The Jazz Cadence of American Culture (Film and Culture)

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9780231104494: The Jazz Cadence of American Culture (Film and Culture)
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Taking to heart Ralph Ellison's remark that much in American life is "jazz-shaped," The Jazz Cadence of American Culture offers a wide range of eloquent statements about the influence of this art form. Robert G. O'Meally has gathered a comprehensive collection of important essays, speeches, and interviews on the impact of jazz on other arts, on politics, and on the rhythm of everyday life. Focusing mainly on American artistic expression from 1920 to 1970, O'Meally confronts a long era of political and artistic turbulence and change in which American art forms influenced one another in unexpected ways.

Organized thematically, these provocative pieces include an essay considering poet and novelist James Weldon Johnson as a cultural critic, an interview with Wynton Marsalis, a speech on the heroic image in jazz, and a newspaper review of a recent melding of jazz music and dance, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk. From Stanley Crouch to August Wilson to Jacqui Malone, the plurality of voices gathered here reflects the variety of expression within jazz.

The book's opening section sketches the overall place of jazz in America. Alan P. Merriam and Fradley H. Garner unpack the word jazz and its register, Albert Murray considers improvisation in music and life, Amiri Baraka argues that white critics misunderstand jazz, and Stanley Crouch cogently dissects the intersections of jazz and mainstream American democratic institutions. After this, the book takes an interdisciplinary approach, exploring jazz and the visual arts, dance, sports, history, memory, and literature. Ann Douglas writes on jazz's influence on the design and construction of skyscrapers in the 1920s and '30s, Zora Neale Hurston considers the significance of African-American dance, Michael Eric Dyson looks at the jazz of Michael Jordan's basketball game, and Hazel Carby takes on the sexual politics of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith's blues.

The Jazz Cadence offers a wealth of insight and information for scholars, students, jazz aficionados, and any reader wishing to know more about this music form that has put its stamp on American culture more profoundly than any other in the twentieth century.

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Review:

Columbia University professor Robert G. O'Meally--one of the most comprehensive essayists and cultural critics on the scene--has brought together diverse viewpoints on jazz's continuing influence over the culture of the United States. This superb collection takes its cue from the legendary Ralph Ellison's observation that American life is "jazz-based." As O'Meally writes, "The book is thus a teaching tool designed to open the way for a variety of new avenues in jazz studies as a growing interdisciplinary field of exploration."

Ann Douglas muses on the relationship between skyscrapers and the music of the swing era, while Alan P. Merriam and Fradley H. Garner trace the jumbled etymology of the very word jazz. Astute critic Albert Murray offers a brief but masterful and illuminating treatise, "Improvisation and the Creative Process," while James A. Snead explores the uses of riffs in "Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture." The book's scope is grand enough to include Stanley Crouch's affirmative "Blues to Be Constitutional," Amiri Baraka's scorching indictment "Jazz and the White Critic," and Michael Eric Dyson's take on basketball's jazz/dance-like Afro-American reinvention, "Be Like Mike: Michael Jordan and the Pedagogy of Desire." Interviews with saxophonist Benny Golson and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis round out an incredible work that reveals all of the multicolored hues and grooves that make the United States glow. --Eugene Holley Jr.

Book Description:

A comprehensive collection of essays, speeches, and interviews on the impact of jazz on other arts, on politics, and on the rhythm of everyday life, including an essay on poet and novelist James Weldon Johnson as a cultural critic, an interview with Wynton Marsalis, a speech on the heroic image in jazz, and a newspaper review of Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk.

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