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Alex Pinto and Laura Maguire, co-founders of the SF Offside Festival

Six Creative Presenters Finding New Audiences for Jazz

By Alex W. Rodriguez for A Blog Supreme/NPR Jazz

I wrote this about a month ago for NPR Music, and in the midst of end-of-the-year shenanigans forgot to link to it here at the blog. In case you missed it, do have a look: the piece gives an overview of six jazz presenters that are finding new ways to reach out to jazz listeners.

As the semester winds to a close, it’s final-paper-time for my fellow graduate students in the Jazz History and Research M.A. program at Rutgers-Newark, the illustrious university from which I am about to graduate. Some of them are wrapping up Dr. Lewis Porter’s semester-long course on the life and music of John Coltrane, the subject of Dr. Porter’s definitive biography (a must-read for jazz enthusiasts of any stripe!)

Bill Graham is one such student, and is looking to understand the impact that Coltrane has had on everyday people who listen to his music for his final project. As a part of this exploration, he’d like to hear from you about your memorable experiences with Coltrane’s music. Read the rest of this entry »

The Income Tax Cocktail, photo by Sean Lorre

When I started writing this blog almost two years ago, I didn’t really know what would come of it. I thought that jazz would play a central role, but didn’t know what else might grace the electronic pages of this here publication. Chalk today’s entry up in the “other” column — a short piece on an old cocktail recipe (with a very silly picture of me, as a nice bonus).

Celebrate your taxes being done with this: the Income Tax Cocktail, courtesy of the Five O’Clock Cocktail Blog!

I just read Ben Ratliff’s excellent critique of “Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology” at the New York Times. I have disagreed vehemently with Mr. Ratliff on these electronic pages before, but this time he really hit the nail on the head. I have heard rumblings and grumblings about this project from my professors at Rutgers and various jazz scholars who have passed through the Institute of Jazz Studies — the general consensus seemed to be that in an effort to please everyone, the anthology ended up pleasing no one. Just read the piece, though — he astutely enumerates the compilation’s limitations, so there’s no need to repeat his observations here.

I do have one mild quibble with Mr. Ratliff’s assessment, however, which I’ll get into after the jump: Read the rest of this entry »

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: Big Band Is Both Masterful and Innovative

By Alex W. Rodriguez for the Star-Ledger

It has been an eventful week leading up to Wayne Shorter’s much-anticipated concert at Town Hall tomorrow night, his first NYC appearance since 2008.

I wrote a preview that ran in the Star-Ledger on Friday, so there’s that, but the beauty of the internet is that there’s oh so much more! Read the rest of this entry »

First Google Images search result for "Not a Genre." Awesome.

UPDATE: I’m bumping this up in case you missed it over the weekend … with a few minor edits:

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit after my somewhat-jumbled thoughts about Winter JazzFest, I want to spend a few hundred words here and try to hone in on a more important point about my aural experiences and conversations last weekend. Much electronic ink has been spilled in the wake of last weekend’s JJA panel on the “State of Jazz Journalism Now” and although I did manage to get a few words in edgewise during the panel, upon reflection, a clearer vision of what I want to say has begun to emerge. Read the rest of this entry »

Today we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  King displayed a deep appreciation for jazz and understood its symbolic role in the struggle for civil rights.  In honor of his memory, allow me to share one of my favorite jazz-related quotes, courtesy of Dr. King:

Now, jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.

King’s insights always remind me of what we in the jazz community are always aspiring to do: illuminate the “stepping stones” that the music offers us in understanding human suffering, faith, dignity and joy.  As the music continues to resonate all over the world, may it continue to convey these deep truths that Dr. King felt when he heard it.

2011 UPDATE: David Demsey and Bruce Jackson of William Paterson University have recently uncovered some new historical information about this famous excerpt. The quote is usually attributed to a speech that Dr. King gave at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival. The only problem: King wasn’t at the festival. As it turns out, King had been asked to share his thoughts as a foreword for the festival’s printed program, which gave rise to this quotation. Demsey and Jackson’s research will appear in this month’s issue of Down Beat.

OK, it’s been too long since I’ve posted anything at the blog — again — but rather than shut things down entirely (as I did in September) I am trying a slightly different strategy for combating the chain of events (too busy to read other jazz blogs, focus my writing energy elsewhere, too tired to write at the blog, get further out of the loop …) that keep me from posting.

Every so often, I will attempt to re-present interesting facets of the academic discussions that occur during my classes in the M.A. program in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers University. Last week, I lead a class discussion on the influential call to arms by jazz scholar and American Studies professor Sherrie Tucker, entitled “Deconstructing the Jazz Tradition: The ‘Subjectless Subject’ of New Jazz Studies.” Now, that might seem like a mouthful of academic jargon, but it was actually quite an inspirational read (unfortunately, the text of the article is not freely available online, but you can buy a copy here if you’re interested.) Read the rest of this entry »

I’m finally recovering from my whirlwind weekend in Montreal, where I attended the McGill Graduate Music Symposium, a three-day graduate student musicology conference put on by the McGill Music Graduate Students Society. It was the first time in my brief academic career that I attended a conference like this, and I had such a blast that I came a step closer to embracing my inner nerd.

Read the rest of this entry »

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