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Knowing Jazz - Community, Pedagogy, and Canon in the Information Age

Knowing Jazz

Community, Pedagogy, and Canon in the Information Age

By Ken Prouty
Series: American Made Music Series

Paperback : 9781617039447, 208 pages, October 2013
Hardcover : 9781617031632, 208 pages, December 2011

How the claim to jazz knowledge forges community and forms an understanding of canon


Ken Prouty argues that knowledge of jazz, or more to the point, claims to knowledge of jazz, are the prime movers in forming jazz's identity, its canon, and its community. Every jazz artist, critic, or fan understands jazz differently, based on each individual's unique experiences and insights. Through playing, listening, reading, and talking about jazz, both as a form of musical expression and as a marker of identity, each aficionado develops a personalized relationship to the larger jazz world. Through the increasingly important role of media, listeners also engage in the formation of different communities that not only transcend traditional boundaries of geography, but increasingly exist only in the virtual world.

The relationships of "jazz people" within and between these communities is at the center of Knowing Jazz. Some groups, such as those in academia, reflect a clash of sensibilities between historical traditions. Others, particularly online communities, represent new and exciting avenues for everyday fans, whose involvement in jazz has often been ignored. Other communities seek to define themselves as expressions of national or global sensibility, pointing to the ever-changing nature of jazz's identity as an American art form in an international setting. What all these communities share, however, is an intimate, visceral link to the music and the artists who make it, brought to life through the medium of recording. Informed by an interdisciplinary approach and approaching the topic from a number of perspectives, Knowing Jazz charts a philosophical course in which many disparate perspectives and varied opinions on jazz can find common ground.


"Ken Prouty's book Knowing Jazz: Community, Pedagogy, and Canon in the Information Age is a powerful work that draws upon Prouty's broad background as an educator and author. Prouty is a first-class scholar whose work has withstood the scrutiny of the journal editorial board, and as a highly schooled and gig-tested jazz performer who has endured the equal rigors of bandstand. He writes about the widely diverse, but interconnected elements of the jazz world from an insider's viewpoint, a perspective that gives him a unique ability to gather and comment upon the work of the hundreds of authors he painstakingly analyzed for this volume."

- David Demsey, William Paterson University Coordinator of Jazz Studies and Living Jazz Archives Curator, saxophonist, and author of John Coltrane Plays "Giant Steps"

"Knowing Jazz offers valuable insights into the relationship between jazz communities, education and history, and explores many well-trodden jazz mythologies. Prouty's engaging book will appeal to anyone interested in the complexities of the jazz scene today."

- Tony Whyton, author of Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Jazz Tradition

"Drawing on an enormous range of scholarship, as well as his own extensive experience as a professional musician, Ken Prouty shows how performers, historians, journalists, filmmakers, educators, bloggers, and Tweeters serve to form, contest, and reform notions of 'the jazz community' today. Beautifully written, smart, engaging, and refreshingly honest, Knowing Jazz is truly a jazz book for the 21st century and a must-read for scholars, musicians, educators, and everyone else who cares about the past, present, and future of this music."

- David Ake, director of the School of the Arts, University of Nevada, Reno, and author of Jazz Matters and Jazz Cultures