Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community

Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community

Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community

Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community

Synopsis

Is jazz a universal idiom or is it an African-American art form? Although whites have been playing jazz almost since it first developed, the history of jazz has been forged by a series of African-American artists whose styles caught the interest of their musical generation--masters such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. Whether or not white musicians deserve their secondary status in jazz history, one thing is clear: developments in jazz have been a result of black people's search for a meaningful identity as Americans and members of the African diaspora. Blacks are not alone in being deeply affected by these shifts in African-American racial attitudes and cultural strategies. Historically in closer contact with blacks than nearly any other group of white Americans, white jazz musicians have also felt these shifts. More importantly, their careers and musical interests have been deeply affected by them. The author, an active participant in the jazz world as composer, performer and author of several books on jazz and Latin music, hopes that this book will encourage jazz lovers to take a rhetoric-free look at the charged issue of race as it has affected the world of jazz.

Excerpt

Bettina studied music, she even wrote a few compositions, and so had some basis for understanding what was new and beautiful about Beethoven's music. Nevertheless, I ask this question: was it Beethoven's music that captivated her, its notes, or was it rather what the music represented, in other words, its vague affinity to the ideas and attitudes that Bettina shared with her generation? Does love for art really exist and has it ever existed? Is it not a delusion? When Lenin proclaimed that he loved Beethoven Appassionata above all else, what was it he really loved? What did he hear? Music? Or a majestic noise that reminded him of the solemn stirrings in his soul, a longing for blood, brotherhood, executions, justice, and the absolute? Did he derive joy from the tones, or from the musings stimulated by those tones, which had nothing to do with art or with beauty?
--Milan Kundera, Immortality

I fell in love with jazz when I was still in my teens. While my classmates were listening to the Beatles, I was discovering Ornette Coleman. I also was making contact with like-minded musicians. Although it seemed unlikely that in the distant suburbs I would come upon anyone serious about a genre inextricably linked to city life, I did find such people and . . .

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