John F. Szwed, John Musser Professor of Anthropology at Yale University, has been appointed the 2003-2004 Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor of Jazz Studies. Szwed, who holds joint appointments in the departments of African American studies, Music, and American studies at Yale, will begin his appointment in September.
Szwed succeeds Robin Kelley and Stanley Crouch as the third Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor of Jazz Studies. This five-year, rotating appointment is supported by a grant from the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, which Armstrong founded to support jazz education in a variety of settings.
As Armstrong Visiting Professor, Szwed will teach two courses on jazz next year, including a graduate seminar, and give a public lecture as part of a lecture and concert series hosted by the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University.
"Szwed is a phenomenal scholar and teacher," said Robert O'Meally, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of American Literature and Director of Columbia's Center for Jazz Studies. "His books on Miles Davis and Sun Ra are beautifully written examples of jazz scholarship at its finest. They set the agenda for the next generation. We could not be more lucky that he will be our Armstrong Professor."
His appointment follows the recent publication of his biography, "So What: The Life of Miles Davis," and so offers an opportunity to begin anew, "Being at Columbia will offer me an opportunity to discover and put in some kind of order, materials on the early history of jazz that have not normally been recognized as part of its history." Szwed will also begin editing a series of books about jazz musicians who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, including Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Carl Bley and Anthony Braxton, among others.
Szwed has been at Yale since 1982, where he has served as Director of Graduate Studies in Anthropology and Acting Chair of African-American Studies. In addition to serving on Yale's faculty, Szwed is President and producer for the non-profit music production company Brilliant Corners, which is based in New York City. His current projects with Brilliant Corners include The Collected Recordings of Zora Neale Hurston and Tribute to the October Revolution in Jazz, both forthcoming on Evidence Records.
Szwed holds both an M.A. in Communications and a Ph.D. in Sociology and Antropology from The Ohio State University. His research and teaching have garnered him national recognition, including fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations. In addition to numerous publications ranging from anthropological studies of Newfoundland to liner notes for Impulse and Riverside Records, Szwed's has recently published two books on jazz, "Space is the Place: Sun Ra's Life on Earth" (1997) and "So What: The Life of Miles Davis" (2002).