Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

The Gig: Canon Fodder

Nate Chinen on Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology

The Smithsonian Collection is a sketch, a beginner’s library of jazz history,” reads an introductory note in the booklet for The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, first issued in 1973. “Necessarily, there are many worthy figures and groups left out of it, and there are others who are perhaps not ideally represented.”

All disclaimers aside, the set—curated and annotated by critic Martin Williams, covering six LPs and some 45 years of recorded history—quickly became an influential reissue package, a touchstone of jazz scholarship and a precedent for anyone looking to define (or defend) a jazz canon. For years, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has fielded inquiries about when the Collection, long out of print, would be available again.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published
Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen is the director of editorial content for WBGO and a longtime contributor to JazzTimes, which published 125 installments of his column “The Gig” between 2004 and 2017. For 12 years, he was a critic for The New York Times; prior to that, he wrote about jazz for the Village Voice, the Philadelphia City Paper, and several other publications. He is the author of Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century (2018) and the co-author of George Wein’s autobiography Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (2003).