Dr. Sarah Suhadolnik was among the presenters who gathered in Cleveland, Ohio for the “Beyond Genre: Jazz as Popular Music” conference at Case Western Reserve University in April. The conference was convened to explore “the middle ground between popular music and new jazz studies.” The program featured papers by David Brackett, Sherrie Tucker, and other scholars from the fields of jazz and popular music studies, and considered a diverse array of musical voices, ranging from the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Fred Astaire, and Bing Crosby to NG La Banda, Solange Knowles, and Jason Moran. Pianist and composer David Ake and collaborators Ralph Alessi, Ben Monder, Drew Gress, and Mark Ferber closed the proceedings with brand new jazz/popular music, treating conference participants to music from their new release, Humanities.
Dr. Suhadolnik’s talk, “Friendly Meetings Abroad: Navigating Geographies of Genre on Basin Street,” used the 2018 “United We Swing” release (see link above) by New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Wynton Marsalis Septet as a springboard for her place-based examination of popular arrangements of Spencer Williams’s “Basin Street Blues,” a tin-pan-alley-hit-turned-jazz-standard. Drawing from her book project, Navigating Jazz: Music, Place, and New Orleans, individual case studies—the 2007 duet rendition of “Basin Street Blues,” recorded by Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson, as well as arrangements recorded by Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, and Eric San (a.k.a. DJ Kid Koala)—demonstrated the ways in which differing notions of New Orleans as musical place have inflected the popular reception of recordings of “Basin Street Blues” with divisive notions of, and about, New Orleans music. In this vein, Suhadolnik’s presentation traced the connections between the varied representation of New Orleans in popular music, and the larger, multifaceted construction of New Orleans as an important “jazz city”.