Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia - Vol. 1

Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia - Vol. 1

Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia - Vol. 1

Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia - Vol. 1

Synopsis

The free jazz revolution that began in the 1950s has had a profound influence on both jazz & rock music. Widely misunderstood & even reviled by critics, free jazz represented an artistic & sociopolitical response to the economic, racial, & musical climate of America.

Excerpt

Halfway through the twentieth century, certain developments in American culture began coming to an overdue head. As is usually the case in times of cultural upheaval, the nation's artists reacted in personal yet pertinent ways. One consequent result was the frenetic, cathartic musical form known as “free jazz.” The road to freedom was rather long and ugly. As the entertainment market began turning away from jazz toward rock-and-roll, jazz musicians found themselves facing a forbidding challenge: either languish in possible poverty and obscurity, or join the mass exodus into studio work. Jazz had already been wounded by the miserable AFM recording ban in the 1940s, forcing an emphasis on vocalists in place of instrumentalists. Once Elvis got a grip on the charts, scarce hope remained for jazz to endure there. The deaths of a staggering number of jazz legends in the 1950s, from Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday to elders like Fletcher Henderson, Django Reinhardt, and the Dorsey Brothers, hastened the music's decline despite the promising young artists who were on the rise. Jazz clubs nationwide began either closing their doors or changing their booking policies to favor rock acts.

Within jazz's own circles, the scourges of stylistic and racial infighting threatened to dismember it further. Black musicians who had created jazz and kindled most of its important evolutionary steps were still, under archaic segregation laws, not permitted to perform it in large portions of the country. Many of the white performers who had grabbed onto the jazz bandwagon and ridden it to personal success felt little sympathy for their black counterparts and often added fuel to the fire. Traditional, “Dixieland”-style jazz became nearly extinct, save in its motherland of New Orleans and a few other hot spots. (This was true in America, anyway; Britain saw quite a boom of interest in “trad” jazz.) “Cool jazz, ” created by a multiracial assembly of musicians in the late 1940s as a rejoinder to bebop's complexities, had been all but commandeered by white performers in the subsequent decade. Slightly retailored, it became the reigning jazz style on the West Coast as hordes of Stan Kenton and Woody Herman sidemen dug deeper into its cerebral character.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.