングジャーナル ) (Tokyo, 1947-2010)
Journals Outside the Chronological Scope of RIPM Jazz Periodicals
In the main, those journals which will not be treated by RIPM are continuing scholarly publications on jazz.
Examples: Jazz Perspectives (2007- ), Jazz Research Journal (2004- ) Current Research in Jazz (2009-), Jazz and Culture (2018- ) [formerly the International Jazz Archives Journal]
¹ In his dissertation, Ron Welburn shows that most jazz periodicals of the 1930s “gave the impression of being a white musicians magazine about white jazz players and a few blacks present here and there” (p. 89) yet Down Beat published much more about black musicians and black bands. Ronald G. Welburn, American Jazz Criticism, 1914-1940. Ph. D. Dissertation, New York University (1983), p. 96-97.
² Ibid., p. 218.