Gunther Schuller and the history of jazz

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Gunther Schuller and the history of jazz

Post  pinhedz on Sun Apr 17, 2011 12:48 pm

pinhedz
Tue May 20, 2008 2:38 pm

Gunther Schuller probably would not be called a jazz man, but he was a fine musician and scholar, and an interesting guy.

He's known more for teaching than for performing, but he recorded with Miles Davis (on a French horn back-up part) and others, and in the '90s he made the world-premier recording of a large composition by Charlie Mingus that Mingus had never recorded.

He also mounted a production of Scot Joplin's opera "Tremonisha" and recorded it (as far as I know, this is the only recording).

In the 1960s, he started a series of books on the history of jazz, but only completed the first two volumes before he died:

-- Volume 1: Early Jazz (1968), covering the period 1900-1930,

-- Volume 2: The Swing Era (1989), covering the period 1930-1945.

So, it took him 21 years to cover a period of 15 years--which means he was losing ground and would never have caught up with the present. I was looking forward to Volume 3, which would have covered the be-bop era, but it never came out (I assume he must have left behind extensive notes).

The second book is much longer than the first one, and he spends some time in it reversing himself on some points he made in Volume 1 and making amends for things he'd left out or changed his mind about (like his dismissal of Red Nichols' groups and The Missourians). I suspect that he was chastised by jazz pundits after Volume 1 and took greater care with Volume 2, not wanting to be chastised again. Maybe he never finished Volume 3 because he was paralyzed by the anxiety of knowing that all those pundits were lying in wait to ambush him.

I suspect that Bennie Goodman's last tour with a big band shortly before he died was done because Goodman knew what Schuller was writing about him. Schuller criticized Goodman for taking so much material from Fletcher Henderson without giving due credit, so Goodman's last tour was called "A Tribute To Fletcher Henderson."

Gunther Schuller recalls the original "Birth Of The Cool" recording session (I think it's safe to say that Schuller is the only one ever to have conducted Miles Davis Shocked ):


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Re: Gunther Schuller and the history of jazz

Post  pinhedz on Wed Jun 03, 2015 2:32 pm

I've been on the lookout for some evidence that Schuller's notes and drafts for Volume III: The History of Bebop, might be in preparation for publication by a student or someone.

But, judging by the total silence on this matter, I have concluded that Schuller's work on Bebop is not about to see the light of day. Neutral

However, I just learned of this other book on the subject:

“The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History” (572 p.), by Scott DeVeaux.

Scott DeVeaux seems to be a professor of some kind (as was Schuller).

One reviewer sez:

"In its blend of historical and musical analysis, it perhaps most closely resembles Gunther Schuller’s Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945, yet DeVeaus’s sense of historical context is much richer, and his historical analysis ranges  far beyond the critical purview of Schullers.”

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