This interesting book is drawn on observations of author Thomas H. Greenland on the greater New York jazz scene. When most of us consider the make-up of the jazz world, we consider the musicians, club owners, and the audience. Thomas Greenland expanded on that base in research for his doctorate in ethno-musicology. He explored in detail observations with the above-named groups but also with publicists, photographers, and others allied with the production of jazz. In a recent interview, Greenland stated that he wanted a larger overview along the concept of “it takes a village to raise child.”
The author visited some famous and well-known clubs such as Village Vanguard and interviewed its owner Lorraine Gordon, but many of his observations included small clubs which are essentially unknown to tourists. It was of interest to this reviewer that many of the more famous downtown NYC clubs are dependent on the tourist trade for their survival.
Greenland describes a setting in Harlem when the daytime event is in a private residence, essentially a “listening room.” This is a periodic event advertised only by word-of-mouth.
Because of the unusual perspective of this book, I contacted publicist Jim Eigo who is quoted in the book. Eigo had crossed paths with Greenland in the latter’s several capacities. In my interview with Greenland, he related that he had moved to the New York area in 2002 and has worked as photographer, jazz writer, pianist-guitarist-arranger-composer, and teacher. I asked him what his “day-gig” was and he reported that his primary occupation was that of teacher of chorus and band at A. Philip Randolph public high school in Brooklyn. His Ph. D. was awarded in 2007 but his interviews for the book extended to 2010.
In our continuing conversation with Greenland, I inquired about what changes he made in his academic thesis for the book. He replied that he shortened it by eliminating some of the comments and observations of the musicians themselves. The rationale was that these observations had been covered by other authors.
The book contains some of Greenland’s photographs of jazz fans, some of his interviewees and drawings of jazz musicians by Jeff Schlanger, whose activities during jazz performance are described in some detail.
This book likely will not have great appeal to the casual jazz fan. However, those who think deeply and seriously about the fate and direction of jazz, America’s unique musical art-form, will find it interesting and rewarding.
JAZZING: New York City’s Unseen Scene
by Thomas H. Greenland
University of Illinois Press, pp. 245, paper; ©2016