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hopkins

Jazz taxonomy

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Posted (edited)

Curious to know what people's thoughts are on the classification of jazz by "genre" and the benefit of using such a classification either to catalog your collection, or access information on music websites  (ex: Discogs, music download sites...). 

Here are a few examples.

Wikipedia has the following "genres" (alphabetical):  Avant-garde jazz, bebop, big band, chamber jazz, cool jazz, free jazz, gypsy jazz, hard bop, Latin jazz, mainstream jazz, modal jazz, neo-bop, post-bop, progressive jazz, soul jazz, swing, third stream, traditional jazz

On the Mosaic website, for example, they have a menu by "genre" with the following: Big Band, Trad & Swing, Vocals, Jazz Guitar, Jazz Piano, Modern Jazz, Blue Note, Vinyl.

If you look at the chapter structure of Schuller's Swing Era, to dig a little deeper into one "genre" - and give an example of how a music critic "organizes" things - you have chapters on: Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, then swing "quintessentials" (Lunceford and Basie), "great black bands", "great soloists", "the white bands", "territory bands" and finally "small groups".  

I personally don't use any "genre" classification in my collection (which is mostly digital), and think of genres very loosely, focusing mostly on artists with a sense of chronology or "era". The drawback is that its hard to organize my collection and make sense of all the albums I have, in any other way than simply listing all the artists alphabetically, which is not ideal.

Thanks.

 

Edited by hopkins

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Thought is a remix of raw data, so it's good to have your data clear and clean and ready to load into the full so you can freestyle them thoughts as all the way as possible.

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Mosaic lists the Lester Young/Basie set under "Trad & Swing" and "Vocal" of all things, but not under "Big Band"...

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Posted (edited)

The examples of "genre" categorizations above (particularly Wikipedia)  IMO are dictated by a lot of criteria which have little to do with the basic categories of jazz that have come into common and universally understood use but often are just as much a reflection of what is considered "correct" or "desirable" to be given a term of its own in order to underline its importance. 
In much the same manner the Mosaic categories are rather marketing categories than anything else. And Schuller's are no categories at all but rather reflect the subjects of the chapters of his book. Both unsuitable for any general and "universal" use outside their specific uses (unless you are dead set on thinking along those lines of thought).

I have catalogued my own collection along the following criteria (based on those commonly read about in reference works and found to be suitable for my own uses)

US jazz:

- Classic, Traditional, Oldtime, Early Jazz or whatever term you want ot use to refer to pre-Swing era jazz
-- subdivided into a) early jazz recorded before c. 1934-35 or later on by exponents of that early jazz (e.g. SIdney Bechet), and b) revival, trad etc. jazz

- Swing (including both Swing era and later "Mainstream" or "middle jazz" recordings made after the swing era ended but stylistically belonging to the Swing-style jazz) Further subdivisions used (loosely!) only in the "Various Artists" sections (big bands, small groups, regional jazz, jam sessions, JATP, label series, etc.)

- Modern Jazz (Bebop, Cool, West Coast, Progressive, Hard Bop all lumped in - there are too many overlaps to subdivide this in a clear-cut manner that is meaningful throughout, otherwise I would have to split my Miles Davis records three ways, for example). Further subdivisions again used (loosely, because impossible to apply stringently) in the V.A. section: Bebop, West Coast, Cool, Hard Bop, a.o.)

- Blues and R&B (again subdivided further only in the V.A. section - but "White Blues" is in a totally different part of the shelves)

As for other criteria used in the thread starter's post, big bands and small groups are not subdivided any further. Would it make sense to put the opus of Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton or other name acts into different categories? Not to mention the fact that big bands basically cover anything from pre-Swing era Fletcher Henderson up to Progressive Jazz or beyond. So this conflicts with the style categories I have adopted. Anyone who has to spend more time trying to figure out where he has pigeonholed a particular record in his umpteen categories instead of having enough memory and overview to find  the records within these BROADER categories will soon get lost. And I for one usually have no trouble trouble rapidly finding suitable items for listening in the Swing or Modern Jazz sections when I am in the mood for "Piano jazz" and do not need those records in a cateogry of their own (particularly since this again would bust all MAIN stylistic categories - which - again - are more important to me).

