1st Edition

Jazz and Death Reception, Rituals, and Representations

By Walter van de Leur Copyright 2023
    200 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    200 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Jazz and Death: Reception, Rituals, and Representations critically examines the myriad and complex interactions between jazz and death, from the New Orleans "jazz funeral" to jazz in heaven or hell, final recordings, jazz monuments, and the music’s own presumed death. It looks at how fans, critics, journalists, historians, writers, the media, and musicians have narrated, mythologized, and relayed those stories. What causes the fascination of the jazz world with its deaths? What does it say about how our culture views jazz and its practitioners? Is jazz somehow a fatal culture?

    The narratives surrounding jazz and death cast a light on how the music and its creators are perceived. Stories of jazz musicians typically bring up different tropes, ranging from the tragic, misunderstood genius to the notion that virtuosity somehow comes at a price. Many of these narratives tend to perpetuate the gendered and racialized stereotypes that have been part of jazz’s history. In the end, the ideas that encompass jazz and death help audiences find meaning in a complex musical practice and come to grips with the passing of their revered musical heroes -- and possibly with their own mortality.

    Introduction: Jazz and Death

    1. When I Die, You Better Second Line: The New Orleans "Jazz Funeral"

    2. The Devil’s Music: Jazz in Hell

    3. Louis and the Angels: Jazz in Heaven

    4. Swan Songs: Final Concerts and Last Recordings

    5. The Long Fall: The Death of Chet Baker

    6. Nine Naked Muses: Memorializing Ellington

    7. Funky Odors: Is Jazz Itself Dead?


    Walter van de Leur is Professor of Jazz and Improvised Music in the Department of Musicology at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on behalf of the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, where he is a Research Coordinator and docent.

    “In contrasting the hugely different reactions in Europe and America to both Baker's music and his death, the author lays bare the crudity of jazz politics, while championing the historical value of local histories for the greater nuance they can provide.”

    —Ian Patterson, All About Jazz