Thomas Brothers, Duke University
"Jazz on the River is the first book of its kind, a fresh look at a fascinating musical phenomenon that is familiar as legend and now accessible through the carefully inquiring mind of William Kenney. We are treated here to a heady mix of local history, riverboat mythology, trends in the making of jazz, and even biographies of its leading luminaries. This is a beautiful book full of color and detail."
Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Tulane University
"We've been skimming on the surface of this topic for years. Now William Kenney offers baptism by full immersion. Jazz on the River is a thoughtful and imaginative exploration of the American character in transition, illuminating how jazz reshaped perceptions of the river and vice versa."
Krin Gabbard, author of Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema
"Because those legendary riverboat jazz bands were never definitively recorded, we don't really know what they sounded like. But Kenney's fascinating and compelling history breathes so much life into the old music you may actually believe you're listening to it."
John Szwed, author of So What: The Life of Miles Davis
"After a century of loose talk about jazz coming 'up the river' from New Orleans, William Howland Kenney makes sense of that phrase by putting us on those boats and showing us the life that Mark Twain never experienced. Jazz on the River gracefully guides us through the boat business, the entertainers that performed for the passengers and crew, and the culture of life on the riverboats. With this book, the history of jazz just became richer, deeper, and more wonderfully complicated."
"Kenney has staked out a fresh vantage point for viewing the development of jazz. . . . This is a rich, succinct, and unromantic treatment, clear-eyed and sensitive to the ambiguities, satisfactions, and discontents of this fascinating chapter in American history."
David Yaffe | Nation
“The romance, the misery, and the music of migration are all captured in William Howland Kenney’s Jazz on the River, a book that narrates a history that couldn’t be captured merely by doting on scratchy records, tattered scores, and old reviews. It was commonly known that jazz was born in New Orleans and made its way up the Mississippi, but until Kenney no one had investigated the makers of the boats and the conditions of the musicians who worked on them. And no study before this one ever charted that northern migration so that we can appreciate the artists and how their musical communities were formed.”
Kathy Ogren | Journal of American History
“By locating jazz ‘on the river,’ Kenney draws a picture of the Jazz Age that shifts attention from the nightclubs and dance halls of major cities, broadening the social and occupational histories of the first four decades of jazz performance. His portrait of aspiring musicians who used the river to enhance their social mobility also brings a new dimension to our understanding of the Great Migration. For Kenney, the shifting racial and cultural tensions communicated through jazz resound as jazzmen riff on the ever-shifting currents of these great heartland rivers.”
John D. Baskerville | Annals of Iowa
"Kenney presents an interesting, well-written, and concise study of American jazz music and its manipulation for economic, social, cultural, and historical purposes. He achieves his goal of writing a significant history of jazz without approaching it from a musicological perspective. Jazz on the River is accessible to the non-musician and provides the jazz studies canon with another view of jazz in the Midwest."
Frank A. Salamone | H-Net Reviews
"This study fills in many gaps in the literature of jazz. . . . Kenney writes clearly and moves the reader along at a fast pace."
“An intriguing and well-researched history. . . . William Howland Kenney amasses a wealth of fascinating detail. . . . His contrast of the life of Fate Marable with the white, upper-class trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke is insightful, and never reduced to polemics.”
Introduction: Playing Changes: Music, Movement, and the Performance of Power on "America's River Nile"
1. "Masters of the River": Streckfus Steamers, Inc. and the "Swan Complex"
2. Fate Marable, Musical Professionalism, and the Great Migration
3. Groovin' on the River: Louis Armstrong and Riverboat Culture
4. From Beale Street to Market Street: Music and Movement Through Memphis and St. Louis
5. "Blue River": Bix Beiderbecke and Jess Stacy on the Mississippi
6. Steamin' to the End of the Line: Jazz On, Along, and Beyond the Ohio River
Epilogue: The Decline and Fall of Excursion Boat Jazz in St. Louis
Appendix A: Excursion Boat Musicians
Appendix B: River Songs and Tunes
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu