Current Books

When Genres Collide: Down Beat, Rolling Stone, and the Struggle Between Jazz and Rock 

by Matt Brennan


About the book:

When Genres Collide is a provocative history that rethinks the relationship between jazz and rock through the lens of the two oldest surviving and most influential American popular music periodicals: Down Beat and Rolling Stone. Writing in 1955, Duke Ellington argued that the new music called rock ‘n’ roll “is the most raucous form of jazz, beyond a doubt.” So why did jazz and rock subsequently become treated as separate genres?

The rift between jazz and rock (and jazz and rock scholarship) is based on a set of received assumptions about their fundamental differences, but there are other ways popular music history could have been written. By offering a fresh examination of key historical moments when the trajectories and meanings of jazz and rock intersected, overlapped, or collided, it reveals how music critics constructed an ideological divide between jazz and rock that would be replicated in American musical discourse for decades to follow.

Reviews for the book:

“Matt Brennan looks to the music press of the 1950s and 60s, … [in doing so] revealing a tangled relationship between jazz and what would become rock.” –  The Wire

“Based on Brennan’s doctoral research, the tone is learned but not turgid. This man has read serious truckloads of music magazines. Helluva job and he’s the man to do it.” –  Jazzwise

“A book that goes beyond accepted wisdom about jazz-rock ‘fusion’ to trace a long, twisted history of interrelationships between two of the twentieth century’s defining musical forms. A game-changing study of popular music genres and the social function of music criticism.” – STEVE WAKSMAN, author of This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk

“An intelligent and engaging book. Brennan challenges established assumptions about jazz and rock music and makes us think differently about the way in which history is constructed and understood. A must for anyone interested in popular music, criticism and the politics of genres.” – TONY WHYTON, author of Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane And The Legacy Of An Album

‘‘Focusing on Down Beat and Rolling Stone magazines as well as the separate formation of jazz and popular music studies, Brennan argues convincingly that the combined efforts of scholars and writers during the period have given us a world in which jazz and rock remain incommensurable genres.’’ – KEVIN FELLEZS, author of Birds of Fire: Jazz, Rock, Funk, and the Creation of Fusion

‘‘This book challenges the powerful but dangerously misleading assumption that jazz is somehow not a ‘popular’ music . . . Here at last is a full length study of the way the discourses of jazz and rock faced off and circled each other, sometimes as adversaries, sometimes embracing.’’ – BRUCE JOHNSON, author of The Inaudible Music: Jazz, Gender and Australian Modernity

Copies of the book may be ordered from the Bloomsbury website.