One interesting American thing (a technical term, meaning a moment or event, a text, a controversy, an idea, a figure, or whatevertheheckelse I think of) per day, from Ben Railton, a professor of American literature, culture, history, and, natch, Studies.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
March 14-15, 2015: All That Crowd-sourced Jazz
[Inspired by the
anniversary of Charlie
Parker’s death—on which more in Thursday’s post—this week I’ve been
AmericanStudying some figures and issues related to the very American musical genre of jazz.
This swinging crowd-sourced post is drawn from the responses and recommndations
of fellow JazzStudiers—add yours in comments, please!]
First, I just
have to put in my strongest possible plug for David
Simon’sTreme, a show very much
about jazz (among many other topics). As of this writing I’ve watched through
Season 2 (of 4), and while it’s different in almost every way from The Wire, it’s also both a wonderful
complement to that show and an incredibly successful work of American art in
its own right. If, like me, you hadn’t gotten around to watching it yet, I give
it my strongest possible AmericanStudier recommendation!
Second, I have
to mention another cultural representation of jazz I had the chance to check
out this past week, Whiplash.
Interestingly, Whiplash takes almost
the exact opposite tack on jazz than Treme—for
the latter, jazz is one of the most affirming and inspiring parts of a world
that can be bleak and painful so much of the time; whereas in Damien Chazelle’s
film, jazz itself is literally and figuratively painful, pain that might well
be necessary in order to produce great art. And it uses the subject of my
Thursday post, Charlie Parker, to make that case!
Scott Joplin post, commenter sunshine_247 writes, “I studied Scott Joplin
at a very young age … I even learned ‘The Maple Leaf Rap’ when I was 12 … he is
“1. Robert Glasper--who I would argue is
most pertinent to your post. His most recent albums, Black Radio
Radio 2 have been attempts to fuse together jazz with contemporary
genres of hip hop, soul, and R&B. He worked with some well known mainstream
artists on both albums.
Grenadier adds, “I love jazz, and
this reminds me I'd better start updating myself, since I'm a purist, and have
always loved the wild roots of jazz, until the late 1940s. Although never a fan
of fusion, I love when the traditional collides with the present. To me, Marcus Roberts is a
genius, and not only because he focuses for the most part on those pre-1950s
riffs. I love great trio work, and hey! Here's a shout-out to bassist Larry Grenadier, who
plays with Brad Mehldau's
Trio, and Fly.”
PS. What do you
think? Other jazzy connections or recommendations you’d share?