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Max Weber

One of the inevitable rites of passage for graduate school in the humanities comes in that fateful seminar grappling with the intellectual legacy of what is vaguely termed Social Theory. That is exactly what I’m up to this quarter at UCLA, in a seminar  aptly titled “Integrating Theory With Ethnography,” taught by the esteemed music scholar Timothy D. Taylor. In this class, we read a whole bunch of this Social Theory stuff and then figure out on our own how to integrate it into our own ethnographic work with music.

After having spent the last year or so “in the trenches” of the jazz business, this Social Theory is having all sorts of interesting and strange resonances with my experiences there. This week, it struck me especially hard as I read Max Weber’s famous book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. As I see it, Weber’s insights have particular relevance for the current challenges facing the jazz community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Richmond, Photo by William Claxton

After a few months in Los Angeles, I am finally figuring out where the jazz is happening — it’s not like New York, where you can just see who’s playing at the Jazz Gallery or Village Vanguard on a given evening. But after digging the scene at the Blue Whale a few times — including a fantastic show by the Alan Ferber Expanded Ensemble earlier this month, which I wrote about for WBGO — I have started to get the hang of it out here.

One advantage of checking out a big band concert is that it brings a whole bunch of great players together for one evening — just following a few of them has led me to some cool gigs. One of those musicians is trombonist Joey Sellers, who also happens to have just released a fantastic solo trombone record, entitled “What The . . . ?” (Yes, a solo trombone record: that’s how much of a badass this guy is.)  Read the rest of this entry »

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