Jazz has not always been "America's classical music." In the first decades of the twentieth century it was regarded by much of the black and white Establishment as unsettling, provocative, even dangerous - attitudes exacerbated by the social upheaval of the Great Migration around the time of World War I. Enter black riverboat jazz bands to negotiate the color line: to help "white Americans approach in an oblique manner underlying social and cultural changes that were too deep and too heavily laden with pain, guilt, and fear for most citizens to discuss openly" (5). Such is the thesis of Jazz on the River by William Howland Kenney, who, like in his earlier studies of Chicago jazz and recorded music, supports his argument with speculative but compelling historical and cultural analyses.
Copyright © 2007, Mid-America American Studies Association. This article first appeared in American Studies: 48:1 (2007), 154-155.
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Anderson, Gene H. "Review of Jazz on the River by William Howland Kenney." American Studies 48, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 154-55.