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Although now sometimes called "America's classical music," jazz has not always been accorde favorable appellations. Accurate though these encomiums may be, they obscure the complex and fractious history of jazz's reception in the U. S. Developing out of the African American cultural tradition, jazz has always been variously understood by black and white audiences.
This penetrating study of America's attitudes toward jazz focuses on a momentous period in postwar history — from the end of World War II to the beginning of the Black Power Movement. Exploring the diverse representations of jazz and jazz musicians in literature and popular culture, it connects this uneven reception, and skewed use of jazz with the era's debates about race and racial difference. Its close scrutiny of literature, music criticism, film, and television reveals fundamental contrasts between black and white cultures as they regard jazz. To the detriment of concepts of community and history, white writers focus on the individualism that they perceive in jazz. Black writers emphasize the aspects of musicianship, performance, and improvisation. White approaches to jazz tend to be individualistic and ahistorical, and their depictions of musicians accent the artist's suffering and victimization. Black texts treating similar subject matter stress history, communitarianism, and socio-personal experience. This study shows as well how black and white dissenters such as the Beats and various African-American writers have challenged the mainstreams's definition of this African-American resource. It explores such topics as racial politics in bohemian Greenwich Village, the struggle of the image of Charlie Parker, the cultural construction of jazz performance, and literature imitation of jazz improvisation.
As a cultural history with relevance for contemporary discussions of race and representation, The Color of Jazz offers an innovative and compelling perspective on diverse, well-known cultural materials.
Jon Panish is a lecturer at the University of California, Irvine.
|1||Blinded by the White: The Hidden History of Postwar Racial Politics||3|
|2||Racing the Village People: Euro American and African American Cultural and Social Interaction in Greenwich Village, 1945-1966||23|
|3||Caging Bird: Charlie Parker Meets the Postwar Construction of the Jazz Musician||42|
|4||(Up)Staging Jazz: Representations of Jazz Performance||79|
|5||Improvising the Text: Euro American and African American Approaches to Jazz Narrative||117|