Of Icons and Iconography: Seeing Jimmie Blanton

Matthias Heyman


This article explores how iconography can be a useful analytical tool, and in the process help to demystify the lives and music of so-called jazz icons. I will start by illustrating how a narrative around jazz bassist and Ellingtonian Jimmie Blanton (1918-1942) grew that posits him as an artistic hero in the pantheon of jazz history. Next I will highlight some problems that arise with such canonization and examine two case studies focused on Blanton, one based on statements historian Gunther Schuller made in regard to the bassist’s right hand posture, and a second one focusing on his tone in relation to his physical position within the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In both cases visual sources are used to gain a better understanding of Blanton’s performance technique, which in turn aids to nuance his iconic framing.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14713/jjs.v10i2.88


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