The word stylos named the writer's instrument for scratching words onto the wax tablets the ancient Greeks used instead of paper. Thus the modern word style indicates the personal mark of the artist. The sculptor's chisel, the painter's brush, the writer's stylos are all used to scratch a distinctive artistic conception—a signature or scripture, if you will—onto a given work of art. Jazz music is styled to tell stories (or, to follow through on the spiritual metaphor, to tell The Story). In this sense it is profoundly literary, and one awaits full-blown studies examining the impact of literature on the art of jazz. Ellington is the obvious example here, with his Shakespearean suite Such Sweet Thunder (where there's a mock-tragic section on Henry V called "Hank Cinq", i.e., "'Hank Sank") and with Suite Thursday, the composer's slightly ironical parallel of the novel by John Steinbeck. 1
Are record albums (even in their miniature CD format) not little books of a special sort, their display-case pages originally thick paper sleeves containing a bulky record per page? (The word album itself denotes a kind of white paper book.) Liner notes, consisting at times of quite comprehensive booklets, stand as uniquely potent forms of writing, providing a silent verbal counterpart to the music they describe. 2 These are program notes to learn from and enjoy as one replays the music again and again; some of them are as eloquent and enduring as the music they complement. (And some of them are perfect picture books, graced with wonderful photos and, in the case of David Stone Martin's work, drawings that seem to flow right out of the music.)
Perhaps the most significant aspect of this jazz-literature correspondence is the continuing effort of writers to use what they hear in jazz to give their words a jazz‐
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Publication information: Book title: The Jazz Cadence of American Culture. Contributors: Robert G. O'Meally - Editor. Publisher: Columbia University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1998. Page number: Not available.
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