Blowin' the Blues Away: Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene

By Travis A. Jackson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
Studying Jazz

As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, we are undoubtedly at a pivotal moment in the development of jazz. Major and independent record labels and a number of cultural institutions have, particularly since the early 1980s, presented jazz to varied publics in ways that promote both its essential “Americanness” and its supposed universality. They have devoted considerable resources to preserving and promulgating the music via new recordings, reissues of older ones, sponsorship of concert and lecture series, the mounting of museum exhibits, and the production of documentaries as well as syndicated radio and television programs. Popular publications and their advertisers, moreover, have also shown interest in the music, as evidenced by feature articles on jazz and jazz musicians in periodicals as diverse as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, GQ, Essence, Out, and Rolling Stone and by the appearance of jazz musicians in stylish advertisements for Johnston & Murphy shoes and Movado watches, among other products.1 Two further indicators of the increased importance of jazz have been its designation by the House of Representatives and the United States Senate as a “rare and valuable national American treasure” in 1987 and frequent references to its status as “America’s classical music.”2 At the same time, after the high points of the 1980s and 1990s, younger audiences seem less interested in jazz,3 and the music seems to be receding from mass public consciousness—receding so far, at least in the United States,

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