Jazz Matters: Sound, Place, and Time since Bebop

Jazz Matters: Sound, Place, and Time since Bebop

Jazz Matters: Sound, Place, and Time since Bebop

Jazz Matters: Sound, Place, and Time since Bebop

Synopsis

What, where, and when is jazz? To most of us jazz means small combos, made up mostly of men, performing improvisationally in urban club venues. But jazz has been through many changes in the decades since World War II, emerging in unexpected places and incorporating a wide range of new styles. In this engrossing new book, David Ake expands on the discussion he began in Jazz Cultures, lending his engaging, thoughtful, and stimulating perspective to post-1940s jazz. Ake investigates such issues as improvisational analysis, pedagogy, American exceptionalism, and sense of place in jazz. He uses provocative case studies to illustrate how some of the values ascribed to the postwar jazz culture are reflected in and fundamentally shaped by aspects of sound, location, and time.

Excerpt

In a study on the functions of literature and literary criticism, Milan Kundera wrote, “As a novelist, I have always felt myself to be within history, that is to say, partway along a road, in dialogue with those who preceded me and even perhaps (but less so) with those still to come.” Kundera was describing his own sense of belonging and purpose, but he also unintentionally provided a spot-on summary of the scholar’s life and, in doing so, gave me a handy way of characterizing my goals with this book. More than other nonfiction authors, the scholar moves between past and present, responding to those who have come before—building on, or spinning off, or challenging a predecessor’s point—always with an awareness of and gesture toward subsequent scholars.

Yet while I identify with Kundera’s historical awareness, I also recognize that what matters to him as a novelist and what matters to me as a scholar could not differ more. Kundera claims, “Of course, I am speaking of the history of the novel, not of some other history … because the history of humanity and the history of the novel are two very different things.” in Kundera’s view artists create by working on and through the technical problems and aesthetic precepts handed down by their forebears. My scholarly response is, well, yes and no. One can readily trace the joys, anxieties, and other markers of one artist’s influence on another and acknowledge that works are, to some extent, “born within the history of their art and . . .

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