Speaker: Professor Stephen Cottrell
The concert at Massey Hall, Toronto, on 15 May 1953 has become an iconic event in jazz history: it was the only occasion in which five leading lights of the jazz firmament of the time – Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Max Roach – played on stage together. It was also the last recorded meeting of Gillespie and Parker, who had done so much to establish the bebop style over the previous two decades.
The few surviving photographs of this event show the white Grafton alto saxophone made from acrylic nylon (a type of plastic) that Parker was playing that night. This was the same saxophone, Grafton 10265, acquired at considerable cost by Kansas City’s American Jazz Museum in 1994, and which now anchors their permanent collection.
In this paper I will chart the object biography of Grafton 10265 together with its various representations, and consider the changing meanings that have accrued to the instrument and what these might reveal about Parker, the Grafton alto, and the jazz tradition itself. I will also consider the narrative strategies that we employ when writing about instruments, and what object biographies can reveal about both the social contexts in which instruments are found and the musical uses to which they are put.
Stephen Cottrell is Professor of Music at City, University of London and Assistant Vice-President (City Doctoral College). His research interests fall into three inter-related areas: ethnographic approaches to musicians and music-making, particularly within the Western art music tradition; the study of musical instruments, particularly the saxophone; and the study and analysis of musical performance.
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When and where
5.30pm - 7.30pmWednesday 5th February 2020