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Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music Kindle Edition
A galvanizing history of how jazz and jazz musicians flourished despite rampant cultural exploitation
The music we call “jazz” arose in late nineteenth century North America—most likely in New Orleans—based on the musical traditions of Africans, newly freed from slavery. Grounded in the music known as the “blues,” which expressed the pain, sufferings, and hopes of Black folk then pulverized by Jim Crow, this new music entered the world via the instruments that had been abandoned by departing military bands after the Civil War. Jazz and Justice examines the economic, social, and political forces that shaped this music into a phenomenal US—and Black American—contribution to global arts and culture.
Horne assembles a galvanic story depicting what may have been the era’s most virulent economic—and racist—exploitation, as jazz musicians battled organized crime, the Ku Klux Klan, and other variously malignant forces dominating the nightclub scene where jazz became known. Horne pays particular attention to women artists, such as pianist Mary Lou Williams and trombonist Melba Liston, and limns the contributions of musicians with Native American roots. This is the story of a beautiful lotus, growing from the filth of the crassest form of human immiseration.
About the Author
- ASIN : B07KCGYB4J
- Publisher : Monthly Review Press (June 18, 2019)
- Publication date : June 18, 2019
- Language : English
- File size : 3662 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 454 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #728,474 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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If you love jazz as a fan or musician, you owe it to the art form to read this book. If you’re more of a student of history than a fan of jazz, this book is still essential. It’s a case study of hellscapes endured and not endured by so many people through no fault of their own.
On one side, greed, mind-bending manipulation, insane prejudice, organized devilry. On the other, herculean perseverance, maximum effort (practicing 6-18 hours per day), “self-help” (carrying a gun), inspiration, cornered cultivated genius.
Earth’s a nightmare.
But this book is superficial, serving up endless anecdotes while avoiding analysis beyond the usual themes of racism and political oppression. The book could have been half the length and twice as informative.
If Horne wants to repeat incessantly that horrible living and working conditions had an effect on the music--one would certainly expect they did--he should try to trace and document these effects. I know the book is about history and politics, not musical analysis, but Horne should still have looked beyond obvious suggestions, such as that someone "played angry" after a confrontation.
In that regard, I noticed three intriguing suggestions in the book about the influence of musicians' lives on musical development, each stressing economic factors. First, leading black musicians may have developed bebop to create technically difficult pieces that would be harder for white musicians to steal. (White musicians and managers, supposedly, struck back in the 1950s by creating West Coast jazz and excluding black musicians.) Second, the racist persecution of dance halls may have driven musicians to develop bebop to encourage more sophisticated listening. Third, Miles Davis may have changed styles radically every few years because it was the only way to keep the interest of recording companies. (But another story suggests that his "chameleon" style was just a way to copy lucrative trends in pop music.)
Lousy writing, unfortunately, weighs down this verbose text. In general, the style is readable and even perky, while handling sources responsibly (one jazz critic might have accused Horne of harboring a "footnote fetish"). But the writing suffers from ad nauseam repetition, non-sequiturs and muddled organization, poor word choices, and even incorrect grammar. No editor is listed in the book; I believe it should have gone through another three or four revisions before being given to us.
Top reviews from other countries
1. I knew that black jazz musicians were exploited, but the breadth and depth of that exploitation was a revelation.
2. The subject was exhaustively researched. There are some 1500 footnotes in 330 pages of text! Clearly the author knows his subject.
What I didn't like:
1. I didn't like the structure, at all. The presentation is chronological, but the problems discussed were largely unchanged over time. Consequently the text is a tediously repetitive collection of anecdotes. For example we read about mob influence in the "classic" era, then later we read the same stories from the swing era, and again from the bebop era, and so on. The stories are substantially the same, only the names change.
It would have been much more effective had the author structured the text thematically. Each chapter would cover one contributing factor and its evolution (or stasis), contrasted with the experiences of white musicians where appropriate. I speak of factors such as segregation/racism, mob influence, the physical demands of performance and travel, the impact of alcohol and drugs, venue ownership/bookings, artist management, music publishing, record company policies, musicians' unions, the expatriate experience, sexism and so on. Much duplication would have been avoided, resulting in tighter, more coherent argument.
2. Regarding style, the text cries out for a rigorous edit. The author never met a comma he didn't like. Points are repeated ad nauseam. For example, how many times must I read that Paul Whiteman was aptly named? Do I really need the birth year/location of every musician, sometimes repeated multiple times? I concede that this is a matter of personal taste, but I found the language flowery and stilted throughout. I picture the author with thesaurus in hand - how else to explain the use of terms such as "inter alia" and ineluctable?
A good editor could have greatly improved the final product. I don't see any reference to an editor. Perhaps that's the problem - no editor.