The jazz diaspora

Bruce Johnson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


As early as 1922, in an article published in the New York Times Book Review and Magazine, journalist Burnet Hershey chronicled his recent journey around the world taking in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Orient, and reported that jazz was everywhere: No sooner had I shaken off the dust of some city and slipped almost out of earshot of its jazz bands than zump-zump-zump, toodle-oodle-doo, right into another I went. Never was there a cessation of this universal potpourri of jazz. Each time I would discover it at a different stage of metamorphosis and sometimes hard to recognize, but unmistakably it was an attempt at jazz. The dominant readings of jazz history have concentrated on chronology: the historical succession from New Orleans jazz to classic jazz, swing, bop and beyond (see, for example, Kernfeld 1988, I, 580–606). While such accounts are not modelled in terms of the diaspora, they are locked into it, since these stages happen also to correspond to diasporic factors. From New Orleans to the classic jazz of Chicago, from Kansas City to the bop hothouse of New York – each stylistic shift is also marked by a geographical shift. In formalist approaches (that is, those centred on musical characteristics), emphasis is on what is seen as ‘progress’ to higher levels of musical aesthetics, a teleology that continues to underpin powerful institutionalised discourses. Parallel to, but often in tension with, formalist accounts are cultural narratives interested less in what the music sounds like than in its social meanings. In these readings, various themes have remained durable, as, for example, a music of cutting-edge modernist or bohemian individualism, yet of authentic folk collectivity. Both reflect a suspicion of mass culture.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge companion to jazz
EditorsMervyn Cooke, David Horn
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781139002233
ISBN (Print)0521663202, 0521663881
Publication statusPublished - 2003


Dive into the research topics of 'The jazz diaspora'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this