The Smithsonian takes a new look at Jazz - America's musical invention

Playing a major role in selecting the 111 tracks for Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology was Jose Bowen, a jazz scholar and pianist and dean of SMU's Meadows School of the Arts.

Jazz is an American original that is being celebrated in the new, critically acclaimed Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology, which examines the music from its earliest days in the 20th century to the present. 

Playing a major role in selecting the anthology's 111 tracks was Jose Bowen, a jazz scholar and pianist and dean of SMU's Meadows School of the Arts.

"It took us seven years to do this," said Bowen, one of five editors on the project. "We wanted to include as many musicians as possible. So that led to some decisions, such as we only wanted whole pieces, we didn't want to take excerpts."

"I wanted the set to convey that all jazz is fusion," continued Bowen, who wrote many of the individual descriptions for the tracks. "We often talk about the very beginning of jazz being a gumbo. You know in New Orleans where you have the blues, you have rag time and you have marching bands mixing into this gumbo. Another word for this would be fusion. We don't actually start using the word fusion until the 1960s and 70s, but I think it's a way to talk about all of jazz."

Watch a video of Bowen talking about jazz and the anthology or listen to an interview with KERA public radio's Art & Seek.

From The Smithsonian

Jazz-The Smithsonian AnthologyThis remarkable anthology updates and expands the milestone Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz of 1973, once again offering a wellspring resource for educators, students, musicians, beginners and aficionados. Scores of leading jazz scholars, performers and writers collaborated in selecting the recordings and producing the incisive annotations.

The accompanying book also features an informative background essay as well as suggestions for listeners on appreciating the full richness of the performances. If ever there were a “jazz appreciation course in a box,” this is it. JAZZ: The Smithsonian Anthology has been released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the United States national museum.

The members of the Executive Selection Committee were David Baker, Jose Bowen, John Edward Hasse, Dan Morgenstern and Alyn Shipton. It was produced by Richard James Burgess, John Edward Hasse and Daniel Sheehy. The executive producers were Daniel Sheehy, Richard James Burgess and Atesh Sonneborn. And the mastering engineer was Pete Reiniger.

What Reviewers Say

The anthology has been reviewed worldwide, from England to the Netherlands to Australia, from Russia to Spain, as well as throughout the United States. Here is a small sampling of comments:

  • “[Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology] Assembled over seven years, it's a 6-disc monolith with a 200-page book of liner notes - the best single introduction to America's first great musical form." Time Magazinereview and photo gallery)
  • Jose Bowen“[Jazz:] The Smithsonian Anthology is a landmark achievement. It is the most important and most comprehensive collection of historical jazz recordings and will be a valuable educational tool for years to come. But the collection reaches beyond the classroom, capturing something of the spirit of America as well." The Washington Post (read the review)
  • “Beautiful and meticulously packaged… wonderful listening.” — The Los Angeles Times (read the review)
  • "[T]he 6-CD, 111-song set provides a dissection of mostly great works with technical, historical and musical details …it's encouraging to see Tomasz Stan'ko, Anthony Braxton and the Art Ensemble of Chicago seated at the table with Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker, an acknowledgement that the music continues to evolve deep in the shadows of popular culture.” — Billboard (read the review - subscription required)
  • “An epic new anthology from Smithsonian Folkways!” — Straight No Chaser (read the review)
  • "Jazz [The Smithsonian Anthology] is a stunning achievement- an immersion into the genre's most important artists and distinctive styles as selected by Dan Morgenstern, David Baker, and other leading educators, with liner notes by a "who's who" of jazz experts." -- Archives of African American Music and Culture  
  • “[This is] a collection that educators will certainly use [in music courses] and, like the [Harry Smith] Anthology of American Folk Music, [may] spark an interest in younger listeners who "discover” something new here.” -- In The Groove magazine 
  • “No ‘canonical’ collection of important jazz recordings can hope to be definitive, but this one, which contains 111 tracks and is accompanied by a 200-page book, comes as close as you're likely to get. This is a serious and largely admirable piece of work.”  —ArtsJournal (read the review)
  • “We strongly suggest Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology. Like the college course you should have picked over econ, minus the eccentric man in tweed, this combination book and 6 CD anthology provides a solid foundational knowledge of the genre through 111 renowned tracks, each with an accompanying essay.”  — (read the review)
  • “Whether you really like jazz or just know you should like it, this collection will get you up to speed. [Jazz] The Smithsonian Anthology puts the history, culture and key players all in perspective. They’re calling it a ‘jazz appreciation course in a box.’ We call that cool!” -- (read the review


# # #