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Music of Inclusion

  • Babbit (by )
  • The Beautiful and the Damned (by )
  • Tales of the Jazz Age (by )
  • Jazz, from the Congo to the Metropolitan (by )
  • The Story of the Original Dixieland Jazz... (by )
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Across the world jazz music is characterized by a sense of liberty catalyzed by musical expression. Seldom do artists appear cooler, more dignified, or freer than when onstage, improvised sounds that connect performers’ feelings, ideas, and passions to the audience’s own introspection.
As in poetry, jazz’s magic is symbiotic; it passes between the musician and listener and emboldens both. This month the world celebrates the historical and social importance of jazz, while introducing artists who continue the tradition of its pioneers and marquee performers. Dizzy Gillespie, The “King of Swing” Benny Goodman, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and a great many lesser known contributors paved the way for musicians in Japan, Cuba, Finland, and virtually any region where music is enjoyed.

In the late 19th century, and early 20th century, European classical music was married with the folk songs and spirituals of the United States’ West African slaves. The word jazz is widely believed to be early slang for “pep” or “energy,” an imperative sentiment for any persons devoid of basic civil liberties.

During America’s Roaring Twenties, big band jazz, or swing music, provided the setting for the changing culture. Sinclair Lewis’ novel Babbit is tempered chiefly by a non-conformist attitude where self-determination and exploration are pivotal. Famed writer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, The Beautiful and the Damned and Tales of the Jazz Age, are also inspired by the hip, frenzied adventures jazz musicians evoked.
Jazz owes part of its worldwide appeal to its genre bending nature. Crossover jazz, introduced at the decline of jazz fusion, (jazz music mixed with the electric amplification of rock and roll) was thought to be a more accessible variety of jazz. Club jazz, or acid jazz, similarly expanded the genre as “groove music” and was popularized in nightclubs and discos in Eastern Europe, Japan, and Brazil. This month festivals in the Philippines, New Zealand, Morocco, Germany, the Middle East, and dozens of other regions and nations will celebrate localized styles of jazz inspired by musicians oceans away.

Early performers and historians wrote some of the most enlightening essays and books about jazz. Robert Goffin, a Belgium-born lawyer and author wrote some of the earliest books about jazz. His essay, “Jazz, from the Congo to the Metropolitan,” traces the music and its historical context from Africa to its proliferation in the United States and many other nations. H. O. Brunn’s The Story of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, one of the most famed music groups of its time, is told by the performers who were a fixture during that time.

Jazz will continue to be one of the world’s most heralded styles of music. Jazz is fluid. Its ability to be reinvented will procure fans and performers who wish to contribute to the ever-expanding sound. Jazz began as a music of inclusion, and this month will prove that it has not lost a beat. 

By Logan Williams

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