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.
Jazz Across the Arts
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.
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.”
This dialogue was initiated by literary journal New Ohio Review between two professors of literature who have explored the meaning of jazz and improvisation for their craft. Rasula and Edwards begin by discussing how they happened to become interested in jazz in the first place and who sparked that interest. From that starting point the conversation ranges to how audiences for jazz may emerge and how communities may form around it (particularly those of various ethnic diaspora).
In his Introduction to the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, O'Meally explores whether the book might be a "blues novel," and whether this quality might be the root of its continuing resonance for us.