Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community
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Gerard, a white musician whose previous books have been about how to play jazz, turns to a consideration of who is doing the playing. Is jazz a specifically African-American music? If so, what does that mean? Can white musicians play the music with any authenticity? These questions have been debated since jazz was first recognized as a musical genre, and recent histories of the music and arguments over its origins and evolution have been fraught with the tensions that racial issues in America always bring. In that respect, this volume is a refreshing change from recent polemics. It is written by a jazz musician who is openly ambivalent and by his own admission “unable to decide whether jazz belongs to anyone who has the talent to play it” or whether it is a black institution. Gerard’s ambivalence manifests itself fruitfully in his unwillingness to accept cant and sloppy reasoning from either side of the argument. He is capable of deflating the pretensions and inaccuracies of such critics as James Lincoln Collier and Stanley Crouch with an admirable evenhandedness. The book consists of eight interlocking essays (although sometimes the connections are a bit hard to perceive) in which he considers such issues as the degree of African influence in jazz and the ways in which the jazz community constitutes itself. Although the thread of his argument is occasionally obscured by the book’s structure, this is an intelligent discussion of a loaded issue. Not surprisingly, Gerard comes down in the middle of this debate, but he does so with integrity and thoughtfulness, making the middle look like the only logical place to be.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-275-96198-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Praeger
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998