Not the Whole Story(ville): Learning from New Orleans Jazzwomen

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Join us for a talk by Professor Sherrie Tucker of the University of Kansas. Dr. Tucker will argue that a focus on women in New Orleans jazz provides a powerful counter-narrative with profound implications for what we can know about jazz history.

Not the Whole Story(ville): Learning from New Orleans Jazzwomen
Saturday, February 22, 2 p.m.
Kenan Music Building, Room 1201

Jazz history has often been narrated as a linear parade of geniuses and styles timed by decade–a story that Scott DeVeaux (1991) has identified as the “Jazz Tradition.” If approached through the overlapping lenses of race, gender, class, and sexuality, the “Jazz Tradition” narrative reads as a triumphant quest for respectability, where jazz rises from its humble origins in the brothels of New Orleans to the hallowed halls of Lincoln Center. But of course, this is not the whole Story(ville). In this talk, Tucker argues that a focus on women in New Orleans jazz provides a powerful counter-narrative with profound implications for what we can know about jazz history.

Drawing from a research study on women in New Orleans Jazz conducted for the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (Tucker 2004), Tucker discusses artists and entrepreneurs such as cornetist and madam Antonia Gonzales, pianist Mamie Desdunes (who Jelly Roll Morton credited as the source of the Creole approach to blues that he referred to as the Latin Tinge), lawn and garden party businesswomen such as Betsy Cole, and instrumentalists such as Emma Barrett and Dolly Adams. Through their stories, Tucker offers an alternate view of jazz history, in which New Orleans jazz is not just a point of origin in a linear march, but a network of overlapping webs, including, but not limited to, the brothels of Storyville.

Sherrie Tucker (Professor, American Studies, University of Kansas) is the author of Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s (Duke, 2000), and co-editor, with Nichole T. Rustin, of Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies (Duke, 2008), and the forthcoming Dance Floor Democracy: the Social Geography of Memory at the Hollywood Canteen (Duke, Fall 2014). She is a member or the research team for composer Pauline Oliveros’s Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI), the facilitator of the Improvisation, Gender, and the Body team of the Research Initiative, Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice headquartered in Guelph, Ontario, and a member of the Melba Liston Research Collective. She is co-editor with Randal Jelks of American Studies and a series editor with Deborah Wong and Jeremy Wallach of the Music/Culture Series at Wesleyan University Press.

This talk is sponsored by the Department of Women’s Studies, Center for Urban and Regional Studies, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and the Carolina Jazz Festival.