The Recordings of Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This is the first book-length study of the recordings of Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy. This all-black band found nationwide fame in the later 1930s and came to exemplify the Kansas City style of jazz through the records they made between 1929 and 1946. That body of work, however, serves to raise fundamental questions about the long-standing relationship between jazz music and the critical discourses about race that shaped it. This book considers how Kirk and his band appropriated musical styles in a way that was akin to the manipulation of masks in black forms of blackface performance: it signified race as much as it subverted racist conceptions of style. The band’s composer-pianist, Mary Lou Williams, and their singer Pha Terrell are reconceived within that context, and the band’s recordings are framed for their significance in understanding the way such black musicians influenced racial-musical negotiations over what and how they performed and recorded. The book brings together analytical tools from musicology with other perspectives that aim to show how intersecting discourses about race and musical styles are embedded in and expressed by the musical materials heard on the records. The difference between the band’s live and recorded performances establishes the place of audiences, especially dancing ones, in shaping jazz as a practice and conception, and it opens avenues for further investigation of the way practices of performance and recording have shaped understanding of what jazz music is and the racialized conceptions that underpin it.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages232
ISBN (Print)9780199335589, 9780199335596
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2019

Publication series

NameOxford Studies in Recorded Jazz
PublisherOxford University Press


  • Andy Kirk
  • Clouds of Joy
  • jazz
  • race
  • hot jazz
  • sweet jazz
  • Signifying
  • blackface minstrelsy
  • mask-play


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