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Synopsis

Any listener knows the power of music to define a place, but few can describe the how or why of this phenomenon. In Lonesome Roads and Streets of Dreams: Place, Mobility, and Race in Jazz of the 1930s and ’40s, Andrew Berish attempts to right this wrong, showcasing how American jazz defined a culture particularly preoccupied with place. By analyzing both the performances and cultural context of leading jazz figures, including the many famous venues where they played, Berish bridges two dominant scholarly approaches to the genre, offering not only a new reading of swing era jazz but an entirely new framework for musical analysis in general, one that examines how the geographical realities of daily life can be transformed into musical sound.
Focusing on white bandleader Jan Garber, black bandleader Duke Ellington, white saxophonist Charlie Barnet, and black guitarist Charlie Christian, as well as traveling from Catalina Island to Manhattan to Oklahoma City, Lonesome Roads and Streets of Dreams depicts not only a geography of race but how this geography was disrupted, how these musicians crossed physical and racial boundaries—from black to white, South to North, and rural to urban—and how they found expression for these movements in the insistent music they were creating.  

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