Smith explores the act of naming jazz compositions. He takes Thelonious Monk's "Let's Call This," which is elliptical and open to multiple meanings, as a starting point. Smith believes the song title is an example of African-American transgressiveness, through the creation of an aloof, sometimes deliberately ironic aesthetic. The author explores the music, and the titles, of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Anthony Braxton in this regard. He also bases his argument on the poetry of Nathaniel Mackey, who "sees language as history.
1950 and 1960s
Monson counters the romantic notion of Monk as an apolitical aesthete or isolated genius by pointing to his support of and explicit opinions on civil rights at the peak of the movement in the early 1960s. She focuses on Monk's participation in a series of concerts benefiting leading Civil Rights organizations, such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Lewis notes that race has been "e-raced" in studies of free jazz in Europe and America, which he finds surprising given the music's emancipatory thrust. He investigates a recurrent ambivalence about the African-American contribution to free jazz, at once taking experimental cues from it, yet denying that it is capable of evolving or progressing itself. After uncovering coded assumptions about race, ethnicity, and class behind this ambivalence, Lewis explores the possibilities for artists to transcend, transgress, and perhaps even erase boundaries.
Since their emergence from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the 1960s, the members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago have created a distinctive multidisciplinary performance practice centered on collective improvisation. In this article, Steinbeck conceptualizes Art Ensemble improvisations as networks of group interactions, and he analyzes an excerpt from a 1972 Art Ensemble concert recording using a phenomenological perspective informed by his conversations with the group about the performance and by my own experience as an improvised-music practitioner.
Recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder has been active since the 1940s. Skea notes that that the quality of Van Gelder's output rests not necessarily on technical innovation but on determination to master successive waves of state-of-the-art technology available to him and a legendary degree of perfectionism.
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.
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.
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.
Robinson focuses on the relationship between writers associated with the Black Arts Movement (including Amiri Baraka, Addison Gayle, Jr., Hoyt Fuller, Larry Neal, Ishmael Reed, and James Stewart) and the experimental jazz of the 1960s. The Black Arts Movement looked to black musical expression as a site of authentic artistic "blackness." Robinson asserts, however, that the literati of this movement may have actually essentialized the black subject and obscured the diverse range of protest originating from the musical arena.
In this essay, often cited and reprinted, Schuller argues that a jazz solo's thematic structure should be considered on a par with its swing, melodic interest, and originality. He presents Sonny Rollins' "Blue Seven" solo as one possessing all of these qualities and analyzes it bar by bar to show the elements of formal thematic coherence within it.