New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History

Bruce Boyd Raeburn

A fascinating and insightful study of the development of New Orleans jazz and its effect on jazz history


New Orleans Style tells the tale of the recognition of New Orleans jazz as a discrete style and how that recognition affected the writing of American jazz history.

The men and women who participated in the awakening of American jazz scholarship were partisans of a community of "hot" record collectors, whose interest in the origins of jazz was a foregone conclusion. As an international network of these collectors took shape between the 1920s and 1934, they provided a mechanism for the circulation of historical information on jazz, which then became the basis for the emergence of a jazz literati writing for magazines such as Down Beat, Esquire, the New Republic, and Jazz Information. It was not until later that writers like Charles Edward Smith and William Russell, inspired by their love for the music and emphasizing "New Orleans style," explained in works such as Jazzmen (1939) and The Jazz Record Book (1942) that jazz was "born in New Orleans."

Raeburn traces the conceptualization of jazz history derived from Jazzmen to jazz's ultimate refuge in New Orleans and its integration into the cultures which it celebrated. The result is an essential work of jazz criticism that will fill a major gap in the field's literature.

Bruce Boyd Raeburn is Curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University.

"Bruce Raeburn has produced an elegantly written and thoroughly researched volume on New Orleans jazz and how people have tried to make sense of it. Startling bits of information regularly emerge and force me to rethink the subject. Even the most informed readers are likely to have the same reaction."
---Krin Gabbard, State University of New York

Photograph: Editors of Jazzmen (left to right: Charles Edward Smith and Frederic Ramsey, Jr.) enjoying a "folk" moment with William Russell (center) in July, 1941 (The Historic New Orleans Collection, accession no. 92-48-L).

Praise / Awards

  • "A fascinating, exceptionally well-written study of the origins of American jazz criticism and scholarship, both of which turn out to be rooted in the emergence in the early Thirties of the idea of 'authenticity' as a criterion for excellence in jazz. Raeburn, the curator of Tulane University's Hogan Jazz Archive, has probed deeply into the work of the enthusiastic amateur scholars who first sought to document the beginnings of jazz in New Orleans, and his thoughtful account of what they wrought is destined to become one of the standard works in the field."
    —Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

  • "This fascinating volume tells the story of Jazzmen, the first Jazz history written by American jazz critics and historians, and the ensuing controversies between its adherents and followers of more modern forms of jazz."
    —Paige VanVorst, JazzBeat

  • "Raeburn's take on Charles Edward Smith and his compatriots is particularly impressive and could be expanded into another project. Although he set out to delver 'an appeal for renewed scholarly interest in New Orleans jazz,' Raeburn has accomplished much more with this book and has delivered a thoughful and exciting discussion of the greater meaning of jazz." 
    The Journal of American History, Court Carney, Stephen F. Austin State University

  • "Raeburn weaves a fascinating social history of the mostly white male writers involved in this movement and their different agendas and feuds about the meaning of “jazz"...Raeburn’s narrower focus also effectively illustrates themes that resonate throughout all of jazz history."
    --Charles Sharp, Journal of the Society for American Music

Look Inside

Copyright © 2009, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted February 2009.

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News, Reviews, Interviews

Listen to an interview with Bruce Raeburn on WWNO | 6.10.2009

Read a review from New Orleans Magazine | April 2009

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 352pp.
  • 1 B&W photograph.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11675-1

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  • $89.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03321-8

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  • $29.95 U.S.



  • American vernacular culture, jazz music, New Orleans, phonograph record collecting, jazz historiography, jazz studies, jazz criticism, African-American, Bunk Johnson, Kid Ory