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Being Home: Jazz Authority and the Politics of Place

Iyer, Vijay

Songs of the Unsung: The Musical and Social Journey of Horace Tapscott sets
forth an astonishing, searingly honest view of one segment of music history
that is indeed unsung. Tapscott (1934-1999) was a pianist, composer,
bandleader, and social activist who spent most of his life in the Mrican
American communities of Los Angeles. In 1998, sociologist Steven Isoardi
collaborated with several generations of Los Angeles jazz musicians to
compile a vital oral history of that city's rich, undervalued role in African
American music and culture (Bryant et al. 1998). Among Isoardi's interview
subjects was Tapscott, who also served as a co-editor of the compilation.
Several hours of conversation with Tapscott were distilled into a handful
of pages for his entry in that volume. Subsequent to Tapscott's death,
Isoardi arranged these transcribed recollections into a coherent, compelling
autobiography. The resultant memoir reminds us with stunning
candor that too much has happened under the radar of the jazz industry.
Released in time for the holiday season in 2000, The Oxford Companion
to Jazz (hereafter OCJ) endeavors to be viewed as "the one indispensable
publication in the field," to quote a highlighted phrase in the back-of-thejacket
testimonial by seasoned producer George Avakian. Editor Bill
Kirchner commissioned sixty brief thematic chapters by fifty-nine different
contributors, including journalists, critics, scholars, and musicians. Many
of the chapters take the form of mini-histories, covering important individual
figures of jazz, single canonical stylistic eras by decade and genre,
notable musicians by instrument, or specific jazz histories by region.

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Academic Units
Columbia University
Published Here
November 19, 2014