The essayist states that “even in its most liberated moments, the music of Coleman and his peers never completely abandoned its links to the jazz tradition, the blues, or the bebop legacy of Charlie Parker.” By now, you have listened to many examples of early jazz, swing, and bebop in previous lessons. Think about the connections between the earlier forms of jazz and the music of the new iconoclasts described in the essay, such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Eric Dolphy. In what ways do these artists continue the jazz tradition and how do they break away from it?
Jazz audiences declined during the 1960s. The essayist cites the competing popularity of British and American rock bands. Other writers have suggested that audiences also dwindled because the purveyors of free jazz and avant-garde jazz created music that was inaccessible and difficult to understand and enjoy. What do you think is the principal reason for the decline in the popularity of jazz? Do you think that creative musicians have a responsibility to entertain, or do you think they should pursue their own artistic vision whether audiences follow along or not?
What is jazz? How should it be defined? Louis Armstrong reportedly said, “If you gotta ask, you’ll never know.” Wynton Marsalis has said that to be jazz, music must have elements of blues and swing. According to the singer Carmen McRae, “Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread—without it, it’s flat.” And yet, several of the musical selections in this lesson don’t contain characteristics of blues tonality or swing rhythm. Are they jazz? How would you define jazz? Do you know it when you hear it?