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Rethinking the Apotheosis of Jazz - Book Report/Review Example

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In the article, Lipsitz analyzes critiques and ultimately rejects the popular narrative of Jazz as a singularly heroic, nationalistic, American and black art form. He is quick to apologize for the conclusions he draws, suggesting that the ideological biases, and narratives techniques employed by histories of jazz such as in Ken Burns' documentary Jazz are intended to serve an important good of including the history of African-Americans and blacks themselves as a positive, constitutive force of American national identity…
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Rethinking the Apotheosis of Jazz
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Download file to see previous pages Serving as the discursive and metronomic center of Lipsitz's piece is the mythical character of Darby Hicks. Darby Hicks does not exist. As a name he is used by the musicians that Lipsitz discusses as an in-joke to initiate new members into the band. As a metaphor, Darby Hicks represents a Jazz that has never really existed, or at best only tells part of the story in the United States or anywhere else, but everyone talks about as being the only platonic ideal of Jazz. Jazz as an ideal is the objectification of America writ in musical notes and is the product of the individual and heroic act of creative black geniuses struggling against the obstacle of racism. This story is a good one for "Black Emphasis Month," however; it fails to describe the lived actuality of Jazz. Lipsitz is aware of its genesis of its raison d'tre, but is also intensely aware of many of the exceptions to this understanding. For Lipsitz the most damaging feature of this story of Jazz is that for many presentations of Jazz, it is a was and not an is. Jazz as a form is trapped in modernity, always appreciated and respectedfrom a distance. Jazz was a great musical form, full of great musical geniuses and creativity, but largely it has already happened. Under this paradigm, contemporary consumers of Jazz should act as archaeologists rather than as music lovers. We are urged to purchase the greatest hits collection of long ago artists, or pay tribute to them by attending lectures on the stylistic particularities of past-greats like Parker, Davis, or Lester Young. What we are not encouraged to do, much to the chagrin of Lipsitz, is we are not encouraged to actively support new jazz ventures or support the building of jazz communities in local neighborhoods. According to Lipsitz, this is because most jazz narratives fail to take into account the communal and local aspects of the form, rather those narratives preference the nationalistic and singular aspects of the music. However, as Lipsitz points out so many of those greats were appreciative and recognized the local and communal aspects of the art. He rallies the biographies of Horace Tapscott, Sun Ra and others to explicate this point.
This sort of revisionist project has been undertaken in a number of fields of academic endeavor. It is particularly reminiscent of the work of Howard Zinn, in his People's History of the United States. Historians and jazz lovers alike conflate the history of jazz or the history of the country with the history of great men. Lipstiz also mentions the dismissive tone that many jazz histories treat the great women of Jazz as somehow tangential or otherwise separate from the trajectory of Jazz as an art form. So it is the case in many histories that minimize the role that women, and ordinary citizens had to play in the making of anything great, whether it be the United States or Jazz music. Lipsitz attributes this partly to the emphasis on the created product in Jazz ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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