European/Non-US jazz:

- Catalogued along the above criteria too but for ease of reference subdivided by country of origin. So, to get back to the Wiki "Gypsy jazz" criterion, Django Reinhardt and Sarane Ferret are filed among French Swing-era jazz whereas Schnuckenack Reinhardt, Häns'sche Weiss and Bireli Lagrene are filed in a section among German post-war jazz.

P.S. Referring to Hopkins' latest post:

Though I do think of Western Swing most often as a Territory jazz style I for one still file all my Western Swing records among my Country records (though pre-war Western Swing has a separate niche there, except Bob Wills for convenience's sake).

 


 

 

 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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Posted (edited)

Thanks. Those three (or four if you include Blues/R&B) high level categories (early/trad, swing, modern) make sense, and as you mentioned, things get more complicated if you attempt to apply finer categories.

The illustrations I gave were not meant necessarily to be applied "as is" but to illustrate how "fine tuning" is precarious and personal.

The purpose of my post was to get a sense of what people actually used, nothing more.

Edited by hopkins

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I do suppose that others might use/add other categries, depending on what they hve in their collections. As - stylistically speaking - the most "modern" (or "advanced") jazz record I own is Ornette Coleman's "Change Of The Century" I am happy filing this one among my Modern Jazz records (no use starting a separate category for a scant handful of "Free" records ;)).

 

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Duke Ellington:

There are simply two kinds of musicgood music and the other kind ... the only yardstick by which the result should be judged is simply that of how it sounds. If it sounds good it's successful; if it doesn't it has failed.”

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16 minutes ago, jazztrain said:

There are simply two kinds of musicgood music and the other kind ... ”

Reminds me of the roadhouse scene in "Blues Brothers":

"Oh, we have both - Country AND Western!" :g

More seriously ... everyone knows what Duke Ellington meant ... but that's way too broad for archiving and retrieval purposes. And besides - regardless of what the Duke said - above a certain level good and bad in these fields STILL is subjective and a matter of taste ...

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I asked a friend who owned a record store, "how do you classify Joe Turner?"  He replied, "Jump Blues."  We both laughed at the silliness of shoehorning Big Joe Turner into a relatively restrictive category.

 

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5 minutes ago, Big Beat Steve said:

Reminds me of the roadhouse scene in "Blues Brothers":

"Oh, we have both - Country AND Western!" :g

More seriously ... everyone knows what Duke Ellington meant ... but that's way too broad for archiving and retrieval purposes. And besides - regardless of what the Duke said - above a certain level good and bad in these fields STILL is subjective and a matter of taste ...

Yeah, I know it’s too broad for archiving/retrieval purposes. My filing is very broad, and even that causes problems with some musicians. I think that less is more is the best approach. Otherwise you run the risk of your collection becoming overly “Balkanized.”

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Posted (edited)

AFIK (and experienced in my University years) in a library the taxonomy is fundamental to allow scholars' researches, so if the subject of a research is "maritime trade in XIX century" you may consult all texts, mainly historical, but even novels, think about Joseph Conrad, that might be interesting, IF some smart librarian added "seafaring tale" in the subject of the book. An accurate taxonomy is essential. That's the reason because filing is a study subject. Basically taxonomy is a map for scholars and it should be updated according to new subjects and discoveries.

edit: since I don't have such a huge musical library and I am the one and only scholar of it, I simply filed the records in alphabetical order.

Edited by porcy62

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41 minutes ago, Jim Duckworth said:

I asked a friend who owned a record store, "how do you classify Joe Turner?"  He replied, "Jump Blues."  We both laughed at the silliness of shoehorning Big Joe Turner into a relatively restrictive category.

Actually the question and answer isn't that silly IMHO. Provided that there is a rack labeled "Jump Blues" in the shop (and provided you are not referring to or mixing him up with the pianist Joe Turner ;)). At any rate, I'd expect to find his records in the "Blues" section of any record shop and would him consider somewhat out of place in the jazz section if his entire opus had been filed there, or else I'd venture a guess the shop owner is a very old-hat type fella to whom blues is nothing but down-home-down-in-the-gutter-roots country blues (there still might be such persons, actually). And if I'd find one of his records in the Jazz section and it was one I'd been looking for I'd be overjoyed his platter had been filed incorrectly in a place where most ofther Joe Turner fans would not look first (I know more than one R'n'R and R&B fan who enjoys Joe Turner's Atlantic recordings a LOT but would not touch "anything jazz" with a ten-foot pickup arm).

