Red, White and Blues: Jazz and the United States in the Twentieth Century (6AAH3029/30)

Portrait of Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, and Max Roach, Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., ca. Aug. 1947
Portrait of Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, and Max Roach, Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., ca. Aug. 1947
Portrait of Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, and Max Roach at Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., ca. Aug. 1947from Flickr Commons/Library of Congress (William P. Gottlieb Collection in public domain)

In order to undertake research on the topic of Jazz, one can consult a variety of resources both printed and electronic. SHL has printed books on Jazz as well as a series of music databases which can be used to further research. The general classmark for jazz can be found at 785.8,  but biographies of individual performers can be found at 780.92.  There is also a small tranch of materials under 780.973  which is devoted to the study of music of the United States.

For the purposes of this demonstration I chose to use the following keywords as a starting point due to the intertwined issues of jazz and racism: (jazz and rac*) When you use the * it is called a ‘stem’ or ‘truncation’ search as it uses the first part of the word, the stem, and pulls out all possible permutations of words that follow that initial stem from that particular Library catalogue (or database.) This principle should work in any reputable Library catalogue (such as King’s College London Library catalogue or that of the British Library) or database (like JSTOR or Academic Search Complete.)

So the rac* should retrieve potential words like race, racial, racism, racist, etc. The same principle can be applied when researching feminism in jazz by using, for example, wom*n which retrieves results like woman and/or women. When looking at jazz’s particular role in American musical life, another potential truncation search could include americ* which would retrieve both America and American.


To list all of the Library’s music databases: use the following  keywords (music eresource). In particular, the following databases are recommended for your research:


Oxford Music Online  is the standard encyclopaedia of Music.


Répertoire International de la Littérature Musicale (RILM) indexes books, journals, theses, conference proceedings and other publications from the 1960s to the present.

International Index to the Performing Arts (IIPA)
 is both an index and a full-text database which covers reviews and criticism of performance (especially popular and jazz).


JSTOR has over 80 music journals. However, remember that although JSTOR looks the same when you are looking at the interface via the Senate House Library subscription, or the one at King’s or the British Library, the results may be different. This is due to the fact that there are some 13 modules of JSTOR in the database as a whole and each library may subscribe to different portions of the total database. Also, there is either a 3 year or 5 year moving wall so material may only go up until 2008 or 2010 respectively.

Academic Search Complete has over 170 music related journals with PDFs for many of them. ASC has a 12 month moving wall.

International Index to the Performing Arts (IIPA) [as above].


Although I did not demonstrate it, primary materials regarding the reception of jazz performances can also be found in newspapers of the time. SHL has a subscription to Proquest Newspapers which is recommended as a primary source as well as the Times Digital Archive. A final one to try is British Periodicals.


My Power Point presentation slides go through each of these databases using the example of (jazz and rac*) to illustrate consistency and the various facets available in the applicable database as well as finding the index/controlled vocabulary within the databases to narrow search parameters and retrieve more precise results.

Introduction to Jazz Research (KCL History) by Colin J.P. Homiski

Good luck with your research! Feel free to email me (colin.homiski [at] further to discuss other research strategies and resources available


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