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When I reviewed Bruce Boyd Raeburn’s New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History, I thought that I would be able to offer more insight into what I have been reading for my M.A. at Rutgers. Life has since intervened, but after finishing Blues People by LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka) last night, I am compelled to revive the concept.
The book, the first book on jazz by an African American author, offers a compelling and comprehensive narrative based on what he calls “the Negro experience in White America.” Working chronologically forward from early slavery, Jones offers prescient analysis and a cohesive framework for thinking about jazz and its African American legacy.
Despite the academic language, the book overflows with the author’s passion for the music. The author’s love for his favorite musicians — Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman in particular — is deeply felt. He even offers some musical analysis that resonates with the musician in me — a true rarity among most jazz writing. Furthermore, the concepts that Jones lays out in the early chapters carry through into his analysis of more modern music, and the changes in context that he documents are fascinating. Read the rest of this entry »
Short answer? Not this one. But after listening to the U.S. premiere of the “Swing Symphony” on WQXR live from Lincoln Center, I feel like I learned something about the man behind the work, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
I tuned in with morbid curiosity, not sure quite what to expect. On one hand, it seems to me that Wynton is a classical musician at heart, and has always shone brightest in a classical setting. But the idea of jazz being brought to the premiere of the New York Philharmonic season … well, it just feels a little funny.
Being the conservative jazz stylist that he is, Wynton’s composition stuck closely to stereotypes and older sounds. His trombones slide around, his saxes sound like they’ve been lifted from a film noir score, and the strings were usually used as textural pads behind more wind-oriented melodic statements. He throws in a few novelty jokes, such as an exposed contrabassoon fart noise which would have made Buddy Bolden (author of such notable compositions as “Funky Butt”) proud. Read the rest of this entry »