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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Jazz And The Left

Via my brother (a grad student who recognizes the usefulness of Marxist analytical theory), comes this informative if somewhat wandering piece tracing the evolving relationship between jazz and the organized left in the United States by Louis Proyect. There is a much larger story here, but this survey of events from the 1930s through the 1960s provides an easily digestible introduction to the subject:
Fundamentally, major social changes in the United States have determined the evolution of jazz, just as they have in any other art form.

The 1930s were a period of the rise of jazz and the organized left. Concretely, this meant big bands and the Communist Party. Notwithstanding some early dogmatic opposition to jazz from cultural commissar Mike Gold, the party soon threw itself into proselytizing for jazz and fighting segregation in the music business.

I have more than a little trouble with the characterization of the blues as the "least corrupted and corruptible part of jazz" (authenticity is such a slippery thing), but since it's in a quote and only tangential to Proyect's point, I'll let it slide this time.

1 Comments:

Blogger jon said...

yes, that comment about the blues is dead wrong. the blues is the most easily understood and co-opted musical form i can think of. it's simple, it paints its picture so very clearly, and unfortunately it combines those qualities with an ease of caricature i haven't seen equalled anywhere else.

and of course that means that there is an overwhelming amount of bad soulless blues drowning out the honest stuff.

if i had to pick a form/genre in the jazz yearbook to label "least corruptible" or "most likely to be authentic", i'd have to choose one of the players' styles - one of the styles created by musicians for musicians. in most genres that wouldn't mean much, but in jazz there's often a direct competition between improvisers and that changes the story.

so for taste and authenticity i'd lean toward hard bop, which is a style specifically created to weed out those who suck. it requires technical ability, and if the music is going to be any good the inspiration needs to be good too; combining those chops with good musical intention is the tough part, and it's obvious when there's a failure. when there's a failure, the music's boring despite all the energy going into it. good luck showing off with that, poseurs.

2:30 PM  

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