Book Excerpt

Jug Eyes (from The Velvet Lounge)


Gerald Majer, a native of Chicago's racially segregated South Side, has written a book about its musical life. The Velvet Lounge combines his personal experiences with the story, or stories, of his community, merging his account of the music and with the difficult conditions that shaped it. The result is an innovative combination of history, subjective experience of that history, and reflection on its meaning-that is, of fact, literature, and criticism.

Jimmy Giuffre: Coming in from the Cool


This article examines Jimmy Giuffre’s unwarranted obscurity. Giuffre, who was a leader in the West Coast or “cool” school, later made some of the earliest free jazz recordings. Lock suggests that his failure to fit into predictable or convenient categories may have upset the “jazz police” in the music industry and media. Lock discusses the finely balanced ensemble playing and understated style of the pathbreaking free jazz recordings Giuffre made in the early 1960s just before a 20-year hiatus in his recording career.

Jazz Music in Motion: Dancers and Big Bands


This article surveys the role of dance in black entertainment and its relation to the development of jazz in the first half of the 20th century. Malone finds that leading jazz instrumentalists gained formative experiences accompanying dancers, especially tap dancers. Musicians accordingly viewed dancers as practicing a sophisticated and influential form of jazz, and interaction between dance and music performance was seen as a vital sphere of improvisation.

It Jus Be's Dat Way Sometime: The Sexual Politics of Women's Blues

This essay explores the sexual politics of women's blues of the 1920s and compares it to black women's fiction during the same period. Carby argues that classic blues singers Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Ethel Waters had more latitude to challenge patriarchy and expose the contradictions of black women's experience than black women writers-though the latter's work has been more thoroughly investigated for insights into these issues.

Introduction: The Hearing Eye

The authors state that "this collection aims to address a gap in the literature on art and music, a gap that appears to be the result of a racial blind spot and/or listening bias" because "it seemed that every book on art and music we consulted had plenty to say about Klee, Kandinsky, and Schoenberg, but hardly anything at all on jazz,blues, and African American visual artists." Their Introduction surveys the main artists and theorists in this art/music nexus and the issues they confront.

Exploding the Narrative in Jazz Improvisation


Iyer asks how an improvised solo can convey meaning or “tell a story.” He develops a theory of jazz improvisation around his idea of hearing the body. To Iyer, the effectiveness of improvisation, particularly its rhythmic aspect, depends on an awareness by producers and listeners of the physical actions involved and their situation within a shared social environment, which creates a cascade of meaningful events in an “exploded” (i.e., not conventionally linear) narrative.

"Always New and Centuries Old": Jazz, Poetry and Tradition as Creative Adaptation.

Jazz writers have often debated whether a tradition of standard jazz practices should be followed or transcended. Against this backdrop, Jackson investigates the unjustly neglected performance of the poem “In the Tradition,” a collaboration between poet LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), drummer Steve McCall, and saxophonist David Murray. Jackson argues that their approach to the jazz tradition is more constructive than the rigid conventional views: theirs represents “less a closed canon than . . . an energizing, inspirational base.”

Making the Scene: Contemporary New York City Big Band Jazz


"New Yorkers' imaginations operate on a large scale," claims Stewart, in their choice of orchestras as well as in other pursuits. This article describes the high level of musicianship, variety, and sheer numbers of big bands operating in the city, and surveys the venerable history of New York big bands beginning in the first decades of the 20th century.


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