From Bandstand to Social Justice: How Jazz Remains ‘America’s Classical Music’

Last year, I was asked by PBS station KCET in LA to contribute a brief history of jazz. Which was a massive, sprawling topic that no one book –much less one essay– could possibly contain. It was to serve as complement to this awesome documentary about the current state of Los Angeles creative music and a feature on the lasting legacy of pianist/ composer Horace Tapscott. Both are well worth your time.

That said, I attempted a meditation on jazz as an expression of folk, a living music, a form of protest, and how jazz embraces the world and reflects it back to us, as messy and vital and loud as a functioning democracy. If anything, it often comes back to the alchemy of taking the creative act and making it a part of life. Or as Cecil Taylor once put it: “Living becomes a musical process. It becomes a search to absorb everything that happens to you and incorporate it into music.”

From Bandstand to Social Justice: How Jazz Remains ‘America’s Classical Music’