Professor Machlin, who is Arnold Bernhard Professor of Arts and Humanities at Colby, teaches courses in jazz history, European music history, American musical theater, American popular music, and directs both the Colby College Chorale, which he has led on tour in the US, Europe, and South America, and the Colby-Kennebec Choral Society. He has also served as music director for numerous musical theater productions at Colby. He has twice been awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships for his research on the African-American jazz pianist Thomas "Fats" Waller, and he is the author of two books about Waller: Stride: The Music of Fats Waller (1985), and Fats Waller: Performances In Transcription, a collection of transcriptions of several Waller solos and ensemble performances. The book is a volume in the series Music of the United States of America, a multi-volume set of monuments of American music.
A member of the Colby faculty since 1974, Professor Machlin studied piano and conducting at Yale University, where he received his B.A. with honors in music; he received the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in music from the University of California at Berkeley. In his spare time, he is an avid skier and canoeist (recreations that Maine is well-suited to), and though his own kids are pretty skeptical about his chances for success at it, he keeps trying to learn how to use the internet.
Other Courses Taught
American Political Music 1945-1970
From Rhythm and Blues to Soul
"Teddy Wilson, Jazz Pianist"
Jazz pianist Teddy Wilsons playing has often been described by musicians and critics alike as elegant and tasteful. The concept of taste as a value, however, is ambiguous and problematic, particularly in Wilsons case. For some critics, taste connotes a reliance on conventional harmonic progressions and implies polished execution; but these critera may also constitute code signifying Wilsons legitimacy as an artist. But such limited characterization of Wilson's playing fails to capture the essence of his music. A close reading of his performances of the tune China Boy recorded in 1941 as a solo reveals not just a brilliant surface, but also, more significantly, the pianists fundamental artistic objectives. Essentially, he amplifies the elaborative procedures of stride, relying on preconceived material for his improvisations. But instead of brief licks of a few pitches each, inserted for decorative purposes over the chord changes, Wilson employs extended arpeggios and multi-measure phrases. Moreover, he applies these gestures interchangeably. In these China Boy takes, then, Wilson explores the expressive potential of jazz piano not through gesture, as stride pianists did, nor through pianism characterized simply by its astonishing consistency and Mozartean clarity, but by fundamentally reconfiguring the musical architecture of each chorus in each take.
"Ol' Man River" at the Fountain of Youth: The Emergence of Doo-Wop
This project explores the styles of unaccompanied African-American singing that developed in New York City after the close of World War II. Specifically, the study focuses on the recorded performances on one of the earliest New York Doo-Wop groups, the Ravens (especially Jerome Kern's song "Ol' Man River"), and seeks to determine how the performance signifiesthat is, how elements of the performance reflect social and cultural critiques.
Curator and Essayist: "Fats Waller Forever," on-line exhibit of Fats Waller Memorabilia in the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University (Newark, NJ)
Stride: the Music of Fats Waller
"...a most valuable contribution to jazz literature. It is the first in-depth scholarly examination of the work of this major jazz figure whose talents as an entertainer often overshadowed his considerable artistic contributions. Machlin's carefully balanced treatment offers lucid musical insights into the unique Waller instrumental style, and highlights some of the lesser known aspects of Waller's genius, such as his organ work."
Edward Berger, Institute for Jazz Studies
Thomas Wright 'Fats' Waller: Performances In Transcription"
This publication presents transcriptions in music notation of seventeen of jazz pianist Fats Waller's recorded performances. The repertoire in this volume was chosen to reflect the range of his performance styles (stride, swing, comic, parodic) his principal instruments (piano and pipe organ), his singing, and some of the various sonic contexts in which he recorder (solo keyboard, solo vocal, duet, and small ensemble), the performances chosen range from l927 to 1943, chronicling the stylistic developments of his professional career. In addition, the volume offers paired transcriptions of performances of the same tune. This pairing affords the opportunity to examine how Waller treats the same material under different sets of circumstances. Such comparisons help clarify the nature of Waller's musical gestures and ideas, and they attest to his fertile imagination as a composer as well as his improvisational skill.
The three sections of the edition-the essay, the transcriptions and accompaning notes, and the apparatus-are interrelated and complementary. The essay brings to the surface aspects of Waller's composing and performing that are illustrated by the transcriptions, the notes expand on the observations in the essay, and the apparatus provides details on the sources as well as a guide to the notation and a description of the transcription method.