See how you can make a case for any kind of fling (or shoehorning, if you want)? ;)
 

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The best way to file is to put things where you think you'll look for them. Otherwise you'll forget where you put them.

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2 minutes ago, JSngry said:

The best way to file is to put things where you think you'll look for them. Otherwise you'll forget where you put them.

Been there, done that!

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Yeah, I got some records with Billy Harper on them that I know I'll never remember who the leader is that I just file under Billy Harper, otherwise, they'd be lost.

For just one example.

It's like, why do I have this record? And, yeah, there's jsut one reason. Whose record is this anyway? WHO?

So yeah, put things where you'll look for them.

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5 minutes ago, JSngry said:

The best way to file is to put things where you think you'll look for them. Otherwise you'll forget where you put them.

Uh oh ...

 

:g

 

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Nobody WANTS to touch my records. :g

But as for those two, they both wrong, and neither of them are real. So fuck them. Hollywood bullshit. OH IT'S A MOVIE I SAW MYSELF IN THAT, well, ok, you see what somebody wants you to see so you can think of yourself the way they want you to think of yourself so they can sell you shit, physical, mental, monetary, if you see yourself as they want you to see yourself, they got you for life. Excuse me, "life".

Be a human, not a fucking cash crop.

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6 minutes ago, JSngry said:

It's like, why do I have this record? And, yeah, there's just one reason.

Exactly how I operate too.

Occasionally I do have some titles that I could easily file in two places - that live date with Joe Henderson and Terumasa Hino is a good example. I used to file it with Joe’s stuff, but now with Hino’s.

Then there’s the question about how can I ever find any of those obscure titles (mostly from the 70’s)  by artists whose names I can never even remember half the time (ok, most of the time). 90% of this stuff was bought on the strength of Dusty Groove descriptions (and finding uploads on YouTube to confirm my interest).

My solution is... instead of filing those random titles in alphabetically with everything else (where I’ll never find them, or find them quickly), instead I pull all those odd-ball 70’s-ish Dusty Groove titles and put them in their own section on the shelves. And I also file a few select titles by really well known players too - like the 4 or 5 semi-groove/semi-funky Sun Ra titles too (apart from all the other Sun Ra I keep elsewhere). A few Herbie titles, and some 70 soul jazz titles too.

The other thing I did that made everything easier to find was when I pulled ALL my Blue Note CD’s (1975 and earlier), and keep all of them in a separate bookshelf altogether - several hundred BN titles, including Mosaics.

I also keep a few key artists stuff separate too, just cuz I have so much by them - Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, and Andrew Hill. Those sections are especially large because I also keep Joe’s and Woody’s sideman appearances with their leader-dates (because that’s why I bought those dates). A few exceptions here and there (like that Joe date with Hino), but it all mostly works for me.

And I keep all the Japanese artists in their own section, and German artists (60’s) leader-dates together (and other similar European artists).

By far from a perfect system, but I can find a lot more stuff more easily.

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Won't help the person who started this topic but one thing I can recommend is if you transfer records to CDR, don't combine two different artist's LPs on one CDR. You'll file with one artist or the other's name, and then discover that you always want to find it for the other artist's record.  Good luck with that.

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Posted (edited)

One thing I should note is that I manage in text files all the contributors in each session in every album (well, almost every). It has taken a lot of time to setup  (especially with Mosaic box sets...), but I feel it is important especially when you have a "digital" collection and don't have the physical media on hand to check the credits. 

One thing I have not done systematically is to identify clearly "leaders". So my "artists" list is huge (over 3000). If I were to restrict it to "leaders" I would get a much smaller list (probably around 300), which would be much easier to classify. 

It is not always easy to identify leaders, and sometimes the contributor is more important than the actual leader. So I will probably just stick to a "short list" of main artists, and make sure that each album is assigned to at least one "main artist". 

 

 

Edited by hopkins

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