Praise for Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia

The Association for Recorded Sound Collections recently announced the winners of the 2013 ARSC Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research 

Receiving recognition in the category for Best Research in Recorded Jazz Music was Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942. Christopher Wilkinson’s study of how jazz greats such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Andy Kirk, Jimmie Lunceford, and Chick Webb toured extensively through coal towns in West Virginia during the Great Depression received a Certificate of Merit from the ARSC. 

Most jazz research on this period has been focused on urban audiences. But Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930 – 1942 is the first book to examine the musical culture of big-band jazz from the perspective of a rural African-American audience. Wilkinson demonstrates the importance of radio and the black press both in introducing this music and in keeping black West Virginians up to date with its latest developments. 

The book also explores connections between local entrepreneurs who staged the dances and the national management of the bands that played those engagements. Also analyzed are the black audiences’ aesthetic preferences, revealing that many black West Virginians preferred dance music other than jazz. Finally, the study demonstrates that bands now associated almost exclusively with jazz were more than willing to satisfy those preferences with arrangements in other styles of dance music. 

The goal of the ARSC Awards Program is to recognize and draw attention to the finest work now being published in the field of recorded sound research. 

Begun in 1991, the awards are presented to authors and publishers of books, articles, liner notes, and monographs, to recognize outstanding published research in the field of recorded sound. In giving these awards, ARSC recognizes outstanding contributions, encourages high standards, and promotes awareness of superior works