The Jazz Study Group
The Jazz Study Group is the origin and core of the Center for Jazz Studies. Founded by Robert G. O’Meally in 1995 with a grant from the Ford Foundation, the Group is a shifting collective of more than thirty members who meet several times yearly to explore new methods of studying the history of jazz, its social context, and its cultural ramifications. An important goal of the Jazz Study Group was to cultivate and strengthen the then-budding interdisciplinary field of jazz studies at a crucial point in its emergence as a discrete area of scholarship within the context of African American and American Studies.
The membership of the Jazz Study Group comprises an unusually wide range of participants from a variety of backgrounds–literary critics, social historians, art historians, musicologists, archivists, film scholars, anthropologists, sociologists, journalists, poets, visual artists, composers, and improvisors, among others. Participants at JSG meetings have included some of the most prominent writers, musicians, visual artists, and scholars associated with the study and performance of jazz, such as Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Randy Weston, Bill Dixon, Amiri Baraka, Albert Murray, Stanley Crouch, Gary Giddins, and Chuck Stewart.
Meeting topics have engaged issues in research methods, historiography, and biography; exchanges among jazz, literature, dance and the visual arts; gender studies; and spirituality. Keynote topics have included “Latin Jazz”; “The World of Romare Bearden”; “Jazz and the Female Voice”; “Jazz and Africa” and “New Orleans: Rebuilding the Music City.”
The unique structure of the Jazz Study Group encourages provides a regular forum for interdisciplinary collaboration, dedicated to the presentation of new work and new ideas, while offering promising graduate students an opportunity for close contact with some of the most brilliant and esteemed faculty in their fields. As the field of jazz studies has become recognized within the humanities, the work of the Jazz Study Group continues to be instrumental in its contributions to the perception of jazz as a global cultural phenomenon that has influenced all of the arts, the humanities, and even the sciences.
Publication and curriculum development constitute important directions for the Jazz Study Group. Two highly influential, even field-defining volumes have emerged directly from the work of the Group and from the Center for Jazz Studies. The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, edited by Robert G. O’Meally (Columbia University Press, 1998), is an anthology of key works in jazz studies–seminal essays, definitional and foundational texts, and classic interviews, especially focused on the relations between music and the other arts. Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies, edited by Robert G. O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, and Farah Jasmine Griffin (Columbia University Press, 2004), collects recent scholarship by members of the Jazz Study Group–including some of the most exciting younger scholars in the field–much of which was first presented at JSG meetings over the past decade.
Beyond these two collections, the Jazz Study Group has been an acknowledged incubator for a remarkable number of articles and books in history, literature, and musicology during the past decades, including work by Brent Hayes Edwards, Krin Gabbard, Kevin Gaines, John Gennari, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Travis Jackson, Robin D.G. Kelley, George E. Lewis, Jacqui Malone, Guthrie Ramsey, Christopher Washburne, Maiken Derno, Penny Von Eschen, and John Szwed.