Books and Writings

The Community that Gave Jazz to Chicago


Chicago's notoriety as the hub of the Jazz Age of the 1920s is unquestioned.  But little has been written about how African-American entrepreneurs and community leaders built the commercial infrastructure for the rise of jazz and blues clubs in the city. Although Chicago's mob rule put its stamp on the era in public consciousness, Vincent observes that it was only after black entrepreneurs laid the foundation that the mob decided it wanted "a piece of the action."

The Avenging Angel: Black Music and the Afro-technological

Washington explores the work of two distinguished African-American science fiction writers who portray music as a form of technology. Henry Dumas and Samuel R. Delany have imagined music as a tool for avenging social wrongs as well as for creation and healing in several of their works. In both cases, the author's mythical music bears a strong resemblance to the blues for its "brutal honesty" and disregard of polite convention.

Asian/American Improvisation in Chicago: Tatsu Aoki and the 'New' Japanese American Taiko


Bassist Tatsu Aoki produces Chicago's Asian American Jazz Festival. His work often draws on taiko, a form of folkloric Japanese drumming, as well as experimental jazz. Wong views Aoki's activity as a process of constructing a dynamic, transnational Asian American identity. She argues that Aoki takes his status as a "Shin Issei" (a recent Japanese immigrant) as a starting point, but aims to "become" American on his own terms-an aspiration of the contemporary Asian American community at large.

Asian Americans and Creative Music Legacies

Dessen focuses on a group of San Francisco Bay Area musicians known as the Asian American Creative Music Movement. Inspired by the musical innovation and explicit political engagement of African-American experimental jazz, these musicians drew on their own ethnic traditions to make a statement about their contemporary situation. Their very success, however, compelled them to resist their cooptation by the media and music industry into an ethnic "ornament" on conventional jazz.

Researching the New Orleans-Chicago Jazz Connection: Tools and Methods

Black Music Research Journal

This article discusses the research methods and issues involved in investigating the musical migration from New Orleans to Chicago in the early 20th century and surveys research sources on this period of early jazz. Wang seeks to put several myths to rest, such as that of a musical exodus after the closing of Storyville, New Orleans' red light district, and of a rapid, unidirectional flow of talent between the two cities.

New Monastery: Monk and the Jazz Avant-Garde


Kelly argues that Thelonious Monk's popular success, along with the emergence of free jazz in the 1960s, changed the terms of critical reception for the previously misunderstood composer and pianist. Conservative critics, and some liberal ones, suddenly embraced Monk as a foil against the free jazz rebellion, while defenders of the avant-garde often sought to claim Monk as one of their own-though these younger musicians sometimes challenged Monk's musical conceptions.

Modes and Manifestations of Improvisation in Urban Planning, Design, and Theory

Critical Studies in Improvisation

Rowan suggests that improvisation and noise-making are viable elements in urban planning and discusses three urban designers who use them. Whereas rational processes and settled laws are often asserted to be necessary foundations of music as well as urban development, Rowan argues that "spontaneity will inevitably insinuate itself within a plan as creativity, resistance, and response to crisis" and that its embrace is "conducive to the polyrhythm and discord of heterogeneous society."

Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives


 Just after World War II, American composers and jazz performers were interested in indeterminacy and improvisation. Yet the composers tended to deny the influence or importance of jazz in a tacit move to keep their music "pure" of associations with racial protest then emanating from the jazz sphere. Lewis identifies John Cage and Charlie Parker as representatives of "Eurological" and "Afrological" approaches, respectively, whose differences turn on their attitude toward the expression of race, ethnicity, class, and political ideology in music.

Improvisation, Correlation, and Vibration: An Interview with Steve Coleman

Critical Studies in Improvisation

In this Berlin-New York phone interview, saxophonist Steve Coleman presents what Völtz calls his "philosophy of cosmic energy," and his ideas on improvisation, language, structure, freedom, and innovation, often making his points with the help of anecdotes about from his own career.

I Wanted to Live in That Music: Blues, Bessie Smith, and Improvised Identities in Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees

In Ann-Marie MacDonald's novel Fall On Your Knees, women improvisers (including a fictitious character based on Bessie Smith) use their music to transcend both conventional musical practices and gender roles. In Sidall's reading of MacDonald's book, Smith is a viable role model in life as much in fiction, since she "signif[ies] that kind of freedom to imagine, and even create, new communities."


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