An analysis of completeness and historical accuracy in the most commonly used college jazz history texts

Lorenz Sam Lussier, Florida International University


Historical accuracy is only one of the components of a scholarly college textbook used to teach the history of jazz music. Textbooks in this field should include accurate ethnic representation of the most important musical figures as jazz is considered the only original American art form. As college and universities celebrate diversity, it is important that jazz history be accurate and complete. The purpose of this study was to examine the content of the most commonly used jazz history textbooks currently used at American colleges and universities. This qualitative study utilized grounded and textual analysis to explore the existence of ethnic representation in these texts. The methods used were modeled after the work of Kane and Selden each of whom conducted a content analysis focused on a limited field of study. This study is focused on key jazz artists and composers whose work was created in the periods of early jazz (1915-1930), swing (1930-1945) and modern jazz (1945-1960). This study considered jazz notables within the texts in terms of ethnic representation, authors' use of language, contributions to the jazz canon, and place in the standard jazz repertoire. Appropriate historical sections of the selected texts were reviewed and coded using predetermined rubrics. Data were then aggregated into categories and then analyzed according to the character assigned to the key jazz personalities noted in the text as well as the comparative standing afforded each personality. The results of this study demonstrate that particular key African-American jazz artists and composers occupy a significant place in these texts while other significant individuals representing other ethnic groups are consistently overlooked. This finding suggests that while America and the world celebrates the quality of the product of American jazz as great musically and significant socially, many ethnic contributors are not mentioned with the result being a less than complete picture of the evolution of this American art form.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Music|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Lussier, Lorenz Sam, "An analysis of completeness and historical accuracy in the most commonly used college jazz history texts" (2006). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3217575.