CAMBRIDGE, MA — Jazz: it has been called both cool and hot, earthy and avant-garde, intellectual and primitive. It is improvisational music touted for the freedom it permits its players, but in its heyday was largely composed and tightly arranged. It tells a story about race in America: not only because African American musicians were so central in its creation and African American audiences so important in their creative responses to it, but because whites played such a dominant role in its dissemination through records and performance venues and its ownership as intellectual and artistic property. But is jazz a relic of the past, or does it continue to have meaning and influence for today’s artists and audiences? And while it may still be present, does it still matter?
The Spring 2019 issue of Dædalus, “Why Jazz Still Matters,” explores that very question. Gathering together noted writers, artists, and scholars to delve into the legacies and futures of jazz, guest editors Gerald Early (Washington University in St. Louis; Academy Member) and Ingrid Monson (Harvard University) maintain that it does still matter, in ways that are astonishing in their implications. Contemporary jazz artists like Kamasi Washington and Robert Glasper, collaborating with avant hip hop artists like Kendrick Lamar and Run the Jewels, are forging new sounds and reaching young and diverse audiences. The music also continues to engage with social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, and inspire socially engaged artistic expression in jazz (such as Terence Blanchard’s Breathless) and popular music (Beyoncé’s Lemonade) modeled on an artistic vision of jazz. Jazz improvisation, meanwhile, remains a compelling metaphor for interrelationship, group creativity, and freedom that is both aesthetic and social.
The ten essays in this collection critically examine the achievements of jazz as an artistic movement through historical case studies, engagement with contemporary jazz innovations, and projections of the art form’s future. The interdisciplinarity of the contributors emphasizes the fact that jazz was never only a music, but rather a music that served as a muse for an entire arts movement.
The Spring 2019 issue of Dædalus on “Why Jazz Still Matters” features the following essays:
Why Jazz Still Matters
Gerald Early (Washington University in St. Louis; Academy Member) & Ingrid Monson (Harvard University)
Following Geri’s Lead
Farah Jasmine Griffin (Columbia University)
Soul, Afrofuturism & the Timeliness of Contemporary Jazz Fusions
Gabriel Solis (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
“You Can’t Dance to It”: Jazz Music and Its Choreographies of Listening
Christopher J. Wells (Arizona State University)
Dave Brubeck’s Southern Strategy
Kelsey A. K. Klotz (University of North Carolina at Charlotte)
Keith Jarrett, Miscegenation & the Rise of the European Sensibility in Jazz in the 1970s
Gerald Early (Washington University in St. Louis; Academy Member)
Ella Fitzgerald & “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” Berlin 1968: Paying Homage to & Signifying on Soul Music
Judith Tick (Northeastern University)
La La Land Is a Hit, but Is It Good for Jazz?
Krin Gabbard (Columbia University)
Yusef Lateef’s Autophysiopsychic Quest
Ingrid Monson (Harvard University)
Why Jazz? South Africa 2019
Carol Muller (University of Pennsylvania)