Tony Whyton


On his book Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Jazz Tradition

Cover Interview of August 08, 2010

In a nutshell

In Jazz Icons, I argue that jazz history is now dominated by iconic figures who have taken on an almost God-like status.

When musicians and fans discuss the life and music of Satchmo, Duke, Bird or Trane, they often create a mythic world where legendary jazzmen are used to tell the story of jazz.

So I explore the growing significance of icons in jazz through individual case studies—to explain the politics behind why jazz history is frequently portrayed as a succession of heroic male figures.

I am interested in contemporary uses of mythology and how the telling of the story of jazz history ties into American politics and values.  I want readers to examine their own relationships with iconic figures.  Why do we invest so much of our energy in icons?  (And this could apply to other types of art, not only jazz.)  How can our behaviour be understood in broader contexts?