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Outside and Inside - Race and Identity in White Jazz Autobiography

Outside and Inside

Race and Identity in White Jazz Autobiography

By Reva Marin
Series: American Made Music Series

Hardcover : 9781496829979, 272 pages, 30 b&w illustrations, October 2020
Paperback : 9781496829986, 272 pages, 30 b&w illustrations, October 2020

A unique perspective on race relations in a great American music


Outside and Inside: Representations of Race and Identity in White Jazz Autobiography is the first full-length study of key autobiographies of white jazz musicians. White musicians from a wide range of musical, social, and economic backgrounds looked to black music and culture as the model on which to form their personal identities and their identities as professional musicians. Their accounts illustrate the triumphs and failures of jazz interracialism. As they describe their relationships with black musicians who are their teachers and peers, white jazz autobiographers display the contradictory attitudes of reverence and entitlement, and deference and insensitivity that remain part of the white response to black culture to the present day.

Outside and Inside features insights into the development of jazz styles and culture in the urban meccas of twentieth-century jazz in New Orleans, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Reva Marin considers the autobiographies of sixteen white male jazz instrumentalists, including renowned swing-era bandleaders Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Charlie Barnet; reed instrumentalists Mezz Mezzrow, Bob Wilber, and Bud Freeman; trumpeters Max Kaminsky and Wingy Manone; guitarist Steve Jordan; pianists Art Hodes and Don Asher; saxophonist Art Pepper; guitarist and bandleader Eddie Condon; and New Orleans–style clarinetist Tom Sancton.

While critical race theory informs this work, Marin argues that viewing these texts simply through the lens of white privilege does not do justice to the kind of sustained relationships with black music and culture described in the accounts of white jazz autobiographers. She both insists upon the value of insider perspectives and holds the texts to rigorous scrutiny, while embracing an expansive interpretation of white involvement in black culture. Marin opens new paths for study of race relations and racial, ethnic, and gender identity formation in jazz studies.


"I cannot imagine a more balanced and nuanced approach to the highly vexed issues around jazz, race, and sexuality. Reva Marin has taken on a deeply problematic subject and opened it up brilliantly."

- Krin Gabbard, author of Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus

"In Outside and Inside Reva Marin brings gender squarely and skillfully into the jazz autobiography discourse. The sampling of male jazz autobiographies selected for analysis is judicious, reflecting a range of behaviors related to race and ethnicity. Highly recommended."

- Bruce Boyd Raeburn, curator emeritus, Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University, and author of New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History

"Outside and Inside provides a fascinating and long-overdue look at the role of white jazz musicians through the lens of their autobiographies. Marin explores the relationships of these musicians to African American culture as well as to their own white ethnicities with subtlety and insight. This book is essential and richly enjoyable reading for all those interested in the complex role of race and ethnicity in jazz."

- Charles Hersch, author of Jews and Jazz: Improvising Ethnicity

"Marin’s text is enhanced with excellent photographs and notes, a bibliography of works cited, and a helpful index. Her well-written and well-argued study is accessible to all and is highly recommended to libraries of all types."

- Renée McBride, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Musical Research Services Quarterly