Monday, December 30, 2019

On Writing and Jazz

Set during the Jazz Age, THE LAMMISTERS is a novel that plunders the literary canon in the manner of a starved child let loose in a sweetshop. Of all its influences, though, the strongest is that of jazz itself, although not the jazz of that era, but that of the post-bebop period: throughout the writing, I was listening to a playlist made up of Davis, Coltrane, Mingus, Coleman, et al. Being no scholar of music, all I can say is that I love the playful irreverence, the ceaseless reinvention, the sense of an ongoing homage to the history of jazz even as the music itself is bent out of shape and transformed into new forms and styles. You don’t always understand what it is you’re trying to achieve when you’re doing it, of course; Ted Gioia, writing about free jazz, shed some retrospective light:
Freedom stood out as a politically charged word in American public discourse during the late 1950s and early 1960s […] It is impossible to comprehend the free jazz movement of these same years without understanding how it fed upon this powerful cultural shift in American society. Its practitioners advocated much more than freedom from harmonic structures or compositional forms – although that too was an essential part of their vision of jazz. Many of them saw their music as inherently political. They believed that they could, indeed must, choose between participating in the existing structures – in society, in the entertainment industry, in the jazz world – or rebelling against them. The aesthetic could no longer be isolated from these cultural currents. ~ Ted Gioia, ‘Freedom and Fusion’, THE HISTORY OF JAZZ

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