Hansonia_caldwell-african_american_music_span3
December 1997

Hansonia L. Caldwell
African American Music: A Chronology, 1619-1995

Dr. Caldwell necessarily regards her useful chronology as “a work in progress,” for the subject is ever expanding. There is substantial information here about jazz and jazz musicians, and it is enlightening to consider this side-by-side with data on other influential developments in African American music. Entries concerning, for example, jazz, gospel, soul, blues, opera, symphony, movie soundtracks and Broadway musicals tend to effect a welcome broadening of perspective, while yearly lists of notable deaths are, in so many cases, melancholy reminders of the high cost of the musical life. There are also a commendable index and a copious bibliography.

An Educator’s Resource Manual (140 pp., $18.95, in a strong, loose-leaf binder) for use in conjunction with the chronology, is available from the same publisher. It organizes the chronology’s material under various, tentative lecture headings. Here, some unexpected omissions are encountered, such as Jimmie Lunceford from the 1921-45 jazz listing, Charlie Barnet from that for “The Major White Big Band Leaders,” and Mary Lou Williams, Helen Humes Julia Lee, Kay Davis, Betty Roché and Joya Sherrill from among “Women in Music.” Stanley Crouch, John McDonough, Doug Ramsey and Jack Sohmer ought to be in the critics list, and arrangers like Sy Oliver, Jimmy Mundy, Benny Carter, Andy Gibson, Eddie Durham and Budd Johnson don’t seem to get a fair shake. Despite these reservations, the books will be found rewarding for browsing and as references. They certainly provide a good foundation for future expansion.

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