DC Jazz

Stories of Jazz Music in Washington, DC

Maurice Jackson and Blair A. Ruble, Editors

"A treasure trove of history, deeply researched and often tightly annotated. " — The Georgetowner
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The familiar history of jazz music in the United States begins with its birth in New Orleans, moves upstream along the Mississippi River to Chicago, then by rail into New York before exploding across the globe. That telling of history, however, overlooks the pivotal role the nation's capital has played for jazz for a century. Some of the most important clubs in the jazz world have opened and closed their doors in Washington, DC, some of its greatest players and promoters were born there and continue to reside in the area, and some of the institutions so critical to national support of this uniquely American form of music, including Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., are rooted in the city. Closer to the ground, a network of local schools like the Duke Ellington High School for the Performing Arts, jazz programs at the University of the District of Columbia and Howard University, churches, informal associations, locally focused media, and clubs keeps the music alive to this day.

Noted historians Maurice Jackson and Blair Ruble, editors of this book, present a collection of original and fascinating stories about the DC jazz scene throughout its history, including a portrait of the cultural hotbed of Seventh and U Streets, the role of jazz in desegregating the city, a portrait of the great Edward "Duke" Ellington’s time in DC, notable women in DC jazz, and the seminal contributions of the University of District of Columbia and Howard University to the scene. The book also includes three jazz poems by celebrated Washington, DC, poet E. Ethelbert Miller. Collectively, these stories and poems underscore the deep connection between creativity and place. A copublishing initiative with the Historical Society of Washington, DC, the book includes over thirty museum-quality photographs and a guide to resources for learning more about DC jazz.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Jason Moran

1. Jazz, “Great Black Music,” and the Struggle for Equality in Washington, DC
Maurice Jackson
2. Seventh Street: Black DC’s Musical Mecca
Blair A. Ruble
3. Washington’s Duke Ellington
John Edward Hasse
4. Bill Brower: Notes from a Key Observer and Scene Maker
Interview by Willard Jenkins
5. Jazz Radio in Washington, DC
Rusty Hassan
6. Legislating Jazz
Anna Harwell Celenza
7. The Beautiful Struggle: A Look at Women Who Have Helped
Bridget Arnwine
8. No Church without a Choir: Howard University and Jazz in Washington, DC
Lauren Sinclair
9. From Federal City College to UDC: A Retrospective on Washington's Jazz University
Judith A. Korey
10. Researching Jazz History in Washington, DC
Michael Fitzgerald

List of Contributors


"A treasure trove of history, deeply researched and often tightly annotated."—The Georgetowner

"[The authors] give the reader an excellent survey of the extent of jazz activity and its impact on the national and international scenes. . . . It’s a wonderful overview of a city known for many things, but whose imprint on jazz hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention it deserves until the publication of this outstanding book."—The Tennessee Jazz & Blues Society

"The book tells us much about the city beyond geography. It’s as 'Official Washington' a book about jazz as one could imagine: wonky, think-tanky, visiting-scholar-y. It’s jazz as White Paper. . . . If this sounds like a criticism, rest assured that it is not. The book is precisely what it aspires to be, and a success on its own terms is a success, period. Besides, who’s to complain that historians and history nerds want to give more attention to jazz? . . . It is ultimately a cornerstone: an essential reference for more narrative, perhaps lively histories."—Washington City Paper

"The book is as digestible as it is illuminating. . . . As DC Jazz functions as an essential scholarly anchor, it succeeds at illustrating the resilience of the city's jazz landscape amid sometimes challenging social climate."—DownBeat

"Takes readers on a relaxing stroll through D.C., visiting venues that first featured jazz musicians to welcoming audiences: The Crystal Caverns, later renamed the Bohemian Caverns, One Step Down and Blues Alley would become legendary hotspots within their own rights. Some artists would go on to perform at much larger, prestigious venues in the District like the Kennedy Center, whose jazz program, currently under the direction of musician/composer Jason Moran, owes its roots to pianist and composer Dr. Billy Taylor."—The Washington Informer

"Washington, DC has always been one of the historic cities in the development of this music called jazz.  It is the home of one of our giants, and a man who was a powerful influence on my own work, the grandmaster Duke Ellington, and the place where my dear friend Billy Taylor grew up.  I fondly recall being part of Billy’s NPR radio series and his concert series at the Kennedy Center.  This book DC Jazz does a marvelous job of detailing some of the many attributes of the DC jazz scene and its incredible community of artists who have made such great contributions to this music as an indelible part of the African music continuum."—Randy Weston, NEA Jazz Master

"Maurice Jackson lends his invaluable expertise in African American and DC history to this vibrant, compelling portrait of the people who brought jazz to life in our nation’s capital. Drawing important contributions from scholars and musicians, he and noted scholar Blair Ruble have brought together an extraordinary resource for students of music, American history, and urban life."—John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University,


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Maurice Jackson teaches History and African American Studies at Georgetown University and is the author of Let This Voice be Heard: Anthony Benezet, Father of Atlantic Abolitionism. He is a 2009 inductee into the Washington, DC Hall of Fame and was inaugural chair of the DC Commission of African American Affairs.

Blair Ruble is distinguished fellow for programs at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the author of Washington's U Street: A Biography.

216 pp., 7 x 10

ISBN: 978-1-62616-589-2
Jun 2018

216 pp., 7 x 10

ISBN: 978-1-62616-590-8
Jun 2018

216 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-62616-591-5
Jun 2018

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