Coltrane-580Richard Brody at The New Yorker:

Ellison’s skepticism regarding modern jazz may be, in large measure, a mark of generational conflict. The musicians he revered, such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Rushing, Mahalia Jackson, and Charlie Christian, were born between 1899 and 1916. Charlie Parker, whom Ellison admired despite his wariness about the historical significance of his musical style, was born in 1920; Miles Davis and John Coltrane, whom he actively rejected, were born in 1926; Mingus, in 1922; Taylor, in 1929. Ellison was born in 1913; the musicians he loved had their styles set by the time of the writer’s own maturity.

More important, the experiences and the traditions of later jazz musicians may have differed in crucial ways from those of Ellison’s generation and earlier. For better or worse, traditions shift and dissipate; they’re worn away by political and societal changes, they’re replaced by a more self-conscious composition of influences and a more self-willed construction of identity. Ellison may well be seen as a leading theorist of communitarian values and the culture that develops from them. What’s certain is that Ellison perceived, and was troubled by, a shift in the social function of jazz: it stopped being connected to the popular music that blacks listened to.

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