John Szwed is an anthropologist and jazz scholar, whose publications range from anthropological studies of Newfoundland and the West Indies to record liner notes and jazz journalism. Among other books, he has published Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (1997), Jazz 101 (2000), and So What: The Life of Miles Davis (2002). Doctor Jazz, a book included with the CD set, Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax, was awarded a Grammy in 2005.
Before he joined Columbia, Szwed taught Anthropology, African American Studies, and Film Studies for many years at Yale University, and also received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations. He is President of the non-profit music production company Brilliant Corners, which is based in New York City.